The Text      

A Dialogue
Concerning Heresies


A Dialogue of Sir Thomas
More, Knight: one of the
Council of our sovereign lord the king and chancellor
of his duchy of Lancaster. Wherein be
treated divers matters, as of the veneration
and worship of images and relics,
praying to saints, and going on pilgrimage.
With many other
things touching the pestilent
sect of Luther
and Tyndale, by the
one begun in
Saxony, and
by the
other labored
to be brought into England.
Newly overseen by the said Sir Thomas More,
Chancellor of England.


The Table of the First Book
The First Chapter
The letter of credence sent from his friend by a trusty secret
messenger with the letter of the author answering the same.
The declaration of the credence by the mouth of the messenger
whereupon the matter of all the whole work dependeth.
The Second Chapter
Here summarily is declared in what order the author intendeth to
treat of the matters purposed unto him. Whereof because the first
was an opinion conceived in some men's heads that a certain
person late abjured of heresy for preaching against pilgrimages and
images and prayers made to saints was therein greatly wronged,
the author briefly declareth his mind concerning the confutation
of those perilous opinions.
The Third Chapter
The objections of the messenger made against praying to
saints, worshipping of images, and going on pilgrimages,
with the answer of the author unto the same. And, incidently, is it
by the messenger moved that there should seem no necessity for
Christian folk to resort to any churches; but that all were one to
pray thence or there. And that opinion by the author answered and
The Fourth Chapter
The author declareth in the comprobation of pilgrimages that it
is the pleasure of God to be specially sought and worshipped in some
one place before another. And albeit that we cannot attain to the
knowledge of the cause why God doth so, yet the author proveth by
great authority that God by miracle testifieth it is so.

The Fifth Chapter
Because pilgrimages be among other proofs testified by
miracles, the messenger doth make objection against those
miracles, partly, lest they be feigned and untrue, partly, lest they
be done by the devil, if they be done at all.
The Sixth Chapter
Because the messenger thinketh that he may well mistrust and
deny the miracles because reason and nature tell him that they cannot
be done; therefore, first, the author showeth what unreasonableness
would ensue if folk would stand so stiff against all credence
to be given to any such things as reason and nature should seem
to gainsay.
The Seventh Chapter
The author showeth that neither nature nor reason do deny the
miracles to be true; nor do not gainsay but that they may be
well and easily done.
The Eighth Chapter
The messenger allegeth that God may nothing do against the
course of nature. Of which the author declareth the contrary;
and over that showeth that our Lord in working miracles
doth nothing against nature.
The Ninth Chapter
The author showeth that albeit man may mistrust some of the
particular miracles, yet can there no reasonable man neither deny
nor doubt but that many miracles hath there been done and
The Tenth Chapter
The author proveth that many things daily done by nature or
craft, whereof we nothing marvel at all, be more marvelous
and more wonderful indeed than be the miracles that we most
marvel of and repute most incredible.
The Eleventh Chapter
The author showeth that a miracle is not to be mistrusted
though it be done in a small matter and seemeth upon a slight

The Twelfth Chapter
The author somewhat noteth the froward minds of many folk
that would be very hard to believe a man in a miracle, upon his oath,
and very light in a shrewd tale to believe a woman, on her word.
The Thirteenth Chapter
The author showeth the untoward mind of many men, which
in miracles so highly touching the honor of God and weal of their
own souls will neither believe other folk that tell them nor
themselves vouchsafe to go prove them.
The Fourteenth Chapter
The messenger maketh objection that miracles showed before a
multitude may be feigned; and by the author showed how the
goodness of God bringeth shortly the truth of such falsehood to
light, with examples thereof one or two rehearsed; and further showed
that many miracles there be which no good Christian man may deny to
be true.
The Fifteenth Chapter
The author showeth that if of those miracles that are told and
written to be done at divers pilgrimages, and commonly believed
for very true, we certainly knew some falsely feigned, yet were that
no cause to mistrust the remnant.
The Sixteenth Chapter
The author showeth that whoso would inquire should soon find
that at pilgrimages be daily many great and undoubted miracles
wrought and well-known. And especially he speaketh of the great and
open miracle showed at our Lady of Ipswich of late upon the
daughter of Sir Roger Wentworth, Knight.
The Seventeenth Chapter
The messenger layeth forth objections against miracles done at
pilgrimages, of which he confesseth many to be true. But he layeth
causes and reasons whereby he saith that many men be moved to
believe and think that those miracles that be done there be done by

the devil to set our hearts upon idolatry by the worshipping of
images instead of God.
The Eighteenth Chapter
The author defereth the answer to the aforesaid objections, and
first by scripture he proveth that the church of Christ cannot err in
any necessary article of Christ's faith. And in this chapter be
those words of Christ specially touched, "Super cathedram Moysi
sederunt, etc., Quae dicunt vobis facite, quae autem faciunt, nolite facere,"
concerning the authority of the church.
The Nineteenth Chapter
The author proveth that if the worship of images were idolatry,
then the church believing it to be lawful and pleasant to God
were in a misbelief and in a deadly error. And then were the
faith failed in the church whereof Christ hath promised the contrary
as is proved in the chapter before.
The Twentieth Chapter
The messenger allegeth that the perpetual being and assistance of
Christ with his church, to keep it out of all damnable errors is
nothing else but his being with his church in holy scripture; whereof
the author declareth the contrary.
The Twenty-First Chapter
The author showeth that if it so were indeed as the messenger
said, that is, to wit, that Christ continued with his church none other
wise but only by the leaving of his holy scripture to them, and that
all the faith also were only therein; then should it yet follow that,
as far as the necessity of our salvation requireth, God giveth the
church the right understanding thereof. And thereupon followeth
further that the church cannot err in the right faith. Whereupon
is inferred eftsoon all that the messenger would have fled from
before. And thereon also especially followeth that all the texts of
holy scripture which heretics allege against images, or any point
of the common belief of Christ's Catholic Church, can nothing serve
their purpose.

The Twenty-Second Chapter
Because the messenger had in the beginning showed himself
desirous and greedy upon the text of scripture with little force of
the old fathers' glosses and with dispraise of philosophy and almost
all the seven liberal sciences, the author therefore incidently
showeth what harm happed sometimes to fall to divers of
those young men whom he hath known to give their study to the
scripture only, with contempt of logic and other secular science,
and little regard of the old interpreters. Wherefore the author
showeth that in the study of scripture the sure way is, with
virtue and prayer, first to use the judgment of natural reason,
whereunto secular literature helpeth much. And secondly, the comments
of holy doctors. And thirdly, above allthing, the articles
of the Catholic faith received and believed through the church of Christ.
The Twenty-Third Chapter
The messenger objected against the counsel of the author in
that he would that the student of scripture should lean to the
commenters and unto natural reason, which he calleth enemy
to faith. And thereupon the answer of the author to those
objections, especially proving that reason is servant to faith and not
enemy and must with faith and interpretation of scripture needs
be concurrent.
The Twenty-Fourth Chapter
The messenger maketh objections against the author in that
he counseled the student of scripture to bring the articles of
our faith with him for a special rule to construe the scripture by.
And the author confirmeth his counsel given in that behalf,
declaring that without that rule men may soon fall into great errors in
the study of holy scripture.
The Twenty-Fifth Chapter
The author, taking occasion upon certain words of the
messenger, declareth the preeminence, necessity and profit of
holy scripture, showing nevertheless that many things have been
taught by God without writing. And many great things so

remain yet unwritten of truths necessary to be believed. And
that the New Law of Christ is the law so written in the heart that
it shall never out of his church. And that the law there written by
God is a right rule to interpret the words written in his holy
scripture. Which rule with reason and the old interpreters the
author showeth to be the very sure way to wade within the great
stream of holy scripture.
The Twenty-Sixth Chapter
The messenger saying that him seemed he should not believe the
church if he saw the church say one thing and the holy
scripture another thing, because the scripture is the word of God;
the author showeth that the faith of the church is the word of God
as well as the scripture; and therefore as well to be believed. And that
the faith and the scripture, well understood, be never contrary.
And further showeth that upon all doubts rising upon holy
scripture concerning any necessary article of faith, he that cannot
upon all that he can hear in the matter, on both the sides,
perceive the better and truer part, hath a sure and undoubtable
refuge provided him by the goodness of God to bring him out of
all perplexity, in that God hath commanded him in all such
doubts to believe his church.
The Twenty-Seventh Chapter
The author proveth that God hath commanded us in allthing
necessary to salvation to give firm credence and full obedience
unto his church. And a cause why God will have us bound to
The Twenty-Eighth Chapter
The messenger eftsoons objected against this, that we should
believe the church in anything where we find the words of
scripture seeming plainly to say the contrary, or believe the old
doctors' interpretations in any necessary article where they seem
to us to say contrary to the text, showing that we may perceive
the scripture as well as they might. And the answer of the author
proving the authority of the old interpreters and the infallible
authority of the church in that God teacheth it every truth requisite

to the necessity of man's salvation. Which he proveth by a
deduction partly depending upon natural reason.
The Twenty-Ninth Chapter
The author proveth by scripture that God instructeth the church
of Christ in every truth necessarily requisite for our salvation.
The Thirtieth Chapter
Whereas the messenger had thought before that it were hard to
believe anything certainly save holy scripture, though the church
did agree therein and command it, the author showeth that
saving for the authority of the church, men could not know
what scripture they should believe. And here it is showed that
God will not suffer the church to be deceived in the choice of the very
scripture of God from any counterfeit.
The Thirty-First Chapter
In that the church cannot err in the choice of the true scripture,
the author proveth, by the reason which the King's Highness
in his noble and most famous book objecteth against Luther, that
the church cannot err in the necessary understanding of
scripture. And finally, the author in this chapter doth briefly
recapitulate certain of the principal points that he before proved.
And therewith endeth the first book.
The Second Book
The First Chapter
The messenger recapitulating certain things before proved and
for his part agreeing that the church of Christ cannot in any
necessary article of the faith fall in any damnable error, doth
put in doubt and question which is the very church of Christ,
alleging that they peradventure whom we call heretics will say that
themselves is the church, and we not. Whereof the author showeth the

contrary, declaring whereby we may know that they cannot be the
The Second Chapter
The author showeth that no sect of such as the church taketh
for heretics can be the church forasmuch as the church was
before all them as the tree from which all those withered branches
be fallen.
The Third Chapter
The messenger moveth that the very church peradventure is not
the people that we take for it; but a secret unknown sort of such
only as be by God predestinate to be saved. Whereunto the
author answereth and declareth that it cannot be so.
The Fourth Chapter
The messenger moveth that though the church be not the
number of folk only predestinate to bliss, yet may it peradventure
be the number of good and well-believing folk here and
there unknown, which may be peradventure those whom we
condemn for heretics for holding opinion against images.
Whereof the author proveth the contrary.
The Fifth Chapter
The author showeth and concludeth that this common known
multitude of Christian nations, not cut off nor fallen off by heresies, be
the very church of Christ, good men and bad together.
The Sixth Chapter
The messenger moveth that since the church is this known
multitude of good men and bad together of whom no man knoweth
which be the one sort and which be the other, that it may be
peradventure that the good sort of the church be they that believe
the worship of images to be idolatry, and the bad sort they that
believe the contrary. Which objection the author doth answer
and confute.
The Seventh Chapter
The author somewhat doth corroborate the truth against the
heresies holding against images; and recapitulating somewhat

briefly what hath been proved, so finisheth and endeth the proof of
his part .
The Eighth Chapter
The author entereth the answer to the objections that had been
before laid by the messenger against the worship of images, and
praying to saints, and going on pilgrimages. And first he answereth
in this chapter the objections made against praying to saints.
The Ninth Chapter
The messenger yet again objecteth against relics. And
putteth great doubt in canonizing. Whereunto the author
maketh answer.
The Tenth Chapter
The messenger objecteth many things against pilgrimages, and
relics, and worshipping of saints, because of much superstitious
manner used therein and unlawful petitions asked of
them, and harm growing thereupon.
The Eleventh Chapter
The author answereth all the objections proponed by the
messenger in the tenth chapter. And some of them touched by the
messenger more at large in other parts before.
The Twelfth Chapter
The author confirmeth the truth of our faith and usage in the
worship of images by the consent of the old holy doctors of the
church approving the same, as appeareth well in their writings,
whom God hath by many miracles testified to be saints. The
messenger eftsoon doubteth whether we can be sure that the miracles
told by them were true or not, or themselves saints or not.
Whereupon the author proveth that of any miracles told by any
saints we may be most sure of theirs and consequently by their
miracles most sure of them that they be surely saints. And in this
chapter also proveth that the miracles and consent of those holy
doctors do prove that this must needs be the very true church in
which they have written and miracles have been done. Whereupon
is finally concluded eftsoons the truth of the principal question,
and therewith finisheth the second book.

The Third Book
The First Chapter
The messenger having, in the meanwhile, been at the university,
showeth unto the author an objection which he learned there against
one point proved in the first book -- that is, to wit, that in the necessary
points of the faith equal credence is to be given to the church and to
the scripture. Which objection the author answereth and dissolveth.
The Second Chapter
Incidently somewhat is there touched the superstitious fear and
scrupulosity that the person abjured did, as it is said, begin with. The
weariness whereof drove him to the delight of such liberty as brought
him to the contempt of the good devout things used commonly
in Christ's church. And in this chapter is somewhat touched the good
mean manner between scrupulous superstition and reckless
negligence that would be used in the singing or saying of divine
The Third Chapter
The author showeth that men ought not to be light in mistrusting
of any judgment given in the court. And that much less ought any man
to be bold in the reproving of a common law. And he showeth also the
cause why that the law admitteth more slight witness in heinous
criminal causes than in slighter matters of covenants or
The Fourth Chapter
The author showeth upon what ground and cause the man was
convicted. And also divers other things, not then brought in
judgment, whereby it may well appear that he was greatly guilty.
And so he showeth incidently wherefore it were not reason in a
detection of heresy to suffer (after the witnesses published and the
crime well proved) any new witnesses to be received for the party
that is accused.
The Fifth Chapter
The author proveth that the spiritual judges did the man
marvelous favor, and almost more than lawful, in that they

admitted him to such an abjuration as they did; and that they
did not rather leave him to the secular hands.
The Sixth Chapter
The author showeth that the person abjured for his own worldly
honesty and for the more fruit of his preaching, if he be suffered to
preach in time to come, it were much better for him openly and
willingly to confess the truth. And that now by standing
still in the denial he both shameth himself and should, if
he preached, slander the word of God.
The Seventh Chapter
The messenger moveth a question if a man be sworn by a judge
to say the truth of himself in a crime whereof he is had suspect
whether he may not lawfully on his oath swear untruth where he
thinketh the truth cannot be proved against him. Whereunto the
author answereth that he is bound upon peril of perjury to say
and confess truth. And much more sin and folly both was
it then for the man that thus was abjured to forswear himself in the
thing that he wist well would be proved; and a shameless folly to
stand still by his perjury when he saw the matter so clearly
proved indeed. And with this finisheth he the matter of his
The Eighth Chapter
The author showeth why the New Testament of Tyndale's translation
was burned. And showeth for a sample certain words
evil, and of evil purpose changed.
The Ninth Chapter
The author showeth another great token that the translation was
perilous; and made for an evil purpose.
The Tenth Chapter
The author showeth that the translation of Tyndale was too bad
to be mended.
The Eleventh Chapter
The messenger findeth fault with the clergy in that he saith they
have made a constitution provincial that no Bible in English

should be suffered. And in this chapter incidently the
messenger much reproveth the living of the clergy. Whereunto the
author somewhat showeth his mind, deferring for the while his
answer to the objection made against the constitution.
The Twelfth Chapter
The author toucheth one special prerogative that we have by a
priest, be he never so bad, in that his naughtiness cannot take from
us the profit of his Mass. Whereupon is by the messenger moved a
doubt whether it were better to have fewer priests and better,
with fewer Masses, or more and worse for to have the more Masses. Whereunto
the author answereth.
The Thirteenth Chapter
The messenger moveth that it would do well that priests should have
wives. Whereunto the author answereth.
The Fourteenth Chapter
The author answereth the doubt moved before in the eleventh chapter
concerning the constitution provincial; and that the clergy is
therein far from the fault that is imputed to them in that point, showing
also that the clergy hath not forbidden the Bible to be made and read in
The Fifteenth Chapter
The messenger moveth against the clergy that, though they have
made no law thereof, yet they will indeed suffer none English
Bible in no man's hand, but use to burn them where they find
them, and sometimes to burn the man too. And for example he layeth
one Richard Hunne, showing that the chancellor of London
murdered him in prison, and after hanged him, feigning that he hanged
himself; and after condemned him of heresy because he had an
English Bible; and so burned the Bible and him together. Whereunto
the author answereth.
The Sixteenth Chapter
The messenger rehearseth some causes, which he hath heard laid
by some of the clergy, whereof the scripture should not be suffered
in English. And the author showeth his mind that it were convenient

to have the Bible in English. And therewith endeth the third
The Fourth Book
The First Chapter
The author showeth wherefore it were not well done to suffer
Luther's books, or any other heretic's, to go abroad and be read
among the people, though there were some good things in
them among the bad.
The Second Chapter
The author showeth many of Luther's heresies to be abominable,
and some part also so peevish that the very bare rehearsal is
enough, without any further dispicion thereupon, to cause any
good man to abhor them, and to be ashamed also to seem so foolish
as to hold them. And for an example, the author rehearseth divers
whereof some be new set forth by Tyndale in his English books,
worse yet in some part than his master Luther is himself.
The Third Chapter
The author showeth by what occasion that Luther first fell to
the devising of these heresies. And that the occasion was such as
well declareth, that he was pricked thereto by malice, and ever
proceedeth from evil to worse, not witting where to hold him;
and that he refuseth to stand to the judgment of any folk earthly
concerning the truth or falsehood of his opinions, save only himself.
The Fourth Chapter
The author showeth how that Luther, in the book that himself
made of his own acts at the city of Worms in Almaine, doth so
madly oversee himself, that he discloseth unaware certain follies of
himself which a man will well laugh at and marvel much to see it.
The Fifth Chapter
The author showeth the perpetual inconstancy of Luther; and
his contrariety and repugnance against himself.

The Sixth Chapter
The author showeth how that Luther hath been fain, for the defense
of his indefensible errors, to go back and forsake all the manner
of proof and trial which he first promised to stand to. And
now like a man shameful and shameless hath no proof in the world
but his own word and calleth that the word of God.
The Seventh Chapter
The author showeth what things caused the people to fall in to
Luther's fond and furious sect. And he showeth also what mischief
the followers of that sect have done in Almaine, Lombardy, and Rome.
The Eighth Chapter
The messenger saith that the malice of the men is not to be
imputed to the sect, since that of every sect some be naught. And
the author showeth that in the Lutherans, the sect self is
the cause of the malice that the men fall to.
The Ninth Chapter
The author showeth that it is a great token that the world is near
at an end while we see the people so far fallen from God that they
can abide it to be content with this pestilent frantic sect
which no people Christian or heathen could have suffered before our days.
The Tenth Chapter
The author inveigheth against this detestable article of this
ungracious sect, whereby they take away the liberty of man's
free will; and ascribe allthing to destiny.
The Eleventh Chapter
The messenger saith that howsoever Luther and his followers in
Almaine believe, yet he cannot think that such as be Lutherans in
England, of whom some he saith have seemed good and honest, be so
mad and unhappy to believe that all hangeth upon destiny. Whereupon
the author showeth the contrary; and that they be naught indeed seem
they never so good. And for proof that, howsoever they color their

words, they mean that all dependeth upon only destiny, he
rehearseth a certain dispicion had with a heretic, detected to the
bishop and examined, the author being present, where the heretic
being learned and a preacher, made many shifts to make it seem
that in his evil words he meant but well.
The Twelfth Chapter
The author inveigheth against the most pestilent sect of these
Lutherans, which ascribe our salvation and damnation, and
all our deeds to destiny.
The Thirteenth Chapter
The author showeth his opinion concerning the burning of
heretics and that it is lawful, necessary, and well done; and
showeth also that the clergy doth not procure it; but only the
good and politic provision of the temporalty.
The Fourteenth Chapter
The author somewhat showeth that the clergy doth no wrong in
leaving heretics to secular hand, though their death follow thereon.
And he showeth also that it is lawful to resist the Turk and such other
infidels; and that princes be bound thereto.
The Fifteenth Chapter
That princes be bound to punish heretics; and that fair
handling helpeth little with many of them.
The Sixteenth Chapter
Of simple unlearned folk that are deceived by the great good opinion
that they have percase in the learning and living of some that teach
them errors.
The Seventeenth Chapter
The author showeth that some which be Lutherans and seem to
live holily, and therefore be believed and had in estimation,
intend a further purpose than they pretend, which they will well
show if they may once find their time.

The Eighteenth Chapter
The author showeth that in the condemnation of heretics the
clergy might lawfully do much more sharply than they do; and
that indeed the clergy doth now no more against heretics
than the Apostle counseleth and the old holy doctors did.
Finis tabule.

The First Book
It is an old said saw that one
business begetteth and bringeth forth another.
Which proverb as it happeth I find very true by myself,
which have been fain by occasion, first of one business,
after to take the second, and upon the second now to take the
third. For whereas a right worshipful friend of mine sent
once unto me a secret sure friend of his with certain credence to
be declared unto me touching many such matters, as being indeed
very certain and out of doubt, be nevertheless of late by lewd
people put in question, the specialties whereof do so far forth in the
first chapter of this book appear, that we shall here need no rehearsal
thereof, I thought it first enough to tell the messenger my mind by
mouth, accounting that after our communication ended I
should never need further business therein. But after that the messenger
was departed, and I felt my stomach well eased in that I reckoned all
my labor done, bethinking myself a little while thereon, my
business that I took for finished I found very far from that
point and little more than begun. For when I considered what
the matters were, and how many great things had been treated
between the messenger and me, and in what manner fashion, albeit
I mistrusted not his good will and very well trusted his wit (his
learning well serving him to the perceiving and reporting of
our communication), yet finding our treaty so diverse and so long,
and sometimes suchwise intricate that myself could not
without labor call it orderly to mind, methought I had not well
done, without writing, to trust his only memory, namely, since
some parts of the matter be such of themselves as rather need to be
attentively read and advised than hoverly heard and passed over.
And over this I considered that though I nothing suspect the
messenger, as in good faith I do not, and to say the truth, am of
myself so little mistrusting that he were like very plainly to show

himself naught, whom I should take for bad: yet, since no man can
look into another's breast, as it is therefore
well done to deem the best, so were it not
much amiss in such wise to provide for the worst, as (if a man
hap to be worse than we take him for) our good opinion turn
us to none harm. For this cause methought, that for the more
surety, my part were to send our communication to my said
friend in writing. Whereby, if it had happed that his messenger had
(for any sinister favor borne toward the wrong side) purposely
mangled the matter, his master should not only know the truth,
but also have occasion the better to beware of his messenger, which
else might hap to hurt while he were mistaken for good. Now
when I had upon this deliberation taken with myself, written
all the matter and sent it to my friend, then had I, methought, all
done and my mind full set at rest. But that rest rested not
long. For soon after it was showed me that of all my writings
were written divers copies, and one also carried over the sea.
Where, when I remembered what a shrewd sort of our apostates are
assembled (part run out of religion, and all run out of the
right faith), methought great peril might arise, if some of that
company (which are confederated and conspired together in the
sowing and setting forth of Luther's pestilent heresies in this
realm) should maliciously change my words to the worse, and so
put in print my book, framed after their fantasies, which when
I would afterwards reprove and show the difference, I might
peradventure seem, for the color of my cause, to have amended
mine own upon the sight of theirs. For eschewing whereof I am
now driven, as I say, to this third business of publishing and
putting my book in print myself: whereby their enterprise (if
they should any such intend) shall, I trust, be prevented and
frustrate. And this have I done, not all of my own head, but after
the counsel of others more than one, whose advice and counsel for
their wisdom and learning I asked in that behalf, and which have
at my request vouchsafed to read over the book ere I did put it forth.

For albeit that I dare be somewhat bold to common in familiar manner
with such as for their fantasies like to ask me of such matters any
question, according to the counsel of
Saint Peter, bidding us be ready to give
a reckoning and to show a reasonable cause to every man of the
faith and hope that we have, yet to make and put forth any book
(wherein were treated any such things as touch our faith) would
I not presume but if better learned than myself should think it
either profitable or, at the leastwise, harmless. To whose examination
and judgment I did the more studiously submit this work,
for two things in especial, among divers other. The one for the
liberal allegations of the messenger for the wrong part so laid
out at large that of myself I stood half in a doubt whether it were
convenient to rehearse the words of any man so homely, and in manner
sometimes irreverently spoken against God's holy hallows and
their reverent memories. The other was certain tales and merry
words which he mingled with his matter, and some such on
mine own part among, as occasion fell in communication. In
which albeit I saw no harm, yet somewhat doubted I lest they should
unto sad men seem over light and wanton for the weight and gravity
of such an earnest matter. Wherefore in these two points though I
had already seen some examples of right holy men which, in
their books answering to the objections of heretics in their
time, have not letted to rehearse the very formal words of them
whose writings they made answer to, being sometimes of such
manner and sort as a good man would not well bear, and have not
also letted to write a merry word in a right earnest work, of
which two things I could out of godly men's books and holy
saints' works gather a good sort; yet in mine own work I
determined that I would nothing allow nor defend that the
judgment of other virtuous and cunning men would in any wise
mislike. And therefore, after that such had read it and severally
said their advice, I found, as it often happeth, that something
which one wise and well-learned man would have out, twain of

like wisdom and learning specially would have in, neither side
lacking good and probable reasons for their part. Wherefore, since
it became not me to be judge over the judgment of them whom
I took and chose for my judges -- being such of themselves as
hard were it for any man to say which of them before the other
he could in erudition, wit, or prudence anything prefer -- I
could no further go but lean to the more
part; which I so far forth have followed,
that likewise as I divers things put out or changed by their
good advice and counsel, so let I nothing stand in this book but
such as twain advised me specially to let stand against anyone
that any doubt moved me to the contrary. And thus much have I
thought necessary for my declaration and excuse to advertise you all
that shall happen to read this rude, simple work -- praying you of
patience and pardon, whom God of his special grace grant as
much profit in the reading as my poor heart hath meant you and
intended in the making.
The First Chapter
The letter of credence sent from his friend by a trusty
secret messenger. With the letter of the author answering the
same. The declaration of the credence by the mouth of the
messenger whereupon the matter of all the whole work
The Letter of Credence
Master Chancellor, as heartily as I possibly can, I recommend
me to you. Not without a thousand thanks for your good company
when we were last together. In which forasmuch as it
liked you to spend some of your time with me in familiar communication,
whereof some part I trust so to remember as myself
shall be the better and some other never the worse, which shall
have cause and have already to give you great thanks therefor, I am
bold at this time to send you my special secret friend, this bearer, to

break with you somewhat further, partly of the same matters, partly
of some other, such as are happed there since, whereof great speech
and rumor runneth here, whereby ye shall have occasion more at
length (if your leisure will serve) to touch certain doubts, moved
since, of the matters treated between us before. Wherein, were
it not for your other business I would be bold on your goodness to
desire you to take good time with him. And yet nevertheless do
require you heartily, as your leisure will serve you, to satisfy him
at the full. For he shall (how long soever he tarry therefor) give
attendance unto you, days and hours, as ye may spare him
time, which cannot in these things be but well bestowed,
considering that the matters be such,
and so touching to God, as they were well
worthy to set worldly business aside,
especially in such need. For I assure you, some folk here talk very
strangely of the things that he shall move you; not only for such
words as they tell, that come from thence, but also most especially
through the occasion of some letters lewdly written hither out of
London by a priest or two, whom they take here for honest. But whatsoever
any man tell or write I shall, for the confidence and trust
that I have in you, surely take and tell forth for the very truth whatsoever
ye shall affirm unto my friend, whom I send unto you
not so much because I may not come myself (howbeit therefor
too) as for because I long to have him talk with you. To whom,
whatsoever ye say, reckon it said to myself, not only for his
truth and secretness, but also for his memory, with whom to
commune I trust shall not mislike you. For either mine affection
blindeth me, or ye shall find him wise, and as others say that
can better judge it than I, more than meanly learned, with one thing
added wherewith ye be wont well to be content, a very merry
wit. He is of nature nothing tongue-tied. And I have in these
matters bidden him be bold, without any straining of courtesy
-- whereof the ceremonies in disputation marreth much of the matter
while one studieth more how he may behave him than what he
shall say. I have, I say, therefore bidden him more to mind his
matter than his courtesy, and freely to lay forth not only what he

thinketh, but also what him list, giving no foot in disputing
unto your authority but if he be borne back with reason. Thus
may ye see I am bold on your goodness to put you to labor and
business and send one to face you in your own house. But so
much am I bolder for that in such challenges I know you for a ready
and sure defender. And of such labor your wisdom well seeth
that God is the rewarder, who long preserve you and all yours.
The Letter of the Author Sent with the Book
Right Worshipful Sir, after most hearty recommendation, albeit
that of late I sent you my poor mind by the mouth of your trusty
friend to whom ye desired me by your letters to give no less
credence than to yourself concerning all such things as he
broke of, and communed with me in your behalf (and that for the
confidence that ye have in him, the wit and learning that I
found in him, and honesty, that I so much the more think him
to be of, in that I perceive you being of such wisdom and
virtue to have him in so special trust), I neither do nor can
believe the contrary but that he hath of all our communication
made you faithfully plain and full report; yet since I suppose in
myself, that if we had might conveniently come together, ye
would rather have chosen to have heard my mind of mine own
mouth than by the means of another, I have since in these few
days, in which I have been at home, put the matter in writing, to
the end ye may not only hear it by the mouth of your friend,
but also (which better is than suddenly once to hear it of mine
own mouth) read it, if ye list, more often at your best leisure
advisedly from mine own pen. Which thing I verily thought myself
so much the more bound to do, for that it liked you of your
special favor and affection toward me so greatly to regard and
esteem my mind and answer in those matters, that no rumor
there running or tales in your country told, or letters thither written,
nor reasons nor arguments there made to the contrary, should let or
withstand but that ye would, as ye wrote, take that thing for
undoubted truth that I should, by your friend, ascertain you.

And surely, sir, in this point, ye may make yourself sure, that I
shall never willingly deceive your trust. And lest I might hap to do
it of oversight unaware, albeit I nothing said unto your friend by
mouth but that I was right well informed of the truth, yet forasmuch
as I perceived by him that some folk doubted lest many
things were laid to the charge not only of that man ye wrote of,
but also of Luther himself, otherwise than could be proved, I
did so much therein that I was suffered to see and show him as well
the books of the one, as the very acts of the court concerning the
other, that we might both by so much the more surely warrant
you the truth. Wherein if ye find any man that yet doubteth,
whether he told you, and I write you the truth or not, I shall, if
he understand the Latin tongue, find the means at your pleasure,
that he shall so see the books himself that, were he never so full of
mistrusting, he shall not fail to be fully content and satisfied. And
this warrantise will I make you as far forth as concerneth any act
done here. But as for things reasoned and disputed between us, the
conclusions selves be so sure truths that they be not disputable. But
whether the reasons by me made in them be effectual or insufficient
(albeit your friend, either for that of truth he thought so, or for
that of courtesy he said so, accepted them for good) yet without
prejudice of the principle matters ye may yourself be judge. And
thus I pray you take in good worth the little labor and great good
will of him whom, in anything that may do you pleasure, ye
may to the uttermost of his little power well and boldly
command. And thus our Lord send you with my good lady, your
bedfellow, and all yours, as heartily well to fare as you would all wish.
Your friend first after your letter read (when I demanded
him his credence) showed me that ye had sent him to me, not
for any doubt that yourself had in many of those things that he
should move unto me, but for the doubt that ye perceived in
many other, and in some folk plain persuasion to the contrary,
whom ye would be glad to answer with the truth, albeit some
things, he said, were also there so talked, that ye wist not well yourself

which part ye might believe. For it was there not only
spoken, but also thither written by divers honest priests out of
London, that the man ye write of was of many things borne
wrong in hand, and therein so sore handled that he was forced to
forswear and abjure certain heresies, and openly put to penance
therefor, where he never held any such. And all this done for
malice and envy, partly of some freres (against whose abusions
he preached) partly for that he preached boldly against the pomp
and pride and other inordinate living -- that more men speak of than
preach of -- used in the clergy. And they take for a great token
that he should not mean evil, the proof and experience which
men have had of him that he lived well and was a good, honest,
virtuous man, far from ambition and desire of worldly
worship, chaste, humble, and charitable, free and liberal in
almsdeeds, and a very goodly preacher, in whose devout
sermons the people were greatly edified. And therefore the people
say that all this gear is done but only to stop men's mouths,
and to put every man to silence that would anything speak of the
faults of the clergy. And they think that for none other cause
was also burned at Paul's Cross the New Testament late translated
in English by Master William Hichins, otherwise called
Master Tyndale, who was (as men say) well-known, ere he went
over the sea, for a man of right good living, studious and well
learned in scripture, and in divers places in England was very well
liked and did great good with preaching. And men mutter among
themselves that the book was not only faultless, but also very well translated;
and was devised to be burned because men should not be
able to prove that such faults (as were at Paul's Cross declared to
have been found in it) were never found there indeed but untruly
surmised. And yet such as they were (some men say) were no
faults at all, if they had been so translated indeed, but blame
laid and fault found with things nothing blameworthy, only
to deface and infame that holy work to the end that they might
seem to have some just cause to burn it.

And that for none other intent, but for to keep out of the
people's hands all knowledge of Christ's Gospel and of God's
law, except so much only as the clergy themselves list now
and then to tell us. And that little as it is and seldom showed, yet, as
it is feared, not well and truly told, but watered with false glosses,
and altered from the truth of the very words and sentence of scripture
only for the maintenance of their authority.
And the fear lest this thing should evidently appear to the
people, if they were suffered to read the scripture themselves in
their own tongue, was (as it is thought) the very cause not only for
which the New Testament translated by Tyndale was burned, but
also that the clergy of this realm hath before this time by a constitution
provincial prohibited any book of scripture to be
translated into the English tongue, fearing men with fire as heretics
who so should presume to keep them, as though it were
heresy for a Christian man to read Christ's Gospel.
"And surely sir," quoth he, "some folk that think this dealing of the
clergy to be thus, and good men to be mishandled for declaring
the truth, and the scripture self to be pulled out of the people's
hands, lest they should perceive the truth, be led in their
minds to doubt whether Luther himself (of whose opinions
or at the least of whose works all this business began) wrote indeed
so evil as he is borne in hand. And many men there be that
think he never meant such things. But that because he wrote
against the abusions of pardons and spoke somewhat liberally
against the court of Rome, and generally against the vices of the
clergy, therefore he was brought in hatred and first cited to
Rome. And when that for fear of bodily harm with wrong
-- whereof it would have been too late to look for remedy after, if he had
once been burned up before -- he durst not come thither, then was he
accursed, and his books damned and under great pains forbidden
to be read. And that thing done because it should not be
known what wrong he had, and that he neither meaneth nor saith
such odious and abominable heresies as the people be borne

in hand to induce them to hatred of him -- as it would peradventure
appear if his books were suffered to be read.
"And they say that it were no mastery to make it seem that a man
should be a heretic if he may be borne in hand that he saith the
thing which he never said, or peradventure one line taken out
among many and misconstrued, not suffering the remnant
to be seen whereby it might more clearly appear what he meaneth.
By which manner of dealing a man, they say, might lay heresy to
Saint Paul and find a fault in Saint John's Gospel.
"And yet they say the worst of all is this, that the clergy cease
not hereby nor hold themselves content with the condemning of
Luther, and forbidding of his books, but further abuse the
hatred of his name against every man that is (in
preaching of the word of God) anything such as should be, that
is, to wit, plain and bold without gloze or flattering, where if
they find a man faulty, let them lay his fault to his charge; what
needeth to call him a Lutheran? Though Luther were a devil,
yet might a man percase say as he saith in some thing, and say true
enough. For never was there heretic that said all false. Nor the
devil himself lied not when he called Christ God's Son. And
therefore men think that this name of a Lutheran serveth the
clergy for a common cloak of a false
crime, that where they lack special
matter to charge one with by judgment, they labor to bring
him first into the infamy of that name, that compriseth (as they
make it seem) a confused heap of heresies, no man can tell what.
And yet in such dealing they wound their own matter another
way. For while they defame for Lutherans men that be of known
virtue and cunning, what do they thereby but one of the twain,
either cause the people (that have for good living and learning
those men in great reputation) to think that the clergy for malice
and envy doth untruly defame them, or else that Luther's doctrine is
good, while so cunning men and good men lean thereto.
"And therefore it were wisdom not to call them Lutherans, but
rather when they teach and hold any such opinions as the people
know for Luther's let it either be dissimuled, or they secretly by
fair ways induced to the contrary, if the points that they teach of

his be naught. Lest by calling good and cunning men Lutherans,
they may peradventure bring themselves in suspicion of malice and
envy and Luther among the people in too good opinion,
thinking, as they begin to do already, that either Luther said not
so evil as is surmised upon him or else that those things that he
saith, as odious as they seem, be good enough indeed."
He said also that it seemed unto many men a sore thing and far unreasonable,
that poor, simple, and unlearned men (although they fell
into errors and were led out of the right way by that they leaned to
the authority of such men as they believed to be virtuous and cunning)
should, instead of teaching, be beaten cruelly with abjurations and open
shame, with peril of burning also if a few false witnesses shall
after such abjuration depose that they have heard him fall in
Finally he said that many good and well-learned men thought
plainly that the clergy seemeth far out of all good order of
charity, and that they do contrary to the mildness and merciful
mind of their master, and against the example of all the old
holy fathers, in that they cause, for any error or wrong opinion in
the faith, any man one or other to be put to death.
"For they say that the old holy fathers used only to dispute
with heretics, teaching them and convicting them by
scripture and not by faggots. And that by that way the
faith went well toward, and one heretic so turned did turn
many other, whereas now men abhor this cruelty in the
church. And they that seem turned think still the things
that they dare not say. And of the ashes of
one heretic springeth up many. And
that now we make the fashion of Christendom
to seem all turned quite up so down. For whereas Christ made
infidels the persecutors and his Christian people the sufferers, we make
the Christian men the persecutors and the infidels the sufferers,
whereby men think that secretly Christ's order yet standeth still,
though it be not so taken and so perceived. For the people take it
that still those that persecute be the miscreants, and those poor

people that suffer it be (under the false name of heretics) the
true believing men and very Christian martyrs.
"Christ also, they say, would never have any man compelled by force
and violence to believe upon his faith, nor would that men should
fight for him or his matters. In so far forth that he would not suffer
Saint Peter to fight for his own self, but reproved him for
striking Malchus. Nor would not defend
himself, but healing the ear again of
Malchus his persecutor, which Peter had smitten off, and giving
all his holy body to the patient sufferance of all the painful torments
that his cruel enemies would put to it, showed us as well
by his effectual example of his death, as by his godly counsel in
his life, and after that confirmed by the continual passion and
martyrdoms of his holy martyrs that his will and pleasure is that
we should not so much as defend ourselves against heretics and
infidels were they pagans, Turks, or Saracens. And much less,
then, should we fight against them and kill them; but that we should
persevere in setting forth his faith against miscreants and infidels
by such ways as himself began it, keep it and increase it as it
was gotten. And that was by patience and
sufferance, by which the faith was
divulged and spread almost through the
world in little while. Not by war and fighting, which way hath
(as they say) well near already lost all that the other way won."
When your friend had thus declared his credence, he desired me
both on your behalf and on his own, in such things as were
percase not well said, to take them, as they were indeed, the
mind of other whom ye would fain answer and satisfy with
reason, which ye trusted to be the better able to do by mine
answer, and neither the mind nor opinion of you nor him
which did and would in allthing stand and abide by the faith
and belief of Christ's Catholic Church. But as for such parts of
this matter as concerned not any part of our belief, but the dealing
of this world, as the justice or injustice of some spiritual
persons in the pursuing and condemning men for heretics or
their works for heresies, he thought, he said, as of himself, that men
might without any peril of heresy, for their own part, notwithstanding

any man's judgment given, yet well and reasonably
doubt therein; for though he thought it heresy to think the
opinions of any man to be good and Catholic which be
heresies indeed, yet might a man, he thought, without any peril of
heresy doubt whether he were a heretic or no that were by
man's judgment condemned for one; since it might well happen
that he never held those opinions that were put upon him, but
that he was either by false depositions of wrongful witness, or
by the error or malice of unjust judges condemned. And that
sometimes, percase, the ignorance of some judges would condemn
for heresy such articles as wiser and better learned would in point
of judgment allow for good and Catholic, and of the other
judgment discern and judge the contrary.
Howbeit, he said that ye had in me and my learning so
special trust and confidence that in any of all these things whatsoever
ye had heard or should hear elsewhere ye were fully
determined to give full credence to me, and take for the truth
such answer as he should bring you from me, wherein ye right
heartily desired me to take some pain that ye might in these
matters by his mouth know my mind at large.
After this, ere I made any answer to his words, I demanded him
what manner acquaintance was between him and you. And thereupon
perceiving him to have your sons at school, inquiring
further of him to what faculty he had most given his study, I
understood him to have given diligence to the Latin tongue; as
for other faculties he recked not of. For he told me merrily that
logic he reckoned but babbling, music to serve for singers,
arithmetic meet for merchants, geometry for masons,
astronomy good for no man, and as for philosophy, the most
vanity of all -- and that it and logic had lost all good divinity
with the subtleties of their questions and babbling of their dispicions,
building all upon reason, which rather giveth
blindness than any light. For man, he said, hath no light but
of holy scripture. And therefore he said that besides the Latin tongue,
he had been, which I much commend, studious in holy scripture,
which was, he said, learning enough for a Christian man, with

which the apostles held themselves content. And therein he said
he labored not only to con many texts thereof by heart, but also
to ensearch the sentence and understanding thereof as far as he
might perceive by himself. For as for interpreters, he told me
that neither his time would well serve him to read, and also he
found so great sweetness in the text self, that he could not
find in his heart to lose any time in the glosses. And as touching
any difficulty, he said that he found by experience that the best
and surest interpretation was to lay and
confer one text with another, which
fail not among them well and sufficiently
to declare themselves. And this way, he said, that he used,
which he found sufficient and surest. For so should it most surely
tarry, when it were found out and learned by a man's own labor.
And that he said every man was able enough to do with help of
God, which never faileth them that faithfully trust in his promise.
And he hath promised that if we seek we
shall find, and if we knock we shall
have it opened to us. And what shall be opened but that book which,
as Saint John saith in the Apocalypse, is so
shut with seven clasps that it cannot be
opened but by the lamb, that when he shutteth then can no man
open it, and when he openeth it then can no man shut it?
Upon these words and other like, when I considered that your
friend was studious of scripture, and although I now have a very
good opinion of him, nor at that time had not all the contrary, yet,
to be plain with you and him both, by reason that he set the
matter so well and lustily forward, he put me somewhat in doubt
whether he were, as young scholars be sometimes prone to new
fantasies, fallen into Luther's sect. And that ye, peradventure, somewhat
fearing the same, did of good mind the rather send him to
me with such a message for that ye trusted he should be somewhat
answered and satisfied by me. I therefore thought it not meetly in so
many matters and weighty to make him an unadvised answer, but
with good words welcoming him for the time, pretending lack of
leisure for other present business, required him to return on the

morrow, against which time I would so order mine affairs that
we would have conference together of all his errand at length. And
he in this wise being departed, I began to gather in mind the
whole effect as my remembrance would serve me of all that he had
purposed. And because I would have it the more ready at mine eye,
so that I might the more fully and effectually answer it, leaving no
part untouched in such order as he had purposed it, that is to
wit, after the manner that I have above rehearsed, I briefly
committed it to writing.
The Second Chapter
Here summarily is declared what order the author
intendeth to treat of the matters purposed unto him.
Whereof, because the first was an opinion conceived in some
men's heads, that a certain person late abjured of heresy
for preaching against pilgrimages and images and prayers
made to saints was therein greatly wronged, the author
briefly declareth his mind concerning the confutation of
those perilous and pernicious opinions.
On the morrow when he was come again somewhat before seven
of the clock -- for so I appointed him -- taking him with me into
my study, and my servants warned that if any other should
happen to desire to speak with me (certain except of whom I gave
them knowledge) they should defer them till another leisure, I
set him down with me at a little table. And then I showed unto
him that where he had purposed on your behalf in short words
many long things, whereof the rehearsal were loss of time, to
him that so well knew them already, I would, all superfluous
recapitulation set apart, as briefly as I conveniently could, show
him my mind in them all. And first begin where he began at the
abjuration of the man he spoke of. Secondly would I touch the
condemnation and burning of the New Testament translated by
Tyndale. Thirdly, somewhat would I speak of Luther and his sect

in general. Fourthly and finally, the thing that he touched last,
that is to wit, the war and fighting against infidels, with the
condemnation of heretics unto death, which two points, himself
had combined and knit together.
"And first as touching the matter of the man's abjuration,
where it is reported that the spiritualty did him wrong, and
for to make that seem likely, there is laid in them displeasure,
malice and envy toward him, for preaching (as ye say, quoth I)
against their vicious living, and in him is, on the other side,
alleged much cunning, virtue, and goodness. I will neither enter
into the praise of them, nor into the dispraise of him, wherein
standeth nothing the effect of this matter. For if there did, I would
not pass over some part thereof so shortly.
"But now for this matter, although the whole spiritualty -- wherein
no man doubteth to be many a right virtuous and godly man -- were
in their living far worse than devils, yet, if they did that man
no wrong, there hath for this matter no man against them any
cause to complain. And over this, if that man were in all his other
living as innocent as a saint, yet if he were infected and faulty in
these heresies, he had then in this matter no wrong. And yet besides
all this, if he not only were in all other things very virtuous, but
also were in all these heresies whereof he was detected utterly clean
and faultless, yet if it were by sufficient witness -- were they never
so false indeed, seeming honest and likely to say true -- proved in
open court that he was faulty therein, albeit in such case his
witnesses had wronged him, yet had his judges done him but right.
And therefore letting pass, as I say, the praise or dispraise of
either his judges or him, as things impertinent to the point, I
will show you that they not only did him no wrong, but also
showed him in my mind the greatest favor, and used toward
him the most charitable mercy that ever I wist used to any man in
such case.
"And first, as for any wrong that his judges did him, I marvel me
much wherein they that report it could assign it. For if any were
done him, it must needs have been in one of the two things, either
in that he was untruly judged to have preached such articles as he

was detected of, where he preached none such indeed; or else in
that some such articles as he preached, were judged and condemned
for heresies, where they were none indeed. Except that any man
would say that though he were proved and convicted of heresy, yet
he should have been put to no penance at all, or else to no such as
he was. And of that point, if any man so think, I shall speak in
the fourth part where we shall touch in general the order that
the church taketh in the condemnation of heretics. But as for
the other points; first, if any priest wrote out of London into your
country that any such article of his preaching was by his judges
declared for heresy, as were indeed good and not against the faith
of Christ's church, let him name what article. And either ye shall
find that he shall name you such as the man was not charged
withal, or else shall ye find that such as he shall name you were
such indeed as yourself shall perceive for heresies at your ear.
For the articles wherewith he was
charged were that we should do no
worship to any images, nor pray to any saints, or go on
pilgrimages -- which things, I suppose, every good Christian man
will agree for heresies. And therefore we shall let that point pass, and
so resort to the second, to see whether it were well proved that he
preached them or no."
"Sir," quoth your friend, "I would for my part well agree them for
heresies; but yet have I heard some ere this that would not do so. And
therefore when we call them heresies, it were well done to tell why;
since some men would, I ween, if they might be heard, stiffly say nay,
which now hold their peace and bear themselves full coldly that
would take the matter more hot, save for burning of their
"Now forsooth," quoth I, "whosoever will say that these be no
heresies, he shall not have me to dispute it, which have no
cunning in such matters, but as it best
becometh a layman to do in all things,
lean and cleave to the common faith, and belief of Christ's church.
And thereby do I plainly know it for a heresy, if a heresy be a
sect and a side way, taken by any part of such as be baptized,

and bear the name of Christian men, from the common faith, and
belief of the whole church besides. For this am I very sure and
perceive it well, not only by experience of mine own time and the
places where myself hath been, with common report of other honest
men from all other places of Christendom, but by books also and
remembrances left of long time, with writing of the old holy
fathers and now saints in heaven, that from the apostles' time
hitherto this manner hath been used, taught, and allowed, and the
contrary commonly condemned through the whole flock of all good
Christian people.
"And as touching such texts as these heretics allege against
the worshipping of images, praying to saints, and going on
pilgrimages, as they lay the law given
to the Jews: "Non facies tibi sculptile"
(Thou shalt carve thee none image), and the psalm, "In exitu Israel
de Aegypto," and "Soli deo honor et gloria"
(Only to God be honor and glory), and
"Maledictus qui confidit in homine" (Accursed
is he that putteth his trust in man),
with many such other like, which heretics have of old ever
barked against Christ's Catholic Church, very sure am I that
Saint Augustine, Saint Jerome, Saint Basil, Saint Gregory, with
so many a godly cunning man, as hath been in Christ's church from
the beginning hitherto, understood those texts as well as did
those heretics; namely, having as good wits, being far better
learned, using in study more diligence, being a heap to a handful,
and, which most is of all, having (as God by many miracles
beareth witness) besides their learning, the light and clearness of his
special grace, by which they were inwardly taught of his only
Spirit to perceive that the words spoken in the Old Law to the
Jews, people prone to idolatry -- and yet not to all them neither;
for the priests then had the images of the angel cherubim in the
secret place of the Temple -- should have no place to forbid images
among his Christian flock, where his pleasure would be to have the
image of his blessed body hanging on his holy cross had in
honor and reverent remembrance; where he would vouchsafe to

send unto the king Abgarus the image
of his own face; where he liked to leave
the holy vernicle, the express image also
of his blessed visage, as a token to remain in honor among
such as loved him from the time of his bitter Passion hitherto.
Which, as it was by the miracle of his blessed holy hand expressed and
left in the sudary, so hath it been by like miracle in that thin, corruptible
cloth kept and preserved uncorrupted this fifteen hundred year,
fresh and well perceived, to the inward comfort, spiritual
rejoicing, and great increase of fervor and devotion in the hearts of
good Christian people. Christ also taught his holy evangelist Saint
Luke to have another manner mind toward images than have
these heretics, when he put in his mind to counterfeit and
express in a table the lovely visage of our blessed Lady his mother.
He taught also Saint Amphibalus, the
master and teacher of the holy first martyr
of England, Saint Alban, to bear about and worship the crucifix.
Who showed also Saint Alban himself
in a vision the image of the crucifix
but God, which thing wrought in that holy man so strongly, that
he with few words of Saint Amphibalus, at the sight of that
blessed image which our Lord had before showed him in his sleep,
was clean turned to Christendom? And in the worshipping of
the same image was taken and brought forth to judgment, and
afterward to martyrdom.
"I would also fain wit whether these heretics will be
content that the blessed name of Jesus be had in honor and
reverence or not. If not, then need we no more to show what
wretches they be, which dare despise that holy name that the
devil trembleth to hear of. And on the other side, if they agree
that the name of Jesus is to be reverenced
and had in honor, then since that name
of Jesus is nothing else but a word which
by writing or by voice representeth unto the hearer the person of our
Savior Christ, fain would I wit of these heretics if they

give honor to the name of our Lord, which name is but an image
representing his person to man's mind and imagination, why
and with what reason can they despise a figure of him carved or
painted, which representeth him and his acts, far more plain
and more expressly?"
"Sir," quoth he, "as touching the cost done upon the ark, and the
Temple, and the priest's apparel by the commandment of God,
there is a proper book and a very contemplative written in English,
and entitled the Image of Love, which was made as it seemeth by some
very virtuous man contemplative and well-learned; in which book
that reason of yours is not only well answered, but also turned
again against you. For therein that good holy man layeth sore against
these carved and painted images, giving them little praise, and
especially least commending such as be most costly, curiously,
and most workmanly wrought. And he showeth full well that
images be but laymen's books, and
therefore that religious men and folk of
more perfect life, and more instructed in spiritual wisdom,
should let all such dead images pass, and labor only for the lively
quick image of love and charity. And very sore he speaketh there
against all these costly ornaments of the church, whereof the money
were, as he saith, better bestowed upon poor folk. And he showeth
that the saints and holy doctors of old time would suffer no such
superfluity in the paraments of the church, but only see that they
were clean and pure, and not costly. And therefore he saith that in
their time they had treen chalices and golden priests, and now
have we golden chalices and treen priests."
"Surely," quoth I, "that book have I seen, whereof who was the maker
I know not. But the man might peradventure mean well and run
up so high in his contemplation spiritual, that while he thought he
sat in God Almighty's bosom up on high in heaven, he contemned
and set at naught all earthly things, and all temporal service done
to God here beneath among poor silly men in earth. And verily of his
intent and purpose I will not much meddle. For a right good
man may hap at a time, in a fervent indiscreet, to say something
and write it too, which when he considereth after more
advisedly, he would be very fain to change; but this dare I be
bold to say, that his words go somewhat further than he is able to
defend. For I doubt it not but that in the days of those holy saints,

ornaments in churches of Christ were not only pure and clean, but also
very costly. And it might well be, and so have I read that it hath been,
in some great dearth of corn and famine of people, that some good
holy bishops have relieved poor people with the sale of some of
the vessel and plate of the church. But I
suppose he shall never find, except in
some such great, urgent cause chancing upon some occasion,
that ever those holy men refused to have God served in his churches
with the best and most precious of such metals as his goodness
giveth unto man, of which it is very right and good reason that man
serve him again with the best, and not
do as Cain did, keep all that aught is
for himself, and serve his master and his maker with the worst.
And because he nameth Saint Ambrose, I ween there will no man
doubt of the Emperor Theodosius, a man so devout unto God as he
was, that he would be served himself in cups of gold, and
suffer his and our Savior Christ in the Church of Milan,
where himself resorted and Saint Ambrose was bishop, to be
served in chalices of tree. Nor verily I can scant believe that any
Christian people, all were they very poor, would at this day suffer
the precious Blood of our Lord to be consecrated and received in tree,
where it should cleave to the chalice and sink in and not be clean
received out by the priest. But that word I ween he set in for the
pleasure that he had in that proper comparison between treen
chalices and golden priests of old and now golden chalices and
treen priests. But of truth I think he saith not truth, that the
chalices were made of treen when the priests were made of gold,
and shall find that then were of old time many more chalices made
of gold than he findeth now priests made of tree. If he look well
in Platina, De vitis pontificum, I ween he shall well perceive that Christ
was served with silver and gold in the vessels, utensils, and ornaments
of his church, long time ere Saint Ambrose was born, or the
eldest of those old doctors that he speaketh of. And I dare make me
bold to warrant that they themselves used not to say Mass in
chalices of tree. And methinketh that the pleasure of God cannot in
this point better appear, than by his own words written in holy
scripture, as in the ark of the testament and the ornaments of

the priest, and the cost and riches bestowed about the Temple of
"Marry," quoth he, "that is the thing that is in the book of the images of
love, as I was about to tell you, very well and clearly answered."
"In what wise?" quoth I.
"Marry," quoth he, "for first when the ark was made, there were no
poor men to bestow that richesse upon, for while the children
of Israel were in desert they were fed
with manna, and their clothes never
wasted nor were the worse in all that forty year. And as for the
richesse of the Temple made by Solomon, could make no matter
to the people, for there was then no poor folk neither. For as the
very words of the scripture showeth there was in his days so great
plenty of gold, that silver was not set by."
"Forsooth," quoth I, "the man maketh a
proper answer for the ark. But I would
fain wit of him, though there were no poor folk among them at
the time of the making, was there never none among them after
the time of the keeping? I ween he will not say nay. And then if
there were, since God would by his reason rather have commanded
to give that gold to poor men if there had been such than to
make it in the ark, he would by the same reason after, when there
were such, have commanded then to break it again and give it
them rather than to keep it in the ark. And as for the richesse
bestowed upon the Temple of Solomon, where he said that there
were then no poor men because there were so great plenty of gold,
that silver was not set by, every man may well wit, that if every
man had in his time been rich, he had not had so many workmen.
But weeneth he that because there was in his days so much
gold, that therefore all the people had enough thereof? I rather fear
me that because he was so rich, his people were the poorer. For albeit
he had great gifts sent him, and also used not his own people of
the children of Israel for bondmen and slaves, yet it is likely that
he set great and sore impositions upon them, whereby he gathered
great riches, and they grew in great poverty. And if any man
think the contrary, let him then look after Solomon's death in the
beginning of his son's reign, whether all the people did not so

sore complain thereof, that -- because they could not get a promise
of amendment, as sad men advised the
king, but, by the lewd counsel of young
lads that then led the young king to folly, were with a proud
rigorous answer put in fear of worse -- of the twelve tribes of Israel ten
fell clearly from him, and left him no more but twain. And
therefore, by the richesse and royalty of the prince, to prove that
there was no poor people in his realm, is a very poor proof. For so
may it hap that the prince may be most rich when his people be
most poor, and the riches of the one causing the poverty of the
other, if the people's substance be gathered into the prince's purse.
And for conclusion it is little doubt but Solomon might have
found poor folk enough to have given his gold unto that he
bestowed upon the Temple of God. And therefore that answer
answereth not well the matter."
"Well," quoth your friend, "yet hath that book one answer that
assoileth all the whole matter. For, as it is said there, all those things
that were used in the Old Law were but gross and carnal, and were
all as a shadow of the law of Christ; and therefore the worshipping
of God with gold and silver and such other corporal things ought
not to be used among Christian people; but leaving all that shadow,
we should draw us to the spiritual things, and serve our Lord
only in spirit and spiritual things.
For so he saith himself that God, as himself
is spiritual, so seeketh he such worshippers as shall worship
him in spirit and in truth -- that is in faith, hope and charity of
heart, not in the hypocrisy and ostentation of outward observance,
bodily service, gay and costly ornaments, fair images, goodly
song, fleshly fasting, and all the rabble of such unsavory ceremonies,
all which are now gone as a shadow. And our Savior
himself, whose faith is our justification, calleth upon our soul
and our good faithful mind and setteth all those carnal things
at naught."
"The book," quoth I, "saith not fully so far as ye rehearse, howbeit indeed
many other men do. But these men that make themselves so
spiritual, God send grace that some evil spirit inspire not to
their hearts a devilish device, which, under a cloak of special

zeal to spiritual service, go first about to destroy all such devotion,
as ever hath hitherto showed itself, and uttered the good
affection of the soul by good and holy works unto God's honor
wrought with the body. These men be come in to so high point of
perfection that they pass all the good men that served God in old
time. For as for the good, godly man Moses, he thought that to pray
not only in mind but with mouth also
was a good way. The good king David
thought it pleasant to God not only to pray with his mouth but
also to sing, and dance too, to God's honor, and blamed his
foolish wife, which did at that time, as these foolish heretics do
now, mocking that bodily service. Holy Saint John the Baptist
not only baptized and preached, but also
fasted, watched, prayed and wore hair. Christ our Savior himself
not only prayed in mind, but also with mouth, which kind
of prayer these holy, spiritual heretics now call lip labor in
mockage. And the fasting which they set at naught, our Savior
himself set so much by, that he continued
it forty days together. Now as
for the images which ye call one of the shadows . . ."
"Nay, by Saint Mary," quoth he, "I called gay ornaments of the church
and such other outward observances and bodily ceremonies, as
the Image of Love calleth them, such things I called, as the book
doth, shadows of the Old Law. But as for images, the book adviseth
men either clean let pass and leave off or, if we will needs have any,
care not how simple it be made, for as well may the most rude
image and most simply wrought put us in mind of Christ, and
our Lady, and any other saint, as may the most costly and most
curious that any painter or carver can devise.
"And verily, to say the truth, as for images, they be no shadows
of the Old Law but things therein plainly and clearly forbidden,
as well in divers other places of scripture
as in the text late remembered by
yourself, "Non facies tibi sculptile" (Thou
shalt carve thee nor grave thee none image). And by all the whole
psalm, "In exitu Israel de Aegypto," it is with great execration and
malediction prohibited."

"First," quoth I, "ye may not take those words for such a precise
prohibition as should forbid utterly any images to be made, for
as I showed you before, they had in the Temple the images of cherubim.
But it was prohibited to make such
images as the Egyptians and other
paynims did, that is to wit, the idols of false gods -- for that
appeareth in the psalm self, where he layeth for the cause of the
prohibition. "Quoniam omnes dii gentium daemonia, dominus
autem caelos fecit" (For all the gods of the paynims be devils, but
our Lord hath made the heavens). Doth it not by these words well
appear what images were in that psalm forbidden, that is to wit,
the images and idols only of those paynim gods? For else, I pray you
tell me what reason were this, if one would say, "Make none image
of Christ, nor of our Lady, nor of any Christian saint in no wise, for
all the gods of the paynims be but devils"? Were not this a wise
reason well concluded?
"There is also in these prohibitions intended that no man shall
worship any image as God. For if he should, then should he fall in
the contempt of the precept of God by which we be commanded
to worship only one God, and forbidden to
worship any false gods. And therefore
where it is written, "Non facies tibi sculptile" (Thou shalt grave thee
none image), it goeth next before, "Non habebis deos alienos" (Thou
shalt have no false gods). And it is also
written, "Nolite converti ad idola neque
deos conflatiles faciatis vobis" (Turn not to idols, nor make not for
yourself any gods of metal cast in a mold). And where it is
forbidden to worship any image, there is the word that signifieth
the honor and service only pertaining to God. And therefore
neither may we do any worship to any image and idol of any false
paynim, nor with honor and service done as to God may we neither
worship image of any saint, nor yet the saint itself. But I suppose
neither scripture nor natural reason doth forbid that a man may
do some reverence to an image, not
fixing his final intent in the image,
but referring it further to the honor of the person that the image
representeth, since that in such reverence done unto the image there

is none honor withdrawn neither from God nor good man, but
both the saint honored in his image and God in his saint.
When a mean man, an ambassador to a great king, hath much
honor done him, to whom doth that honor redound, to the
ambassador or to the king?
"When a man, at the receipt of his prince's letter, putteth off his
cap and kisseth it, doth he this reverence to the paper or to his
"In good faith, to say the truth, these heretics rather trifle than
reason in this matter. For where they say that images be but laymen's
books, they cannot yet say nay but that they be necessary
if they were but so. Howbeit methinketh that they be good books,
both for laymen and for the learned too. For as I somewhat said unto
you before, all the words that be either written or spoken be but
images representing the things that the writer or speaker conceiveth
in his mind: likewise, as the figure of the thing framed
with imagination, and so conceived in the mind, is but an
image representing the very thing itself that a man thinketh on.
As for example, if I tell you a tale of my good friend your master,
the imagination that I have of him in my mind, is not your master
himself but an image that representeth him. And when I name
you him, his name is neither himself nor yet the figure of him,
which figure is in mine imagination, but only an image representing
to you the imagination of my mind. Now if I be too
far from you to tell it you, then is the writing not the name itself
but an image representing the name. And yet all these names
spoken, and all these words written, be no natural signs or
images but only made by consent and agreement of men, to betoken
and signify such thing, whereas images painted, graven, or
carved, may be so well wrought, and so near to the quick and to the
truth, that they shall naturally, and much more effectually
represent the thing than shall the name either spoken or written.
For he that never heard the name of your master shall, if ever he
saw him, be brought in a right full remembrance of him by his
image well wrought and touched to the quick. And surely, saving
that men cannot do it, else if it might commodiously be done, there

were not in this world so effectual
writing as were to express allthing in
imagery. And now likewise as a book well made and well written
better expresseth the matter than doth a book made by a rude man that
cannot well tell his tale, and written with an evil hand, so doth an
image well workmanly wrought better express the thing than
doth a thing rudely made, but if it move a man for some other
special cause, as peradventure for some great antiquity or the great
virtue of the workman, or for that God showeth at that place some
special assistance of his favor and grace. But now, as I began to
say, since all names spoken or written be but images, if ye set
aught by the name of Jesus spoken or written, why should ye set
naught by his image painted or carved that representeth his holy
person to your remembrance, as much and more too, as doth his
name written? Nor these two words "Christus crucifixus" do not so
lively represent us the remembrance of his bitter Passion, as doth
a blessed image of the crucifix, neither to layman nor unto a
learned. And this perceive these heretics themselves well enough,
nor they speak not against images for
any furtherance of devotion, but
plainly for a malicious mind, to
diminish and quench men's devotions. For they see well enough
that there is no man but if he love another, but he delighteth in his
image or anything of his. And these heretics that be so sore
against the images of God and his holy saints, would be yet right
angry with him that would dishonestly handle an image made in
remembrance of one of themselves, where the wretches forbear not
villainously to handle and cast dirt in despite upon the holy
crucifix, an image made in remembrance of our Savior himself,
and not only of his most blessed person, but also of his most
bitter Passion.
"Now as touching prayer made unto the saints, and worship
done unto them, much marvel is it what cause of malice these

heretics have to them. We see it common, in the wretched condition
of this world, that one man of a pride in himself hath
envy at another, or for displeasure done, beareth to some other
malice and evil will. But this must
needs be a devilish hatred, to hate him
whom thou never knew, which never did thee harm, which
if he could now do thee no good where he is, yet either with his
good example gone before thee, or his good doctrine left behind
him, doth thee -- but if thou be very naught of thyself -- great good
in this world for thy journey toward heaven. And this must needs
be an envy coming of a high devilish pride, and far passing
the envy of the devil himself, for he never envied but such
as he saw and was conversant with, as when he saw man and
the glory of God. But these heretics envy them whom they never
saw nor never shall see but when they shall be sorry and ashamed in
themselves of that glorious sight.
"For where they pretend the zeal of God's honor himself,
as though God (to whom only all honor and glory is to be given),
were dishonored in that some honor is done to his holy saints,
they be not so mad nor childish as they make themselves. For if
all honor were so to be given only to
God that we should give none to no
creature, where were then God's precept of honor to be given
to our father and mother, to princes, governors and rulers here
in earth, and as Saint Paul saith, "Every
man to other"?
"And well they wot that the church
worshippeth not saints as God, but as
God's good servants; and therefore, the
honor that is done to them redoundeth principally to the
honor of their master, like as in common custom of people we do
reverence sometimes and make great cheer to some men for their
master's sake, whom else we would not haply bid once good
"And surely if any benefit or alms done to one of Christ's poor
folk for his sake be by his high goodness reputed and accepted as

done unto himself, and that whoso receiveth one of his apostles
or disciples receiveth himself, every wise man may well consider
that in like wise whoso doth honor his holy saints for his sake,
doth honor himself. Except these heretics ween that God
were as envious as they be themselves, and that he would be wroth
to have any honor done to any other, though it thereby redounded
unto himself. Whereof our Savior Christ well declareth the contrary,
for he showed himself so well content that his holy saints shall be
partners of his honor, that he promiseth his apostles that at the
dreadful Doom, when he shall come in his high majesty, they
shall have their honorable seats, and sit with himself upon
the judgment of the world.
"Christ also promised that Saint Mary Magdalene should be worshipped
through the world, and have here a honorable remembrance,
for that she bestowed that precious ointment upon his
holy head. Which thing, when I consider it, maketh me marvel of the
madness of these heretics that bark against the old ancient
customs of Christ's church, mocking the setting up of candles
and with foolish facetiae and blasphemous mockery demand
whether God and his saints lack light or whether it be night with
them that they cannot see without candle. They might as well ask
what good did that ointment to Christ's head. But the heretics
grudge at the cost now, as their brother
Judas did then. And say it were better
spent in alms upon poor folk; and this say many of them which
can neither find in their heart to spend upon the one nor the
other. And some spend sometimes upon the one for none other
intent, but to the end that they may the more boldly rebuke and
rail against the other. But let them all by that example of that
holy woman, and by these words of our Savior, learn that God
delighteth to see the fervent heat of the heart's devotion boil out by
the body, and to do him service with all such goods of fortune
as God hath given a man.
"What riches devised our Lord God himself in the making
and garnishing of the Temple, and in the ornaments of the altar

and the priest's apparel -- what was himself the better for all
this? What for the beasts that himself commanded to be offered him
in sacrifice? What for the sweet odors and frankincense? Why do
these heretics more mock at the manner of Christ's church than
they do at the manner of the Jews' synagogue, but if they be better
Jews than Christian men?
"If men will say that the money were better spent among poor
folk -- by whom he more setteth, being the quick temples of the
Holy Ghost made by his own hands, than by the temples of stone
made by the hand of man -- this would be, percase, very true, if
there were so little to do it with that we should be driven of necessity
to leave the one undone. But God giveth enough for both; and
giveth diverse men diverse kinds of devotion, and all to his
pleasure. In which, as the apostle Paul
saith, let every man for his part
abound and be plenteous in that kind of virtue, that the Spirit of
God guideth him to. And not to be of the foolish mind that
Luther is, which wisheth in a sermon of his that he had in his
hand all the pieces of the holy cross, and saith that if he so had
he would throw them there as never sun
should shine on them. And for what
worshipful reason would the wretch do
such villainy to the cross of Christ? Because, as he saith, that there
is so much gold now bestowed about the garnishing of the
pieces of the cross, that there is none left for poor folk. Is not this
a high reason? As though all the gold that is now bestowed about
the pieces of the holy cross would not have failed to have been
given to poor men if they had not been bestowed about the
garnishing of the cross. And as though there were nothing lost
but that is bestowed about Christ's cross.
"Take all the gold that is spent about all the pieces of Christ's cross
through Christendom (albeit many a good Christian prince, and other
godly people have honorably garnished many pieces thereof), yet
if all that gold were gathered together, it would appear a poor portion
in comparison of the gold that is bestowed upon cups -- what

speak we of cups? in which the gold, albeit that it be not
given to poor men, yet is it saved and may be given in alms
when men will, which they never will -- how small a portion
ween we were the gold about all the pieces of Christ's cross, if it
were compared with the gold that is quite cast away about the
gilting of knives, swords, spurs, arras, and painted clothes;
and, as though these things could not consume gold fast enough,
the gilting of posts and whole roofs, not only in the palaces of
princes and great prelates, but also many right mean men's
houses. And yet among all these things could Luther spy no
gold that grievously glittered in his bleared eyes, but only about
the cross of Christ. For that gold, if it were thence, the wise man weeneth
it would be straight given to poor men, and that where he daily
seeth that such as have their purse full of gold give to the poor not
one piece thereof; but if they give aught, they ransack the bottom
among all the gold to seek out here a halfpenny, or in his
country a brass penny whereof four make a farthing; such goodly
causes find they that pretend holiness for the color of their
cloaked heresies."
The Third Chapter
The objections of the messenger made against praying to
saints, worshipping of images, and going on pilgrimages,
with the answer of the author unto the same. And
incidently is it by the messenger moved that there should
seem no necessity for Christian folk to resort to any churches;
but that all were one to pray thence or there. And that opinion
by the author answered and confuted.
At this point your friend desiring me that whatsoever he
should say I should not reckon it as spoken of his own opinion,
but that he would partly show me what he had heard some other say
therein, to the end that he might the better answer them with that
he should hear of me. This protestation and prefation made, he

said that albeit no good man would agree that it were well done to
do unto saints or their images despite or dishonor, yet to go
in pilgrimages to them or to pray to them, not only seemed in
vain, considering that all they -- if they can anything do -- can yet
do no more for us among them all than Christ can himself alone,
that can do all; nor be not so ready at our hand to hear us -- if they
hear us at all -- as Christ that is everywhere; nor bear us half the
love and longing to help us, that doth our Savior that died for
us, whom, as Saint Paul saith, we have for our advocate before the
Father; but over this, it seemeth to smell of
idolatry when we go on pilgrimage to
this place and that place, as though God were not like strong,
or not like present, in every place. But as the devils were of old,
under the false name of gods, present and assistant in the idols
and mammets of the pagans, so would we make it seem that God
and his saints stood in this place and that place, bound to this
post and that post, cut out and carved in images. For when we reckon ourselves
to be better heard with our Lord in Kent than at Cambridge,
at the north door of Paul's than at the south door, at one image of
our Lady than at another, is it not an evident token, and in manner
a plain proof, that we put our trust and confidence in the image
self and not in God or our Lady? Which is as good in the one place
as in the other, and the one image no more like her than the other, nor
cause why she should favor the one before the other. But we blind
people, instead of God and his holy saints themselves, cast our
affections to the images self, and thereto make our prayers, thereto
make our offerings, and ween these images were the very saints
self of whom our help and health should grow, putting our full
trust in this place and that place, as
necromancers put their trust in their
circles, within which they think themselves sure against all the
devils in hell. And ween if they were one inch without that then
the devil would pull them in pieces; but as for the circle he dare
not, for his ears, once put over his nose.

And men reckon that the clergy is glad to favor these ways and
to nourish this superstition, under the name and color of devotion,
to the peril of the people's souls, for the lucre and temporal
advantage that themselves receive of the offerings.
When I had heard him say what him liked, I demanded if he
minded ever to be priest; whereunto he answered, "Nay verily; for methinketh,"
quoth he, "that there be priests too many already but if they
were better. And therefore when God shall send time, I purpose, he
said, to marry."
"Well," said I, "then since I am already
married twice, and therefore never can be
priest, and ye be so set in mind of
marriage that ye never will be priest, we two be not the most
meetly to ponder what might be said in this matter for the priest's
"Howbeit, when I consider it, methinketh surely that if the
thing were such as ye say, so far from all frame of right religion
and so perilous to men's souls, I cannot perceive why that the
clergy would for the gain they get thereby suffer such abusion
to continue. For first, if it were true that no pilgrimage ought to
be used, none image offered unto, nor worship done, nor prayer
made unto any saint; then, if none of all these things had ever been
in ure, or now were all undone, if that were the right way, as I
wot well it were wrong, then were it to me little question, but
Christian people being in the true faith, and in the right way to Godward,
would thereby nothing slake their good minds toward
the ministers of his church, but their devotion should toward
them more and more increase. So that if they now get by this way
one penny, they should -- if this be wrong and the other right -- not
fail, instead of a penny now, then to receive a groat. And so
should no lucre give them cause to favor this way and it be wrong,
while they could not fail to win more by the right.
"Moreover, look me through Christendom, and I suppose ye shall
find the fruit of those offerings a right small part of the living

of the clergy. And such as though some few places would be glad
to retain, yet the whole body might without any notable loss easily
"Let us consider our own country here and we shall find of these
pilgrimages for the most part in the hands of such religious
persons, or such poor parishes as bear no great rule in the
convocations. And besides this ye shall not find, I suppose, that
any bishop in England hath the profit of one groat of any such
offering within his diocese. Now standeth then the continuance or
the breaking of this manner and custom specially in them which
take no profit thereby. Which, if they believed it to be (such
as ye call it) superstitious and wicked, would never suffer it
continue to the perishing of men's souls, whereby themselves
should destroy their own souls, and neither in body nor goods
take any commodity. And over this we see that the bishops and
prelates themselves visit those holy places and pilgrimages with
as large offerings and as great cost in coming and going as other
people do, so that they not only take no temporal advantage
thereof, but also bestow of their own therein.
"And surely, I believe this devotion so planted by God's own
hand in the hearts of the whole church,
that is, to wit, not the clergy only,
but the whole congregation of all Christian people, that if the spiritualty
were of the mind to leave it, yet would not the temporalty
suffer it.
"Nor if it so were that pilgrimages hanged only upon the covetousness
of evil priests -- for evil must they be that would for covetousness help the
people forward to idolatry -- then would not good priests and good
bishops have used them themselves. But I am very sure that many
a holy bishop, and therewith excellently well-learned in scripture
and the law of God, have had high devotion thereto.
"For whereas ye say men reckon that it smelleth of idolatry to
visit this place and that place, as though that God were more

mighty or more present in one place than in another, or that God
or his saints had bound themselves to stand at this image or
that image, and that by men's demeanor thereby should appear
that the pilgrims put their trust in the place or the image itself,
taking that for very God, or for the very saint of whom they seek
for help, and so fare like necromancers that put their trust in
their circle -- surely, sir, holy Saint Augustine,
in an epistle of his which he wrote to the
clergy and the people, takes the pilgrimages for a more earnest and a
far more godly thing. And saith that though the cause be to us
unknown why God doth in some place miracles and in some
place none, yet it is no doubt but he so doth. And therein had that
good holy doctor so great confidence that, as he saith himself,
he sent two of his priests in pilgrimage for the trial of the truth
of a great matter in contention and debate between them out of
Hyppona in Affrike, unto Saint Stephen's Church in Milan,
where many miracles were wont to be showed, to the end that God
might there, by some means, cause the truth to be declared and
made open by his power, which by no means known to man he
could well find out.
"Nor they that go on pilgrimage do nothing like to those
necromancers, to whom ye resemble them, that put their confidence
in the roundel and circle on the ground, for a special
belief that they have in the compass of that ground by reason of
foolish characters and figures about it, with invocations of evil
spirits and familiarity with devils -- being enemies to God, and the
craft and ways of all that work by
God himself prohibited and forbidden,
and that upon the pain of death, what
likeness hath that unto the going of good men unto holy places, not
by enchantment dedicated to the devil, but by God's holy ordinance
with his holy words consecrated unto himself? Which two
things, if ye would resemble together, so might ye blaspheme

and have in derision all the devout rites and ceremonies of the
church, both in the divine services as incensing, hallowing of the
fire, of the font, of the pascal lamb, and over that, the exorcisms,
benedictions and holy strange gestures used in consecration or
ministration of the blessed sacraments, all which holy things
-- great part whereof was from hand to hand left in the church
from the time of Christ's apostles and by them left unto us as it was
by God taught unto them -- men might now by that means follily
misliken unto the superstitious demeanor and fond fashion of
jugglery. Nor the flock of Christ is not so foolish as those heretics
bear them in hand, that whereas there is no dog so mad
but he knoweth a very coney from a coney carved and painted, Christian
people that have reason in their heads, and thereto the light of faith in
their souls, should ween that the images of our Lady were our Lady
herself. Nay they be not, I trust, so mad but they do reverence
to the image for the honor of the person
whom it representeth, as every man
delighteth in the image and remembrance of his friend. And albeit
that every good Christian man hath a remembering of Christ's Passion
in his mind, and conceiveth by devout meditation a form and
fashion thereof in his heart, yet is there no man, I ween, so good nor
so well-learned, nor in meditation so well accustomed, but that he
findeth himself more moved to pity and compassion upon the
beholding of the holy crucifix, than when he lacketh it. And if
there be any that for the maintenance of his opinion will peradventure
say that he findeth it otherwise in himself, he should
give me cause to fear that he hath of Christ's Passion neither the
one way nor the other, but a very faint feeling, since that the holy
fathers before us did -- and all devout people about us do -- find and
feel in themselves the contrary.
"Now for the reason that you allege," quoth I, "where ye say that
in resorting to this place and that place, this image and that
image, we seem to reckon as though God were not in every place

like mighty, or not like present, this reason proceedeth no more
against pilgrimages than against all the churches in Christendom.
For God is as mighty in the stable as in the temple. And as he is not
comprehensible nor circumscribed nowhere,
so is he present everywhere. But
this letteth not heaven, be it a corporal thing or not, to be the place
of a special manner and kind of his presence, in which it
liketh him to show his glorious majesty to his blessed heavenly
company, which he showeth not unto damned wretches in hell,
and yet is he never thence. So liked it his
goodness to go with his chosen people
through the desert in the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by
night; yet was he not bound, as ye resemble it, like the damned
spirits to the old idols of the paynims.
"It liked him also to choose the ark that was carried with his
people, at which ark, especially by miracle, he divers times
declared his special assistance, the ark being translated
from place to place.
"Was it not also his pleasure to be especially present in his Temple
of Jerusalem, till he suffered it to be destroyed for their sin?
And instead of that one place of prayer (to which he would before
that all his people should come) he hath vouchsafed to spread himself
abroad into many temples, and, in more acceptable wise, to be
worshipped in many temples throughout his Christian flock."
Here said your friend that the temple of Christ is, as Saint Paul
saith, man's heart, and that God is not
included nor shut in any place. And so himself
said to the woman of Samary, that
very worshippers should worship in spirit and in truth, not in
the hill, or in Jerusalem or any other temple of stone.
Whereunto I showed him that I would well agree that no temple
of stone was unto God so pleasant as the temple of man's heart,
but yet that nothing letteth or withstandeth but that God will
that his Christian people have in sundry places, sundry temples and
churches, to which they should, besides their private prayers,
assemble solemnly and resort in company to worship him

together, such as dwell so near together that they may conveniently
resort to one place.
"For albeit our Savior said," quoth I, "unto the woman of whom
ye spoke, that the time should come in which they should neither
worship God in that hill of Gezera, nor in Jerusalem neither,
which places were after destroyed and desolate, and the pagan
manner of worshipping of the one, and the Jews' manner of worshipping
in the other turned both into the manner of worshipping
of Christian faith and religion, yet said he not to her that
they should never after worship God in none other temple; but
he said that the time should come, and then
was come already, when the very
true worshippers should worship God in spirit and truth. And
that as God is a spiritual substance, so looked he for worshippers
that should in such wise worship him. In which words our
Savior reproved all false worship, as was used after paganism in
that hill in Samaria, and all such worship as was done in any place
with opinion that God might not be worshipped elsewhere. Those
that so believe, they be such as bind God to a place, which our Lord
reproveth, showing that God may in heart
truly and spiritually be worshipped
everywhere. But this excludeth not that
besides that, he will be worshipped in his holy temple, no more
than when he gave counsel that for avoiding of vainglory a man
shall not stand and pray in the street to gather worldly praise but
rather secretly pray in his chamber. This counsel forbade not the
Jews, to whom he gave it, that they should never after come into the
Temple and pray.
"And surely, albeit that some good man here and there, one
among ten thousand, as Saint Paul and Saint Antony and a few
such other like, do live all heavenly, far out of all fleshly company,
as far from all occasion of worldly wretchedness as from the common
temple or parish church, yet if churches and congregations of
Christian people resorting together to God's service were once
abolished and put away, we were like to have few good temples of

God in men's souls, but all would within a while wear away clean
and clearly fall to naught. And this prove we by experience that
those which be the best temples of God in their souls, they most
use to come to the temple of stone. And
those that least come there, be well-known
for very ribalds and unthrifts, and
openly perceived for temples of the devil. And this not in our
days only, but so hath been from Christ's days hither. I trow no
man doubteth but that Christ's apostles were holy temples of God in
their souls and as well understood the words of their master,
spoken to the woman of Samary, as the thing which their
master after told them himself; or else how could some of them
have written that communication which none of them heard as
appeareth by the Gospel? But they not in their master's days only,
but also after his Resurrection, and after that they had received the
Holy Ghost and were by him instructed of every truth longing to
the necessity of their salvation, were not content only to pray
secretly by themselves in their chambers, but also resorted to the
Temple to make their prayers. And in that place, as a place pleasant
to God, did they pray in spirit and in truth, as well appeareth in the
book of Saint Luke written of the acts of Christ's holy apostles. So that
no doubt is there but that yet unto this day, and so forth to the
world's end, it is and shall be pleasant unto God that his chosen
people pray to him and call upon him in temple and church. Whereof
himself witnesseth with the Prophet: "Domus mea domus
orationis vocabitur" (My house shall be called a house of prayer).
"Now maketh your reason, as I said, no more against pilgrimages
than against every church. For God is not bound
to the place, nor our confidence bound to the place, but unto God
-- though we reckon our prayer more pleasant to God in the church
than without because his high goodness accepteth it so -- in like
wise do not we reckon our Lord bound to the place or image where
the pilgrimage is, though we worship God there because himself
liked so to have it."

The Fourth Chapter
The author declareth in the comprobation of pilgrimages
that it is the pleasure of God to be specially sought and worshipped
in some one place before another. And albeit that we
cannot attain to the knowledge of the cause why God doth so,
yet the author proveth by great authority that God by miracle
testifieth it is so.
With this your friend asked me what reason were there, that
God would set more by one place than by another; or how know
we that he so doth, namely, if the one be a church as well as the
Whereunto I answered that why God would do it, I could make him
no answer, no more than Saint Augustine saith that he could. I
was never so near of his counsel, nor dare not be so bold to ask
him. But that he so doth indeed, that I am sure enough; yet
not for that he setteth more by that place for the soil and pavement
of that place, but that his pleasure in some place is to show
more his assistance, and to be more specially sought unto, than in
some other.
Then he asked me whereby was I so sure of that, whereupon I
demanded him, that if it so were that, the thing standing in
debate and question, it would like our Lord to show a miracle for
the proof of the one part. "Would ye not," quoth I, "reckon then the
question were decided, and the doubt assoiled, and that part
sufficiently proved?"
"Yes, marry," quoth he, "that would I."
"Well," quoth I, "then is this matter out of doubt long ago; for
God hath proved my part in divers pilgrimages by the working
of many more than a thousand miracles, one time and other. In the
Gospel of John, the fifth chapter, where
we read that the angel moved the water,
and whoso next went in was cured of his disease, was it not a sufficient

proof that God would they should come thither for their
health, albeit no man can tell why he
sent the angel rather thither, and there
did his miracles, than in another
water? But whensoever our Lord hath in any place wrought a
miracle, although he nothing do it for the place, but for the
honor of that saint whom he will have honored in that place, or
for the faith that he findeth with some that prayeth in that place,
or for the increase of faith which he findeth falling and decayed
in that place needing the show of some miracles for the reviving,
-- whatsoever the cause be, yet, I think, the affection is to be
commended of men and women that with good devotion run
thither where they see or hear that our Lord showeth a demonstration
of his special assistance. And
when he showeth many in one place it is
a good token that he would be sought upon and worshipped there.
Many Jews were there that came to Jerusalem to see the miracle that
Christ had wrought upon Lazarus, as the Gospel rehearseth. And surely
we were worse than Jews, if we would be so negligent that where
God worketh miracles, we list not once go move our foot thitherward.
We marvel much that God showeth no more miracles nowadays,
when it is much more marvel that he doth vouchsafe
to show any at all among such unkind, slothful, deadly people, as
list not once lift up their heads to look thereon, or that our
incredulity can suffer him nowadays to work any."
The Fifth Chapter
Because pilgrimages be, among other proofs, testified by
miracles, the messenger doth make objection against those
miracles, partly lest they be feigned and untrue, partly
lest they be done by the devil if they be done at all.
Then said your friend, "Well I perceive then the force and
effect of all the proof standeth all in miracles, which I will agree

to be a strong proof, if I saw them done, and were sure that God or
good saints did them. But first, since that men may and haply do
of miracles make many a lie, we must not prove this matter by the
miracles but if we first prove that the miracles were true. And
over this, if they were done indeed, yet since the angel of darkness
may transform and transfigure himself into an angel of light, how
shall we know whether the miracle were done by God to the
increase of Christian devotion, or done by the craft of the devil to
the advancement of misbelief and idolatry, in setting men's
hearts upon stocks and stones instead of saints, or upon
saints themselves that are but creatures, instead of God himself?"
I answered him that the force of my tale was not the miracles,
but the thing that I hold stronger than any miracles, which, as
I said in the beginning, I reckon so sure and fast, and therewith so
plain and evident unto every Christian man, that it needeth
none other proof; and that thing is, as I said before, the faith of
Christ's church, by the common consent whereof, these matters be
decided and well-known that the worship
of saints and images been allowed,
approbate, and accustomed for good,
Christian, and meritorious virtues; and the contrary opinion not
only reproved by many holy doctors, but also condemned for
heresies by sundry general councils.
"And this in the beginning I told you," quoth I, "was and should be
the force and strength of my tale; albeit, of truth, I said unto you
besides, that methought that the miracles wrought by God were
sufficient proof and authority therefor, although there were
none other, which thing since ye seem to impugn, I shall as I
can make you answer thereunto."
"Nay, sir," said he, "I pray you take me not so as though that I did
impugn it; but as I showed you before, I rehearsed you what I have
heard some other say."
"In good time," quoth I. "Then, because they be not here, I pray you
defend and bear out their part, with all that ye have heard them

say, and set thereto also all that ever your own mind giveth you
that they may more hereafter say, lest you return not fully furnished
for your purpose.
The Sixth Chapter
Because the messenger thinketh that he may well mistrust
and deny the miracles because reason and nature tell him
that they cannot be done; therefore, first, the author showeth
what unreasonableness would ensue if folk would stand so
stiff against all credence to be given to any such thing as
reason and nature should seem to gainsay.
"And first where ye say . . ."
"Nay," quoth he, "where they say."
"Well," quoth I, "so be it: where they say. For here ever my tongue
trippeth. But now therefore first where they say that they never
saw any of these miracles themselves, and therefore the miracles be
no proof to them, which while they never saw them are not
bound to believe them, they seem either very negligent if they
nothing inquire when they mistrust and doubt of the truth in
such a weighty matter; or if they have diligently made ensearch,
then must it needs be that they have heard of so many told and
rehearsed by the mouths and the writing of so good and credible
persons that they seem unreasonably suspicious if they think
altogether lies that so many true men, or men like to be true, so
faithfully do report. If these men were judges few matters would
take end at their hand; or at the least the plaintiff should have
evil speed if they would believe nothing but that were
proved, nor reckon nothing proved but that they see themselves.
"Thus may every man reckon himself unsure of his own father
if he believe no man, or because all the proof thereof standeth but
upon one woman, and that upon her, which though she can tell
best, yet if it be wrong hath greatest cause to lie. Let the knowledge
of the father alone therefore among our wives' mysteries. And let us
see, if we believe nothing but that we see ourselves, who can reckon

himself sure of his own mother -- for possible it were that he
were changed in the cradle, and a rich man's nurse bring
home her own child for her master's and keep her master's for
her own, to make her own a gentleman good cheap. And this were
no great mastery while the mother hath of her own child no earmark."
"Sir," quoth your friend, "if I should answer them thus, and by these
examples prove them that they were of reason bound to believe
such miracles as were reported because many credible men tell
them, forasmuch as else we should believe nothing but that we
see ourselves; and then were all the world full of confusion, nor no
judgment could be given but upon things done in the judge's
sight, I should, I fear me, very feebly satisfy them. For they would soon
say that the examples be nothing like the matter. But as it is
reason that I should believe honest men in all such things as may
be true, and wherein I see no cause why they should lie, so were it
against all reason to believe men, be they never so many, seem they
never so credible, whereas reason and nature -- of which twain
every one is alone more credible than they all -- showeth me plainly
that their tale is untrue, as it must needs if the matter be impossible,
as it is in all these miracles. And in such case, though I can perceive
no profit that they can receive thereby, yet when I well see that it
could not be true, I must well see that it was not true. And thereby
must I needs know that if they can take no profit by lying they
lie not for any covetousness but even only for their especial
"Forsooth," quoth I, "this is right merrily answered. And to say the
truth, as far as we be yet gone in the matter of these miracles, not much
amiss nor very far from the point. But since this thing is much
material as whereupon many great things do depend, we shall
not so shortly shake it off but we shall come one step or twain nearer
to the matter; and first I will say to them that it were hard for them and
not very sure to believe that every man lieth which telleth them a
tale for true that reason and nature seemeth to show them to be false and
impossible. For in this wise shall they in many things err and
clearly deceive themselves, and sometimes while they make themselves

sure of the wrong side, if they would with wagers contend and strive
therein, they should upon the boldness of nature and reason lose all that
ever they were able to lay thereon. If there were a man of Inde that never
came out of his country, nor never had seen any white man or
woman in his life, and since he seeth innumerable people black,
he might ween that it were against the nature of man to be white.
Now if he shall, because nature seemeth to show him so, believe
therefore that all the world lied if they would say the contrary, who
were in the wrong: he that believeth his reason and nature, or they
that against his persuasion of reason and nature shall tell him as it is of
Your friend answered that reason and nature told not the man
of Inde that all men should be black, but he believed so against
reason and against nature, for he had nothing to lead him to it, but
because himself saw no white, which was no reason. And he
might by nature perceive if he had learning that the heat maketh
his country black. And that of like reason, the cold of other
countries must make the people white.
"Well," quoth I, "and yet he cometh to his
persuasion by a syllogism and reasoning,
almost as formal as is the argument by
which ye prove the kind of man reasonable, whereof what other
collection have you that brought you first to perceive it, than that this
man is reasonable, and this man, and this man, and this man, and
so forth all whom ye see. By example whereof by them whom ye
know, presuming thereby no man to be otherwise, ye conclude
that every man is reasonable. And he thinketh himself surer in his
argument than he thinketh you in yours. For he saw never other
but black people, where ye see many men fools. As for that he
heareth of other that there be white men elsewhere, this serveth
nothing for your purpose if ye believe no witness against the
thing that your reason and experience showeth you. And whereas
ye say if the man of Inde had learning he should perceive that it
is not against nature, but rather consonant with nature that some
other men should in other countries be white, though all his
countrymen be black, so peradventure those whose part ye do

sustain, if they had some learning that they lack, should well
perceive that of reason they should give credence to credible
persons, reporting them things that seem far against reason
because they be far above reason, whereof we may peradventure
have more perceiving in our communication hereafter ere ever
we finish that we have in hand. But in the meanwhile, to show
you further what necessity there is to believe other men in things
not only unknown but also seeming impossible, the man of
Inde that we speak of can by no learning know the course of the
sun whereby he should perceive the cause of his blackness, but
if it be by astronomy, which cunning who can learn that
nothing will believe that seemeth to himself impossible? Or who
would not ween it impossible, but if experience had proved it, that
the whole earth hangeth in the air, and men walk foot against foot,
and ships sail bottom against bottom -- a thing so strange, and
seeming so far against nature and reason, that Lactantius, a man
right wise and well-learned, in his work which he writeth, De
divinis institutionibus, reckoneth it for impossible and letteth not to
laugh at the philosophers for affirming of that point, which is
yet now found true by experience of them that have in less
than two years sailed the world round
about. Who would ween it possible that
glass were made of fern roots? Now if those that ween it impossible
by reason, and never saw it done, believe no man that tell it them,
albeit that it be no peril to their soul, yet so much have they
knowledge the less, and unreasonably stand in their error through
the mistrusting of the truth.
"It is not yet fifty years ago since the first man, as far as men have
heard, came to London that ever parted the gilt from the silver,
consuming shortly the silver into dust with a very fair water. In
so far forth that when the finers and goldsmiths of London heard
first thereof, they nothing wondered thereof but laughed thereat as at
an impossible lie, in which persuasions, if they had continued
still, they had yet at this day lacked all that cunning.
"Yet will I not say nay but that a man may be too light in belief, and

be by such examples brought into belief too far. As a good fellow and
friend of mine late in talking of this matter of marvels and
miracles, intending merely to make me believe for a truth a
thing that could never be, first brought in what a force the fire
hath that will make two pieces of iron able to be joined, and cleave
together, and with the help of the hammer be made both one, which
no hammering could do without the fire, which thing, because I
daily see, I assented. Then said he further that yet was more marvel
that the fire shall make iron to run as silver or lead doth, and
make it take a print. Which thing I told him I had never seen,
but because he said he had seen it, I thought it to be true. Soon
after this, he would have me to believe that he had seen a piece of
silver of two or three inches about, and in length less than a foot,
drawn by man's hand through strait holes made in an iron,
till it was brought in thickness not half an inch about, and in
length drawn out I cannot tell how many yards. And when I heard
him say that he saw this himself, then I wist well he was merrily
"Marry, sir," quoth your friend, "it was high time to give him over
when he came to that."
"Well," said I, "what if I should tell you now that I had seen the same?"
"By my faith," quoth he merrily, "I would believe it at leisure when I had
seen the same, and in the meanwhile I could not let you to say
your pleasure in your own house; but I would think that ye were
disposed merrily to make me a fool."
"Well," said I, "what if there would, besides me, ten or twenty good,
honest men tell you the same tale, and that they had all seen the
thing done themselves?"
"In faith," quoth he, "since I am sent hither to believe you, I would in
that point believe yourself alone, as well as them all."
"Well," quoth I, "ye mean ye would believe us all alike. But what
would you then say if one or twain of them would say more?"
"Marry," quoth he, "then would I believe them less."
"What if they would," quoth I, "show you that they have seen that the piece
of silver was overgilt, and the same piece being still drawn through

the holes, the gilt not rubbed off, but still go forth in length with the
silver, so that all the length of many yards was gilted of the gilting of
the first piece not a foot long?"
"Surely, sir," quoth he, "those twain that would tell me so much
more, I would say were not so cunning in the maintenance of a
lie as was the pilgrim's companion, which when his fellow had
told at York that he had seen of late at London a bird that
covered all Paul's churchyard with his wings, coming to the
same place on the morrow said that he saw not that bird, but
he heard much speech thereof; but he saw in Paul's churchyard
an egg so great that ten men could scant move it with
levers, this fellow could help it forth with a proper side way; but
he were no proper underpropper of a lie that would diminish his
credence with affirming all the first and setting a louder lie
"Well," said I, "then I have espied, if ten should tell you so, ye would
not believe them."
"No," quoth he, "not if twenty should."
"What if a hundred would," quoth I, "that seemed good and credible?"
"If they were," quoth he, "ten thousand, they were worn out of credence
with me, when they should tell me that they saw the thing that
myself knoweth by nature and reason impossible. For when I
know it could not be done, I know well that they lie all, be they
never so many that say they saw it done."
"Well," quoth I, "since I see well ye would not in this point believe a whole
town, ye have put me to silence, that I dare not now be bold to
tell you that I have seen it myself. But surely if witness would have
served me, I ween I might have brought you a great many good
men that would say, and swear too, that they have seen it themselves. But
now shall I provide me tomorrow peradventure a couple of witness,
of whom I wot well ye will mistrust neither nother."
"Who be they?" quoth he, "for it were hard to find whom I could
better trust than yourself, whom whatsoever I have merrily said,
I could not in good faith but believe in that you should tell me
earnestly upon your own knowledge. But ye use, my master saith,

to look so sadly when ye mean merrily, that many times men doubt
whether ye speak in sport when ye mean good earnest."
"In good faith," quoth I, "I mean good earnest now, and yet as well
as ye dare trust me I shall, as I said, if ye will go with me, provide a
couple of witness of whom ye will believe any one better than
twain of me, for they be your near friends, and ye have been
better acquainted with them, and such as I dare say for them,
be not often wont to lie."
"Who be they," quoth he, "I pray you?"
"Marry," quoth I, "your own two eyes, for I shall, if you will, bring
you where ye shall see it, no further hence than even here in London.
And as for iron and latten to be so drawn in length ye shall see it done
in twenty shops almost in one street."
"Marry, sir," quoth he, "these witness indeed will not lie. As the poor
man said by the priest, if I may be homely to tell you a
merry tale by the way."
"A merry tale," quoth I, "cometh never
amiss to me."
"The poor man," quoth he, "had found the priest over familiar with
his wife, and because he spoke it abroad and could not prove it
the priest sued him before the bishop's official for defamation,
where the poor man upon pain of cursing was commanded that
in his parish church, he should upon the Sunday at High
Mass time stand up and say, "Mouth, thou lie." Whereupon for
fulfilling of his penance, up was the poor soul set in a pew, that
the people might wonder on him and hear what he said. And there
all aloud, when he had rehearsed what he had reported by the
priest, then he set his hands on his mouth, and said, "Mouth,
mouth, thou lie." And by and by thereupon he set his hand upon
both his eyes and said, "But eyes, eyes," quoth he, "by the Mass, ye
lie not a whit." And so sir indeed, and ye bring me those witness,
they will not lie a whit.
"Howbeit sir, and though this be true, as in good faith, I believe
and am sure that it is, yet am I never the more bound by reason
to believe them that would tell me a miracle. For though this

thing be incredible to him that heareth it, and strange and
marvelous to him that seeth it, yet is it a thing that may be done. But
he that telleth me a miracle telleth me a thing that cannot be done."
"I showed you," quoth I, "this example to put you in mind that in
being overhard of belief of things that by reason and nature
seem and appear impossible, where they be reported by credible
witness having no cause to lie, there is as much peril of
error as where men be too light of credence. And thus much
have I proved you onward, that if ye believe no man in such
things as may not be, then must it follow that ye ought to believe
no man in many things that may be; for all is one to you, whether
they may be or may not be, if it seem to you that they may not be.
And of truth ye cannot tell whether they may be or may not be,
except they be two such things as imply contradiction, as one
self thing in one self part to be both black and white at once.
For else many things shall seem to you such as all reason will
resist, and nature will nowise admit. And yet they shall be
done well enough, and be in some other place in common use and
custom. But now because all your shift standeth in this, that of a
miracle told you ye may with reason believe that all men lie,
because reason and nature, being more to be believed than all
they, telleth you that they say wrong, in that the thing reported
for a miracle cannot be done, I have showed you that nature and
reason doth show you that many things may not be done,
which yet indeed be done so far forth that when ye see them done
ye may right well account them as miracles, for anything
that reason or nature can show you by what natural order and cause
it could be done, but that ye shall still see reason stand quite
against it, as in the drawing of the silver or iron."
The Seventh Chapter
The author showeth that neither nature nor reason do deny
the miracles to be true; nor do not gainsay but that
they may be well and easily done.
"Sir," saith he, "yet hit we not the point; for albeit that many
things be well done, and by nature, in which neither my wit

nor haply no man's else, can attain so near to nature's
counsel that we can therein perceive her craft, but like as some
rude people muse upon a clock that hath the spring -- which is
the cause of his moving -- secretly conveyed and closed in the
barrel, so marvel we and wonder on her work, yet always all those
things differ and be unlike to miracles. In that yourself will
agree with me, that when I believe that reason and nature teacheth me
surely that miracles be things that cannot be done, I am not in
this deceived, though I may be in such other things deceived
as seem impossible and yet may be done. And therefore, as concerning
miracles, in which yourself will agree that I am not
by any mistaking of reason and nature deceived, ye may not
yourself, methinketh, say nay, but that I may well with
reason believe them twain against all them that will tell me they
have seen such things done, as yourself doth agree that they
twain, that is to wit nature and reason, doth verily and truly
show me cannot be done."
"What manner of things be those?" quoth I.
"Marry, miracles," quoth he, "such as yourself will agree to be done
against nature."
"Give us thereof," quoth I, "some example."
"As if men," quoth he, "would now come to tell me that at our Lady of
Rouncyvale there were a dead child restored again to life."
"Let that," quoth I, "be one; and let another be that a bishop, in the
building of his church, finding one beam cut a great deal too
short for his work, drew it forth between another man and him
four foot (and ye will) longer than it was, and so made it serve."
"Be it, by my troth," quoth he.
"Will we," quoth I, "take for the third that a man was by miracle in
a paternoster-while, conveyed a mile off from one place to another?"
"Be it so," quoth he. "Now they that should tell me," quoth he, "that
they had seen these three miracles, were I bound to believe them?"
"Whether ye were bound," quoth I, "or no, we shall see further after.
But now why should ye not of reason trust them, if the men be
credible, and earnestly report it, and peradventure on their
oaths depose it, having no cause to feign it, nor likely to lie and be
forsworn for naught?"

"I will," quoth he, "not believe them because that nature and reason
are two records more to be believed than all they that bear witness
against them."
"Why," quoth I, "what doth reason and nature tell you?"
"They twain tell me," quoth he, "that those three things cannot be
done which those men say they saw done."
"Wot you," quoth I, "that reason and nature tell you so?"
"Yea, marry," quoth he, "that I wot well they do, and I think yourself
will agree that they tell me so."
"Nay, by Saint Mary, sir," quoth I, "that will I not. For I think
that neither reason nor nature telleth you so, but rather both two
tell you clean the contrary, that is to wit, that they both bear
witness that those three things, and such other like, be things
that may be well and easily done."
"Yea?" quoth he. "Marry, this is another way. Then have we walked
wrong awhile, if ye prove that."
"Methinketh," quoth I, "nothing more easy to prove than that. For
I pray you tell me," quoth I, "doth reason and nature show you that
there is a God or not?"
"Faith showeth me that, surely," quoth he, "but whether nature and
reason show it me or no, that I doubt, since great reasoned men and
philosophers have doubted thereof. And some of them have been
plainly persuaded and in belief that there was none at all, and the
whole people of the world in effect fallen from knowledge or belief of
God into idolatry and worship of mammets."
"Nay," quoth I, "there is little doubt, I trow, but that nature and
reason giveth us good knowledge that there is a God. For albeit
the gentiles worshipped among them a thousand false gods, yet
all that proveth that there was and is in all men's heads a
secret consent of nature that God there is, or else they would have
worshipped none at all. Now as for the philosophers, though a very
few doubted, and one or twain thought
there was none, yet as one swallow maketh

not summer, so the folly of so few maketh no change of the
matter against all the whole number of the old philosophers. Which,
as Saint Paul confesseth, found out by
nature and reason that there was a God,
either maker, or governor, or both, of all this whole engine of the
world. The marvelous beauty and constant course whereof
showeth well that it neither was made nor governed by chance.
But when they had by these visible things knowledge of his invisible
majesty, then did they, as we do, fall from the worship of
him to the worship of idols, as now do Christian men, not as
heretics lay to the charge of good people, in doing reverence to
saints, or honor to their images, but in doing as do those
heretics themselves, making our belly or beneath our belly, or our
goods, or our own blind affection
toward other creatures, or our own
proud affection and dotage toward ourselves, our mammets and
idols and very false gods. But surely both nature and reason
well declare and teach us that a God there is."
"Well," quoth he, "I will not stick in this, since Saint Paul saith so."
"Then," quoth I, "if reason and nature show you that there is a God,
doth not reason and nature show you also that he is almighty and
may do what he will?"
"Yes," quoth he, "that is both natural to his godhead, and by reason it
may well be perceived."
"Then followeth it," said I, "that reason and nature doth not show
you that those three miracles (that we were agreed should stand for
examples) precisely could not be done, but they taught you only
that they could not be done by nature. But ye may (as ye now see)
perceive that they themselves teach that they may be done by God,
since they teach you that there is a God, and that he is almighty. And
therefore, when ye will in no wise believe them that tell you they
have seen such miracles done, ye refuse not to believe such things
as cannot be done, but ye mistrust, causeless, the credence and faith of
honest men, in the report of such things, as by him that they said
did it, may well and easily be done."

The Eighth Chapter
The messenger allegeth that God may nothing do
against the course of nature. Of which the author declareth
the contrary, and over that showeth that our Lord in
working of miracles doth nothing against nature.
"Sir," quoth he, "ye come indeed somewhat near me now. But yet
seemeth me that reason and nature teach me still that I shall in no wise
believe them that tell me they have seen such miracles done. For
first, if ye will grant me that they teach me that if they should
be done they must be done by God against the course of nature,
so is it then that reason showeth me that God hath set all things already
from the first creation to go forth in a certain order and
course, which order and course men call nature, and that hath he of
his infinite wisdom done so well and provided that course to go
forth in such manner and fashion that it cannot be mended.
And therefore seemeth it that reason showeth me that God never will
anything do against the course which his high wisdom, power,
and goodness hath made so good that it could never be broken to the
better. For if it might, then had our Lord not made his order and
course perfect in the beginning. And therefore doth, as I say,
reason and nature yet bear record against them that shall say
they see such miracles, since God will never work against the course
of nature which himself hath already set in so goodly an order
that it were not possible to be better; and the goodness of God will
make no change to the worse."
"Surely," quoth I, "ye go now very far wide; for neither doth reason
prove you that God -- although it cannot otherwise be but that anything
of the making of his goodness must needs be good -- hath made
therefore everything to be of sovereign perfection, for then must
every creature be equal; nor also that the whole work of his creation,
though it have in itself sufficient and right wonderful perfection,
that therefore it is wrought to the utterest point of sovereign goodness
that his almighty majesty could have made it of. For since he
wrought it not naturally but willingly, he wrought it not to the uttermost

of his power, but with such degrees of goodness as his high
pleasure liked to limit. For else were his work of as infinite perfection
as himself. And of such infinite equal perfection was there
by God brought forth nothing but only
the two persons of the Trinity, that is to
wit, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Of which two the Son was first
by the Father begotten, and after, the Holy Ghost by the Father and the
Son; after, I say, in order of beginning but not in time produced
and brought forth. And in this high generation and production did
the doers work both willingly and naturally and after the
utterest perfection of themselves, which they did only therein and in
none other thing. And therefore God might break up the whole world,
if he would, and make a better by and by, and not only change in the
natural course of this world some things to the better. Howbeit
God in working of miracles doth nothing against nature, but
some special benefit above nature. And he doth not against you that
doth another a good turn which ye be not able to do. And therefore
since God may do what he will, being almighty, and in doing of
miracles he doth for the better, neither reason nor nature showeth
you that they which say they saw such miracles do tell you a
thing that cannot be done, since ye have no reason to prove that God
either cannot do it or will not do it. For since he can do it, and it
may be that he will do it, why should we mistrust good and honest
men that say they saw him do it?"
The Ninth Chapter
The author showeth that albeit men may mistrust some of
the particular miracles, yet can there no reasonable man
neither deny nor doubt but that many miracles hath there
been done and wrought.
"Forsooth," quoth he, "and yet as for miracles, I were not for all
this bound to believe any. For I spoke never yet with any man
that could tell me that ever he saw any."
"It may," quoth I, "fortune you to live so long that ye shall find

no man that was by at your christening, nor when ye were
bishopped neither."
"Marry," quoth he, "for aught I wot, I have lived so long already."
"Why doubt ye not then," quoth I, "whether ye were ever christened or
"For every man," quoth he, "presumeth and believeth that I am
christened, as a thing so commonly done that we reckon ourselves
sure that no man leaveth it undone."
"If the common presumption," quoth I, "sufficiently serve you to set
your mind in surety, then albeit miracles be nothing commonly
and customably done nor that no presumption can sufficiently
serve for the proof of this miracle or that, yet hath there ever from
the beginning of the world in every nation Christian and heathen, and
almost every town at sundry times so many miracles and marvels
been wrought besides the common course of nature, that I think through
the world it is as well believed universally that miracles and
marvels there be, as anything is believed that men look upon.
So that if common presumption serve you, ye may, as I said, as
well believe that miracles be done as that yourself was ever
christened. For I dare well say that there are a thousand that believe
there hath been miracles done, against one that believeth that ye were
ever christened or ever wist whether ye were born or not.
"Nor the doctors of Christ's church did never mistrust the
wonders and marvels that the paynims tell and write to have
been done by their false gods, but assigneth them to have been
done by the devil through God's sufferance for the illusion of
them that with idolatry had deserved to be deluded. And whether
they be miracles by which name we commonly call the wonders
wrought by God, or marvels done by the
devil, it forceth not for this purpose of
ours. For if ye grant that the devil may
do any by God's sufferance, ye cannot say nay but God may
much more easily do them himself.
"And since ye be a Christian man and receive scripture, I might in
this matter," quoth I, "have choked you long ago with the manifold
miracles and marvels that be showed there."

The Tenth Chapter
The author proveth that many things daily done by
nature or craft, whereof we nothing marvel at all, be
more marvelous and more wonderful indeed than be the
miracles that we most marvel of and repute most incredible.
"Nay," quoth he, "surely, though it hath done me good to hear what
ye would say, yet I neither doubt, nor I suppose no good man
else, but that God hath besides the common course of nature wrought
many miracles.
"But yet of those that men tell of as done in your time, by which
ye would it should seem that it were well proved that the praying to
saints, going on pilgrimages, and worshipping of images were
well and sufficiently proved, although there were none other
proof thereupon of these miracles, did I mean in the report of
which, methinketh, I need not believe a common fame of this
miracle and that, begun by some silly woman seeking Saint Sythe
when she sigheth for miscasting of her keys. Of these miracles I
speak and all such as men say nowadays be done at divers
pilgrimages by divers saints or divers images, in which methinketh
that such as be told to be done, which nature and reason
saith be impossible, I may well mistrust the tellers. Or else how
many of them shall make me a sufficient proof of an impossible
matter? One, or two, or three either, seemeth me too few to trust their
credence in a thing so incredible. And if I shall not believe them
till I find many records, I ween I were fain to wander the
world about ere I provide many miracles sufficiently of such, I
say, as ye prove your pilgrimages by."
"Your few words," quoth I, "have wrapped in them many things
that seem somewhat as they be couched together. Which when we see
them unfolded, and consider each part asunder, then may we
better examine them, and better see whereof they serve.
"First ye speak of seeking to saints for slight causes, as for the

loss or miss of Kytte's keys. Then ye would wit how many
ye must hear say they saw a miracle ere ye should of reason believe
it. Thirdly, ye think ye were like to go long ere ye should find any
proved true. Finally, when ye say that ye mean only those
miracles that men tell of as done at pilgrimages, ye seem to put
still a difference between those miracles wrought in pilgrimages
and such as are wrought by God otherwise. The cause whereof I must
further ask you after. For I perceive not well what ye mean by
"But first, whereas ye speak still as though ye might mistrust
them, were they never so many, because they tell you a thing
that reason and nature saith is impossible, methinketh that ye
should now change that word. For I have
already proved that reason and nature say not
that a miracle is impossible, but only that
it is impossible to nature. And they confess both that miracles be
possible to God; and they that report them do report them for things
done by God. And therefore they do report you none impossible
"For the clearer consideration whereof, let us resort to the miracles
which we were agreed should stand for examples. And first, if men
should tell you that they saw before an image of the crucifix a
dead man raised to life, ye would much marvel thereof; and so
might ye well. Yet could I tell you somewhat that I have seen myself
that methinketh as great marvel; but I have no lust to tell
you, because that ye be so circumspect and wary in belief of any
miracles that ye would not believe it for me, but mistrust me for it."
"Nay, sir," quoth he, "in good faith, if a thing seemed me never so
far unlikely, yet if ye would earnestly say that yourself have seen
it, I neither would nor could mistrust it."
"Well," quoth I, "then ye make me the bolder to tell you. And yet will
I tell you nothing, but that I would, if need were, find you good
witness to prove it."
"It shall not need, sir," quoth he, "but I beseech you let me hear it."
"Forsooth," quoth I, "because we speak of a man raised from death to

life. There was in the parish of Saint Stephen's in Walbrook in
London where I dwelled before I came to Chelsea, a man and a
woman which are yet quick and queathing, and young were they
both. The eldest, I am sure, passeth not twenty-four. It happed them, as doth
among young folk, the one to cast the mind to the other. And
after many lets, for the maiden's mother was much against it, at
last they came together and were married in Saint Stephen's Church,
which is not greatly famous for any miracles; but yet yearly on Saint
Stephen's Day it is somewhat sought unto, and visited with folks'
devotion. But now, short tale to make, this young woman -- as
manner is in brides, ye wot well -- was at night brought to bed with
honest women. And then after that went the bridegroom to bed,
and everybody went their ways and left them twain there
alone. And the same night -- yet abide, let me not lie, now in
faith to say the truth I am not very sure of the time, but surely
as it appeared afterward, it was of likelihood the same night, or some
other time soon after, except it happened a little before."
"No force for the time," quoth he.
"Truth," quoth I, "and as for the matter all the parish will
testify for truth, the woman was known for so honest. But for the
conclusion, the seed of them twain turned in the woman's body
first into blood, and after into shape of man-child. And then
waxed quick and she great therewith. And was within the year
delivered of a fair boy, and forsooth it was not then -- for I saw it
myself -- passing the length of a foot. And I am sure he is grown
now an inch longer than I."
"How long is it ago?" quoth he.
"By my faith," quoth I, "about twenty-one years."
"Tush," quoth he, "this is a worthy miracle!"
"In good faith," quoth I, "never wist I that any man could tell that
he had any other beginning. And methinketh that this is as great
a miracle as the raising of a dead man."
"If it seem so," quoth he, "to you, then have you a marvelous
seeming, for I ween it seemeth so to no man else."

"No," quoth I, "can ye tell what is the cause? None other sure but
that the acquaintance and daily beholding taketh away the
wondering, as we nothing wonder at the ebbing and flowing of
the sea, or the Thames because we daily see it. But he that had never
seen it nor heard thereof would at the first sight wonder sore
thereat, to see that great water come wallowing up against the
wind, keeping a common course to and fro, no cause perceived
that driveth him. If a man born blind had suddenly his sight,
what wonder would he make to see the sun, the moon, and the
stars; whereas one that hath seen them sixteen years together,
marveleth not so much of them all as he would wonder at the
first sight of a peacock's tail. And very cause can I see none, why
we should of reason more marvel of the reviving of a dead man,
than of the breeding, bringing forth, and growing of a child
unto the state of a man. No more marvelous is a cuckoo than a cock,
though the one be seen but in summer and the other all the year. And I
am sure, if ye saw dead men as commonly called again by miracle
as ye see men brought forth by nature, ye would reckon it less marvel
to bring the soul again into the body, keeping yet still his
shape and his organs not much perished, than of a little seed
to make all that gear new, and make a new soul thereto. Now if
ye never had seen any gun in your days nor heard of any before,
if two men should tell you, the one that he had wist a man in a paternoster-while
conveyed and carried a mile off from one place to another
by miracle, and the other should tell you that he had seen a
stone more than a man's weight carried more than a mile in as
little space by craft, which of these would you by your faith take
for the more incredible?"
"Surely," quoth he, "both twain were very strange. But yet I could
not choose but think it were rather true that God did the one, than
that any craft of man could do the other."
"Well," quoth I, "let us then to our third example. If it were showed

you that Saint Erkenwald or his sister drew out a piece of timber
that was cut too short for the roof in making
Barking Abbey, should this be so incredible
to you to believe that they drew in length a piece of wood by the
power and help of God's hand, when we see daily a great piece of
silver, brass, latten, or iron drawn at length into small wire as
wonderfully by man's hand?
The Eleventh Chapter
The author showeth that a miracle is not to be mistrusted
though it be done in a small matter and seemeth upon a slight
"Now though ye would peradventure, as ye seem to do, reckon
this cause very slight for God to show such a high miracle, since
there might have been without miracle a longer piece of timber
gotten, and so ye would haply mistrust it for the slender occasion,
resembling it to the miscasting of some good housewife's keys, God
hath, I ween, so much wit of himself that he needeth not our
advice to inform him what thing were sufficient occasion to
work his wonders for. But and if ye read in the books of Cassian,
Saint Gregory, Saint Augustine, Saint Jerome, and many other holy,
virtuous men, ye shall, except ye believe them not, learn and
know that God hath for his servants done many a great
miracle in very small matters. And so much the more are we
bounden to his goodness in that he vouchsafeth so familiarly in
small things to show us so great a token of his mighty godhead. And
no reason were it to withdraw his thanks and honor because of
his familiar goodness. And if ye peradventure would not believe their
writings, go to Christ's Gospel and look on his first miracle,
whether he might not have provided for wine without miracle. But

such was his pleasure in a small matter
to do a great miracle for some show of
his godhead among them whom he vouchsafed;
where on the other side, before
Herod that would fain have seen some miracle, where it stood
upon his life and might have delivered him from the Jews, yet
would he not vouchsafe either to show the proud, curious king
one miracle or speak one word. So the times, places and
occasions, reason is that we suffer to rest in his arbitrament, and
not look to prescribe and appoint at our pleasure where, when and
wherefore God shall work his miracles, and else blaspheme them and
say we will not believe them.
The Twelfth Chapter
The author somewhat noteth the froward minds of many
folk that would be very hard to believe a man in a miracle
upon his oath and very light in a shrewd tale to believe a
woman on her word.
"Now where ye require how many witnesses should be requisite and
suffice to make you think yourself in reason to have good cause
to believe so strange a thing, methinketh that right few were
sufficient of them that would say they saw a great good thing done
by the power and goodness of God, except it be hard for us to
believe either that God is so mighty that he may do it, or so good
that he would do it.
"But because ye would wit of me how many records were
requisite, that thing standeth not so much in number as in
weight. Some twain be more credible than some ten. And
albeit that I see not greatly why I should mistrust anyone that
seemeth honest and telleth a good tale of God in which there appeareth
no special cause of lying; yet, if any witness will serve you, then
would I wit of you how many yourself would agree. For I now put

case that there came ten, diverse honest men of good substance out of
ten, diverse parts of the realm, each of them with an offering at
one pilgrimage, as for example at our Lady of Ipswich, and
each one of them affirming upon their oath a miracle done upon
themselves, in some great sudden help well appearing to pass the
power of craft or nature, would ye not believe that among them
all, at the leastwise twain of those ten said true?"
"No, by our Lady," quoth he, "not and there were ten and twenty."
"Why so?" quoth I.
"Marry," quoth he, "for were they never so many, having none
other witness but each man telling his tale for himself, they be
but single all, and less than single. For every miracle hath but one
record, and yet he not credible in his own cause. And so never a
miracle well proved."
"Well," said I, "I like well your wisdom, that ye be so circumspect
that ye will nothing believe without good, sufficient and full
"I put you then," quoth I, "another case,
that ten young women not very specially
known for good, but taken out at adventure, dwelling all in one
town, would report and tell that a frere of good fame, hearing their
confessions at a pardon, would have given them all in a penance to
let him lie with them, on your faith, would ye not believe that
among so many some of them said true?"
"Yes, that I would," quoth he, "by the Mary mass believe they said true all
ten, and durst well swear for them and they were but two."
"Why so?" quoth I. "They be as single witness as the other of whom I
told you before. For none of them can tell what was said to another,
and yet they be unsworn also, and therewith be they but
women which be more light and less to be regarded, dwelling
all in one town also, and thereby might they the more easily conspire
a false tale."
"They be," quoth he, "witness good enough for such a matter, the
thing is so likely of itself that a frere will be womanish, look
the holy whoreson never so saintly."

"Ye deny not," quoth I, "but God may as easily do a good turn by
miracle, as any man may do an evil by nature."
"That is true," quoth he, "and he list."
"Well," quoth I, "see now what a good way ye be in, that are of your
own good, godly mind more ready to believe two simple women
that a man will do naught, than ten or twenty men that God will do
The Thirteenth Chapter
The author showeth the untoward mind of many men,
which in miracles so highly touching the honor of God and
weal of their own souls will neither believe other folk
that tell them nor themselves vouchsafe to go prove them.
"But since that this kind of proof will not suffice you, I dare say,
if ye would seek and inquire, ye should find many done in your
days in the presence of much people."
"Where should I see that?" quoth he.
"Ye might," quoth I, "upon Good Friday every year this two hundred year
till within this five year that the Turks have taken the town, have
seen one of the thorns that was in Christ's crown bud and bring
forth flowers in the service time, if ye
would have gone to the Rhodes."
"So far?" quoth he. "Nay, yet had I liefer have God's blessing to
believe that I see not, than go so far therefor."
"I am well apaid," quoth I, "thereof, for if ye had liefer believe than
take the pain of a long pilgrimage, ye will never be so stiff in any
opinion that ye will put yourself in jeopardy for pertinacity and
stubborn standing by your part."
"Nay marry," quoth he, "I warrant you that I will never be so mad
to hold till it wax too hot. For I have such a fond fantasy of
mine own, that I had liefer shiver and shake for cold in the midst
of summer than be burned in the midst of winter."

"Merrily said," quoth I, "but yet in earnest, where such a solemn,
yearly miracle is wrought so wondrously in the face of the world
before so great a multitude, it is a great untowardness in a thing so
highly touching the honor of God and health of our own soul,
both to mistrust all them that say they have seen it and either of
sloth or incredulity not vouchsafe himself to prove it."
"If I should have gone," quoth he, "and found it a lie, then had I
walked a wise journey; and on the other side, if I should have seen
there such a thing myself, yet could I scantily reckon myself
"No?" quoth I. "That were a strange case."
"Not very strange," quoth he. "For where ye speak of miracles done
before a multitude, a man may be deceived therein right well.
The Fourteenth Chapter
The messenger maketh objection that miracles showed
before a multitude may be feigned, and by the author
showed how the goodness of God bringeth shortly the truth
of such falsehood to light, with examples thereof one or two
rehearsed; and further showed that many miracles there be
which no good Christian man may deny to be true.
"Some priest, to bring up a pilgrimage in his parish, may
devise some false fellow feigning himself to come seek a saint in
his church, and there suddenly say that he hath gotten his sight.
Then shall ye have the bells rung for a miracle. And the fond
folk of the country soon made fools. Then women coming
thither with their candles. And the parson buying of some lame
beggars three or four pair of their old crutches, with twelve pence spent
in men and women of wax, thrust through diverse places, some with
arrows and some with rusty knives, will make his offerings, for
one seven years, worth twice his tithes."
"This is," quoth I, "very truth that such things may be, and sometimes

peradventure so be indeed. As I remember me that I have heard my
father tell of a beggar that in King Henry's days the Sixth,
came with his wife to Saint Alban's, and there was walking about
the town begging a five or six days before the king's coming
thither, saying that he was born blind and never saw in
his life. And was warned in his dream that he should come out of
Berwick, where he said he had ever dwelled, to seek Saint Alban,
and that he had been at his shrine and had not been helped. And
therefore he would go seek him at some other place, for he had heard
some say since he came that Saint Alban's body should be at Cologne,
and indeed such a contention hath there been. But of truth, as I
am surely informed, he lieth here at Saint Alban's, saving some
relics of him which they there show shrined. But to tell you
forth, when the king was come and the town full, suddenly this
blind man, at Saint Alban's shrine had his sight again, and a
miracle solemnly rung and Te Deum sung, so that nothing
was talked of in all the town, but this miracle. So happened it,
then, that Duke Humfrey of Gloucester, a
great wise man and very well-learned,
having great joy to see such a miracle, called the poor man unto
him. And first showing himself joyous of God's glory so showed
in the getting of his sight, and exhorting him to meekness and to
none ascribing of any part the worship to himself nor to be
proud of the people's praise, which would call him a good and a
godly man thereby, at last he looked well upon his eyes, and asked
him whether he could never see nothing at all in all his life before.
And when as well his wife as himself affirmed fastly no, then he
looked advisedly upon his eyes again, and said, "I believe you very well,
for methinketh that ye cannot see well yet."
"Yes, sir," quoth he, "I thank God and his holy martyr, I can see now
as well as any man."
"Ye can?" quoth the duke. "What color is my gown?" Then anon the
beggar told him.
"What color," quoth he, "is this man's gown?" He told him also,
and so forth without any sticking, he told him the names of all

the colors that could be showed him. And when my lord saw that,
he bade him walk faitour, and made him be set openly in the
stocks. For though he could have seen suddenly by miracle the difference
between diverse colors, yet could he not by the sight so
suddenly tell the names of all these colors but if he had known
them before, no more than the names of all the men that he should
suddenly see."
"Lo, therefore, I say," quoth your friend, "who may be sure of such
things when such pageants be played before all the town.
I remember me now what a work I have heard of that was at
Lempster in the king's father's days where the prior brought
privily a strange wench into the church that said she was sent
thither by God, and would not lie out of the church; and after
she was grated within iron grates above in the rood loft, where it
was believed she lived without any meat and drink, only by angel's
food. And divers times she was houseled in sight of the people with
a host unconsecrated, and all the people looking upon, there was a
device with a small hair that conveyed the host from the paten of the
chalice out of the prior's hands into her mouth, as though it came
alone, so that all the people not of the town only but also of the
country about took her for a very quick saint, and daily sought so
thick to see her that many that could not come near to her cried
out aloud, "Holy maiden Elizabeth, help me," and were fain to
throw their offering over their fellows' heads for press. Now lay the
prior with holy maiden Elizabeth nightly in the rood loft, till she
was after taken out and tried in the keeping by my lady the king's mother.
And by the longing for meat, with voidance of that she had eaten, which
had no saintly savor, she was perceived for no saint and
confessed all the matter."
"In faith," quoth I, "it had been great alms the prior and she had been
burned together at one stake. What came of the prior?"
Quoth he, "That can I not tell; but I ween he was put to such punishment
as the poor nun was, that had given her in penance to say

this verse, "Miserere mei deus, quoniam
conculcavit me homo," with a great threat
that and she did so any more she should say the whole psalm. But as
for holy Elizabeth, I heard say she lived and fared well and was a
common harlot at Calyce many a fair day after, where she laughed
at the matter full merrily."
"The more pity," quoth I, "that she was so let pass."
"That is truth," quoth he. "But now what say you, what trust can we
have, or at leastway, what surety can we have in such things,
when we see them feigned so shamefully in the face of the world,
so openly and so much people abused so far, that they would not
have letted to swear, and some to jeopard their lives thereon, that
all this work was wrought by God's own hand, till the truth
came to light, and the drab driven out of the church in the
devil's name?"
"Verily," said I, "there was abusion in the one side, and great folly
in the other side. And as that noble Duke Humfrey wisely found
out the falsehood of that blyson beggar, so did that noble lady the
king's mother prudently decipher and found out that beastly
filth. And to say the truth there was cause enough in both
these parties, whereof the people might reasonably gather so much
suspicion, that if they had made thereupon sufficient inquisition
and search, they could never have been so far abused. For both
might they well mistrust a beggar's word whom they had but
newly known, and well likely to lie for to win first favor and after
money. And also men might well think that a young she-saint
was not meetly to be shrined quick in a monastery among a
meinie of monks. And yet in conclusion, because no such feigned
wonders should infame God's very miracles, his goodness shortly
brought them both to knowledge. And so doth his special cure
and providence bring ever shortly such falsehood and faitery to
light to their shame and confusion. And as he did in Berna, a
great city of Almaine, bring to knowledge the false miracles whereby
certain freres abused the people, for which they were openly
burned. And so God always bringeth such false miracles to light."
"Nay, nay," quoth he, "there be many such, I warrant you, that never
come to light, and are still taken for very good."

"Ye cannot very well warrant it," quoth I. "For since God brought to
light the false famed miracle of the priests of the idol Bell in the old
time, as appeareth in the fourteenth chapter of the prophet Daniel, it
is more likely that among Christian men he will suffer no such
things long lie hid. And also how can ye warrant that many of
those miracles be false? For while there is no doubt but many be
true, and ye know not any which ye precisely know for false,
ye be not sure whether any be such or not."
"Marry," quoth he, "that reason holdeth as well on the other side.
For since I know not any which I precisely know for true, I know
not whether any be true or not."
"Nay," quoth I, "that argument will not serve you so. For though no
man bindeth you to believe that everything is true that is told
for a miracle, yet some there be of which ye must needs reckon yourself
sure, and of which ye cannot if ye be a Christian man have any
scruple or doubt."
"Yea?" quoth he. "Feign would I wit which were one of those."
"Marry," quoth I, "all that are written in the Gospel."
"Marry," quoth he, "that wot I well; but them we speak not of, for
they were done by God himself."
"Why," quoth I, "be they not so all? If ye will not agree that ye be sure
of any which be told by saints, what say you by the miracles of
the apostles written by Saint Luke?"
"Nay," quoth he, "ye mistake me yet; for I do not mean any mistrust
in the miracles done of old time by God for his apostles or
holy martyrs in corroboration and setting forth of the faith. I
mean only these miracles that men tell and talk of nowadays,
to be done at those images where these pilgrimages be, and where
we see some of them ourselves proved plainly false; and yet told
for so true, and so many false shrews to affirm it, so many
simple souls trust it, so much foolish folk believe it, that a man
may well with reason mistrust all the remnant."

"Ye have," quoth I, "more often than once spoken of a difference between
the miracles done by God in old time, and these miracles that are done
or told to be done nowadays at
pilgrimages. But surely, if ye grant the
miracles done of old time, we need no
more for the proof of all our matter. For I trow that pilgrimages and
miracles done at them be very old things, and not things newly
begun nowadays, except ye call a thousand year ago or fourteen
hundred year ago nowadays. For I am very sure that so long
ago, and yet longer too, did good Christian people pray to saints
and go in pilgrimage to their holy relics, and had images in
great veneration, and many wonderful miracles did our Lord work
for the comprobation of his high pleasure to the conservation and
increase of the devotion of his Christian people therein, as we find
largely written and reported in the godly books of holy Saint
Gregory, Saint Augustine, Saint Jerome, Saint Eusebius, Saint
Basil, Saint Chrysostom, and many another old holy doctor of
Christ's church, whose books were not unwritten this thousand
year. And where ye say that of miracles many be nowadays
feigned, so may it be that some were then also; but neither then nor
now neither, were (nor be) all feigned. And any being true, all
were they right few, sufficed for our purpose. For if God had but
with one miracle declared that the thing contenteth and pleaseth
him in his church, it must needs suffice for the church against all
the heretics in the world that ever would bark against the
church therein. And therefore there can be no doubt in the matter,
where God hath declared his pleasure by so many a thousand, and
that in every time, not only nowadays but also a thousand year
or fourteen hundred year, and yet more too, before our days. And as
for feigned miracles of which ye speak so much, albeit that some
such hath been, yet I verily think that neither of old time, nor
now, Christ among Christian people suffereth not such things to
happen often, nor such delusion to last long, but shortly to their
shame, as it hath appeared in some, doth utter and make open
their falsehood as himself said of all such: "That ye whisper one in
another's ear shall be preached out aloud upon the ridge of the
house roof."

The Fifteenth Chapter
The author showeth that if of those miracles that are
told and written to be done at divers pilgrimages, and
commonly believed for very true, we certainly knew some
falsely feigned, yet were that no cause to mistrust the remnant.
"But be it that among so many miracles as be daily told and
written, done at divers pilgrimages, between which miracles and
other, why ye put a difference, we shall, as I said before, know
further your mind hereafter. And be it also that of such as long
have been reputed and still taken for true, yourself undoubtedly
knew some for very false, would ye therefore think that among all
the remnant there were never one true? What if ye find some
fair woman painted whose color ye had weened were natural,
will ye never after believe that any woman in the world hath a fair
color of herself? If ye find some false flatterers that long seemed
friendly, will ye take ever after all the world for such? If some
prove stark hypocrites whom the world would have sworn for
good and godly men, shall we therefore mistrust all other for their
sake and ween there were none good at all?"
"By my troth," quoth he, "I rode once in good company, and to
say the truth for good company, to
Walsingham in pilgrimage, where a good
fellow's horse so fell in halting that he was fain to hire another,
and let him go loose which was so lean and so poor and halted so sore,
that empty as he was he could scant keep foot with us. And when we
had weened we should have left him behind, suddenly he spied a
mare, and forth he limped on three legs so lustily that his
master's horse with four feet could scant overtake him. But
when he caught him and came again, he swore in great anger all
the oaths he might swear, that he would trust halting Sir Thomas
the worse while he lived."

"What was that halting Sir Thomas?" quoth I.
"Marry," quoth he, "their parish priest, as he told us, as lean and as
poor and as halting as his horse, and as holy too. But since he would
while he lived mistrust that halting priest for his halting horse, if
I find a holy whoreson halt in hypocrisy, I shall not fail while I
live to trust all his fellows the worse."
"Well," quoth I, "ye speak merrily; but I wot well ye will do better
whatsoever ye say. Nor I am sure though
ye see some white sapphire or beryl so well
counterfeit, and so set in a ring, that a right good jeweler will take
it for a diamond, yet will ye not doubt for all that, but that
there be in many other rings already set right diamonds indeed.
Nor ye will not mistrust Saint Peter for Judas. Nor though the Jews
were many so naughty that they put Christ to death, yet ye be
wiser, I wot well, than the gentlewoman was, which in talking
once with my father, when she heard say that our Lady was a Jew,
first could not believe it; but said, "What? Ye mock, iwis; I pray you
tell truth." And when it was so fully affirmed that she at last
believed it: "And was she a Jew," quoth she, "so help me God
and halidom, I shall love her the worse while I live." I am sure ye
will not do so, nor mistrust all for some, neither men nor miracles.
The Sixteenth Chapter
The author showeth that whoso would inquire should soon
find that at pilgrimages be daily many great and
undoubted miracles wrought and well-known. And especially
he speaketh of the great and open miracle showed at our
Lady of Ipswich of late upon the daughter of Sir Roger
Wentworth, Knight.
"And as for the point that we spoke of concerning miracles done
in our days at divers images where these pilgrimages be, yet
could I tell you some such done so openly, so far from all cause

of suspicion, and thereto testified in such sufficient wise, that
he might seem almost mad that hearing the whole matter will
mistrust the miracles. Among which I durst boldly tell you for one,
the wonderful work of God that was within these few years
wrought in the house of a right worshipful knight Sir Roger Wentworth,
upon divers of his children, and especially one of his
daughters, a very fair young gentlewoman of twelve years of age, in
marvelous manner vexed and tormented by our ghostly enemy the
devil, her mind alienated and raving with despising and blasphemy
of God and hatred of all hallowed things, with knowledge and
perceiving of the hallowed from the unhallowed, all were she nothing
warned thereof. And after that moved in her own mind and
monished by the will of God to go to our Lady of Ipswich. In
the way of which pilgrimage, she prophesied and told many
things done and said at the same time in other places, which
were proved true, and many things said, lying in her trance,
of such wisdom and learning that right cunning men highly
marveled to hear of so young an unlearned maiden, when herself
wist not what she said, such things uttered and spoken, as well
learned men might have missed with a long study, and finally
being brought and laid before the image of our blessed Lady, was
there in the sight of many worshipful people so grievously tormented,
and in face, eyes, look, and countenance so grisly
changed, with her mouth drawn aside, and her eyes laid out
upon her cheeks, that it was a terrible sight to behold.
"And after many marvelous things at the same time showed
upon divers persons by the devil through God's sufferance, as
well all the remnant as the maiden herself in the presence of all
the company restored to their good state perfectly cured and
"And in this matter no pretext of begging, no suspicion of
feigning, no possibility of counterfeiting, no simpleness in
the seers, her father and mother right honorable and rich, sore
abashed to see such chances in their children, the witnesses
great number and many of great worship, wisdom, and good
experience, the maid herself too young to feign, and the fashion

itself too strange for any man to feign. And the end of the matter
virtuous, the virgin so moved in her mind with the miracle,
that she forthwith, for aught her father could do, forsook the world
and professed religion in a very good and godly company at the
Minoress where she hath lived well and graciously ever since.
The Seventeenth Chapter
The messenger layeth forth objections against miracles
done at pilgrimages, of which he confesseth many to be
true. But he layeth causes and reasons whereby he saith that
many men be moved to believe and think that those miracles
that be done there be done by the devil to set our hearts upon
idolatry by the worshipping of images instead of God.
"But now albeit, as I said that I might allege you this miracle,
and prove it you in such wise that I wot well ye would be as
far out of all doubt thereof as ye would be deep in the marvel of
the miracle. And peradventure divers other could I show you
done of late at divers pilgrimages, and prove them well too; yet
would I fain first hear of you what distinction and difference is
that that ye make, and wherefore ye make it, between the miracles
done of old time, and these that be nowadays done at these
"Sir," quoth he, "somewhat a little I touched it in the beginning
and made in manner a glance thereat. But loath were I to hit it with
a full shot and a sharp, as I have seen some with such reasons
cleave the prick in twain that they seemed to bear over the butt and
all. Which reasons I would be loath in so sore manner to allege,
lest I might haply give you some occasion to think that
either I set to somewhat of mine own, or else at the leastwise
liked well that side and were a favorer of that faction."
"Nay," quoth I, "fear not that hardly; for neither am I so
suspicious to mistrust that one thinketh evil because he defendeth

the worse part well by the way of argument and reasoning.
And also I trust that all their shots shall be so far too feeble to bear
over the butt, that few of them shall touch the mark, many too
faint to pierce the paper. And some too high, and some too short.
And some walk too wide of the butt by a bow. And therefore I require
you spare not to bring forth all that ever ye have heard, or that ye
think may be said in the matter."
"Sir," quoth he, "since ye can hear it so indifferently, I shall not
spare to speak it. And surely to begin with all that I think
true I will not fail to confess. For albeit that I have long
stuck with you to withstand any credence to be given to
miracles done nowadays, in which I have much the longer
stuck because of some whom I have known ere this so far
from the belief of any miracles at all that, in good faith, they put
me half in doubt whether they believe that there were any God at all,
if they durst for dread and shame have said all that they seemed to
think; yet, to say the truth, I never heard anything said so sore
therein, that ever moved me to think that any reason would bear the
importunate mistrust of them that, among so many an open miracle
as is daily in divers places done, would ween that none at all were
true. But verily as I began a little to touch in the beginning,
whether these miracles be made by God and for good saints, or
by the devil for our deceit and delusion -- albeit I believe and ever
will as the church doth -- yet some men among some such things
say therein, that I am driven to do as I do in other articles of the
faith, lean fast unto belief for any reason that I find to make them
answer with. For, first, they take for a ground that the devil may
do miracles. Or if we list not to suffer them called by that name,
the matter shall be thereby nothing amended;
for if we will have only called
by the name of miracles things by God done above nature, yet
will we not deny but that God suffereth the devil to work wonders
which the people cannot discern from miracles. And therefore
when they see them, miracles shall they call them, and for miracles
shall they take them. Now since it so is that the devil may do

such things, whereby shall we be sure that God doth them? And
since the devil may do them, and we be not sure that God doth
them, why may not we as well believe that the devil doth them?"
"Marry," said I, "ye told me that ye set naught by logic, but
now ye play the logician outright. Howbeit, that argument
men may turn on the other side and say that since God may do them
much better than the devil, and we be not sure that the devil
doth them, why should we not rather believe that God doth them
which may do them better. And much more reason it is, where a
wonderful work is wrought, there to ascribe it to God, the master
of all masteries, rather than the devil
that can do nothing but by sufferance,
except we see some cause that cannot suffer
that work to be reckoned God's."
"Well," quoth he, "then is it reason that we show you some such
cause. It is," quoth he, "cause enough in
that we see that God hath in scripture
forbidden such imagery, and that under
great malediction, as in the law which yourself spoke of before,
"Non facies tibi sculptile." And in the psalm, "In exitu Israel de
Aegypto," where he first by the mouth of the Prophet describeth the
folly of such as worshippeth those images that hath ears and cannot
hear, hands and cannot feel, feet and cannot go, mouth and
cannot speak. All which absurdities and unreasonable follies appeareth
as well in the worship of our images as in the paynims' idols. And
after, he showeth the maledictions that shall fall thereupon, saying
like mote they be to them all such as make them, and all such as
putteth their trust in them. And forthwith he declareth in whom
good men have their trust and the profit that proceedeth thereupon,
saying, "Domus Israel speravit in Domino, adiutor eorum et protector
eorum est" (The house of Israel hath put their trust in our Lord, the
helper and defender of them is he). Now when the words of God be
clear, open and plain upon this side, what reason is it to believe the
comments and glosses of men such as ye brought forth right now,

wherewith ye would wind out against the true texts of God? What
should we give credence to the example of men's doings against
the plain commandment of God's writings? And when that
only Christ is our Savior and mediator to bring our nature
again to God, and our only protector and advocate before his Father,
and may help us best and will help us most, what shall we make
either our Lady or any other creature our advocate, or pray to them
which of likelihood hear us not? For there can none of them be
present at so many places at once as they be called upon. And if
they were, yet are they no nearer us than God himself, nor so fain
would that we did well as he that died for us. And therefore, when
we not only do them reverence -- which I were content were done
them, for God's sake, as ye said before -- but also pray to them, we
do Christ and God great injury. For if we pray to them as mediators
and advocates for us, we take from Christ his office and give it them.
If we ask help and health of them, then make we them
plain gods and betake to them the power of the Godhead.
For only God is it that giveth all good, as witnesseth Saint James:
"Every good and very perfect gift cometh from above, descending
from the Father of lights." And surely, if we consider how we
behave us to them, though ye say that all the honor given to saints
redoundeth unto God since it is done, as ye say, not for their own
sakes but for his, yet would I not ween God be well content that we
should for his sake do to any creature like honor as to himself.
For scripture saith that he will not give his glory from him, nor
to any other creature like honor as to himself. And therefore
the schools, as I hear say, devise a treble difference in worshipping,
calling the one "dulia," the reverence or
worship that man doth to man, as the
bondman to the lord; the second, "hyperdulia,"
that a man doth to a more excellent
creature, as to angels or saints; the third, "latria," the veneration,
honor, and adoration that creatures doth only to God. In which
of these parties ye put the worshipping of images, I am neither so
well seen therein to tell, nor so curious greatly to care. But this I see

well, if any of all these three kinds of worship be better than other,
the images hath it. For they have all that ever we can do. For what
do we to God when we do worship him in that fashion that they call
latria, but we do the same to saints and images both? If it stand
in kneeling, we kneel to saints and their images, if in praying,
we pray as bitterly to them as to God. If in censing and setting up
of candles, we cense them also and set some saint seven candles
against God one. So that whatsoever fashion of worshipping of latria
be, the same is as largely done to saints and images as to God. And
this not unto images only -- which though they have no life have
yet some shape and fashion after man -- but, as men ween, unto pigs'
bones also, sometimes. For what reverent honor is there daily done,
under the name and opinion of a saint's relic, to some old
rotten bone that was haply sometime, as Chaucer saith, a bone of
some holy Jew's sheep. See we not that some one saint's head is showed in
three places. And some one whole saint's body lieth in divers countries,
if we believe the lies of the people. And in both the places is the one
body worshipped where the one or the other is false and one body
mistaken for another, an evil man haply for a good. And yet
will the priests of both places take offerings and toll men thither
with miracles too. In which case either must ye say that the miracles
of the one place be false and feigned, or else that miracles make not your
matter good nor prove your pilgrimages true; and yet might all
this gear be much the better borne if it were true that ye defend
the things withal when ye say that in worshipping of saints and
images men worship neither the one nor the other as gods, but
the images for the saints, and the saints for God. But now, as it
seemeth, that matter is indeed far otherwise, for the people pray to
the saints for their necessities, putting thereto trust for their petitions
in the saints themselves, as though God gave it not, but they.
And in the images put the people their
trust instead of the saint's self; for albeit
that it might stand with reason, as ye have answered me, that presupposed
the miracles in these pilgrimages to be done by God, the

people might then with reason go seek and visit such places as
God by miracle declared that he would have himself or his holy
saints sought and honored in, yet now this answer toucheth
the point but in part and matcheth not the whole matter. For the
people do not only visit these places and there do all the worship
to the saints that they can possible do to God, with hope of their
help from the saint's self, which they should well wit only to be
given by God, and thus by this demeanor make the saints God's
fellows -- that is to say, the servants matches with their master
and the creatures mates to the Maker -- but also use themselves in as
religious fashion and as fervent affection to the images of stone or
tree, as either to saint or God. And plainly take these images for the
saint's self and for God himself. And put in these images of their
pilgrimages their full hope and whole trust that they should put in
"Which, besides that I have said before, appeareth well in this,
that they will make comparisons between our Lady of Ipswich
and our Lady of Walsingham. As weening that one image more of
power than the other, which they would never do but if instead of
our Lady they put their trust in the image self. And the people in
speaking of our Lady: "Of all our Ladies," saith one, "I love best our
Lady of Walsingham." "And I," saith the other, "our Lady of Ipswich." In
which words what meaneth she but her love and her affection to
the stock that standeth in the chapel of Walsingham or Ipswich?
"What say you when the people speak of this fashion in their pains
and perils: "Help, holy cross of Bradman! Help, our dear Lady of
Walsingham!" Doth it not plainly appear that either they trust in the
images in Christ's stead and our Lady's, letting Christ and our Lady
go, or take at the leastwise those images so that they ween they
were verily the one Christ, the other our Lady herself? And so every
way the faith and devotion withdrawn from God, that should have
it, and our hearts by these images blinded and set upon the dead
stocks and stones. Now see the good fruit also that followeth thereupon.
I let pass over the faitery and falsehood that is therein used among,
sometimes by the priests, sometimes by beggars in feigning of false
miracles. Look what devotion men come thither with. With the

most come they that most abuse themselves, such I mean as most
trust have and blind faith in these blind images. But the most
part that cometh, cometh for no devotion at all, but only for
good company to babble thitherward and drink drunk there, and
dance and reel homeward. And yet here is not all. For I tell you
nothing now of many a naughty pack, many a fleck and his make,
that maketh their images meetings at these wholesome hallows.
And many that seem a honest housewife at home hath help of a
bawd to bring her to mischief as she walketh abroad about her
pilgrimages. I heard once when I was a child the good Scottish
frere Father Donald, whom I reckon surely
for a saint if there be any in heaven. I
heard him preach at Paul's Cross that our Lady was a virgin, and
yet at her pilgrimages be made many a foul meeting. And loud
he cried out, "Ye men of London, go on
yourselves with your wives to Willesden in
the devil's name, or else keep them at home with you with sorrow."
And surely so many good men ween it were best, considering that
these voyages be but wandering about vanity or superstitious
devotion, and the next door to idolatry, when men have their
affections, instead of God, bound to blocks and stones. And now
since that this gear is such, what marvel is it though (as I said
before) the devil be glad to give attendance thereon, and do for his
part what he may to help his own devices forward? Or what
marvel is it though God in this cursed world, when we fall from
him to other, and from the honor of himself to his saints, when
we do as the paynims did, instead of God worship mammets,
and all this by falling to follow men's glosses before his own
texts; what wonder is it though God again serve us as he served
them, and suffer the devil delude us as he did them, and make us
lean to false miracles as we fall willfully to false gods? Thus say
they," quoth he, "that speak on that side, and yet much more than I
can call to mind. But surely since ye willed me to forbear nothing, I
have as I could, rather set to somewhat, not of mine own opinion,
but of mine own invention, than anything left out that I

could remember which I had ever heard any man lay to prove
the miracles done at pilgrimages to be uncertain by whom they
be wrought, or rather to prove that they should not be God's
miracles but the devil's wonders."
The Eighteenth Chapter
The author defereth the answer to the aforesaid objections
and first by scripture he proveth that the church of
Christ cannot err in any necessary article of Christ's faith.
And in this chapter be those words of Christ specially
touched, "Super cathedram Moysi sederunt, etc. Que dicunt
vobis facite, que autem faciunt nolite facere," concerning the
authority of the church.
"Surely," quoth I, "for my part, I con you very good thank; for ye
have not faintly defended your part, as though it were a corrupted
advocate that would by collusion handle his client's matter feebly
for the pleasure of his adversary; but ye have said therein, I cannot
tell whether as much as any man may say, but certainly I
suppose as much as ye either have heard any man say or can yourself
say. And at the leastwise, much more than I have heard of any
man else, or could have said of myself. And undoubted as ye spoke
of shooting in the beginning, this gear how near it goeth to the
prick, we shall see after. But this I promise you, it would fain bear
over the butt and all. For if it might hold and be abidden by, and were
as well able to be proved true as I trust to prove it false, the butt
we shot at were quite gone for any surety that we could reckon of our
faith and Christendom. But now to come to the point, since it is
agreed already between us that at these images and pilgrimages
miracles be there, either showed by God for the comprobation of
his pleasure therein, or wonders wrought by the devil for our
delusion and damnation. If it may either appear to us that they
be not done by the devil, then will it well follow that they be done

by God. Or if it be proved to be done by God for the good of his
church, then will it be clear enough that they be no wonders
wrought by the devil to the deceit of Christian people. And since
that either other of these parties proved implieth the reproof of
your purpose, I will assay to show, and trust right well to prove you,
the truth of our side by some one of these ways or peradventure
by both, that is to wit, as well in proving that God doth these
miracles, as in reproving and confuting that they should be done
by the devil. And first would I fain meet with your objections and
answer them forthwith, while they be fresh, saving that meseemeth
better for the while to defer them, forasmuch as some
things there be whereupon it will be requisite that we first be
both agreed, without which we were like to walk wide in
words, and run all at riot so loose that our matter could neither have
ground, order, nor end.
"Now if I were in this matter to dispute with a paynim that would
make the question between their miracles and ours, albeit I should
have a clear matter in the end, yet must it needs be a long matter and
much intricated ere it should come at the end. And whole books would it
hold, both the confuting of theirs, and unto them the assertion
of our own, especially for that they receive not our scripture,
and between them and us nothing common to ground upon but
reason. And if we should dispute with a Jew, less labor should we
have, since that we should have with him (though he deny the New
Testament) yet reason and the Old Testament agreed upon, wherein
we should not vary for the text, but for the sentence and understanding.
For therein we should have him stiffly withstand us.
"But now since we shall in our matter dispute and reason with those
that agree themselves for Christian men, our dispicions are so much
the shorter in that we must needs agree together in most things. For
we must agree in reason where faith refuseth it not. And over that we
shall agree upon the whole corpus of scripture, as well the New
Testament as the Old. But in the interpretation we may peradventure
stick, is it not so?"

"Yes," quoth he.
"Well," quoth I, "is there any other thing wherein ye think that we
shall vary, but the interpretation of the scripture?"
"Not that I remember," quoth he, "except the conclusion itself, whereupon
we talk, as of the worshipping of images, or praying to saints,
in which methink there can be no great question, if the scripture
be well interpreted."
"Ye do," quoth I, "agree that such things as
are mentioned in the Gospel spoken by
Christ unto Saint Peter and other his
apostles and disciples, were not only said to themselves, nor only for
themselves, but to them for their successors in Christ's flock, and by
them to us all, that is to wit, every man as shall appertain to his
"Whereby mean you that?" quoth he.
"I mean," quoth I, "as for example when he
said: "Nisi abundaverit iusticia vestra
plusquam scribarum et pharisaeorum, non intrabitis in regnum
caelorum" (Except your justice abound and exceed the justice of the
Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall never come in heaven). And where he
saith, "If thou wilt enter into the kingdom of heaven, keep the commandments";
did not he say such things to them for all Christian
men that should come after?"
"I think yes," quoth he, "for the second word concerning the commandments.
But as for the first, that their justice should be better
than the justice of the Scribes and Pharisees, peradventure he spoke
specially to his apostles themselves, that they should not be like the
Scribes and Pharisees, which commanded other many things,
and did nothing themselves."
"That is, in my mind," quoth I, "well taken, and so doth holy Saint
Augustine expound it. But since ye think he said that word to his
apostles specially, rather than to his whole flock, whether think
you that he said it only to them, or else to all other also that should after
come in their places and succeed them in office?"

"Nay, before God," quoth he, "to all that the bishops he said it, and prelates and
spiritual rulers of his church, that ever shall be in the church, forbidding
them to bind and lay upon other poor men's backs
importunable burdens, to the bearing whereof themselves will not
once put forth a finger."
"Very well said," quoth I, "what think you then of that he said, "Do
ye such things they bid you do, but do not as ye see them do?"
"In that would our Lord," quoth he, "that all the people should do all that the
prelates should command, as far as was commanded in the law by
God; but he meant no further. And therefore he said that they sat upon
the chair of Moses, and he willed that they
should for that cause be obeyed. And therein
he meant in such things only as they should command that were
by God commanded the people in the law given to Moses. And that
Christian men in like wise obey the bishops and prelates, commanding
only such things as himself hath commanded his people in his
Gospel and his own law."
"And in nothing else?" quoth I. "What meaneth it then that our Lord in the
parable of the Samaritan, bearing the wounded man into the inn of his
church, and delivering him to the host after that himself had
dressed his wounds with wine and oil, and left with the
host the two groats of the two Testaments, promised the host
besides, that whatsoever the host would bestow upon him more, he
would when he came again recompense him therefor? And also in
the place that we spoke of, our Savior said that the Scribes and
Pharisees, besides the law of Moses on
whose seat they sat, did lay great fardels
and fast bound them on other men's backs, to the bearing
whereof they would not move a finger themselves. And yet for all
that he bade the people do what their prelates would bid them,
though the burden were heavy, and let not to do it though they
should see the bidders do clean the contrary. For which he added,
"But as they do, do not you."
"By our Lady," quoth he, "I like not this gloss. For it maketh all for the

bonds by which the laws of the church bind us to more ado
than the Jews were almost with Moses' law. And I wot well Christ
said, "Come to me, ye that be overcharged,
and I shall refresh you." And his apostles
said that the bare law of Moses, besides
the ceremonies that were set too by the Scribes and the Pharisees,
were more than ever they were able to bear and fulfill. And therefore
Christ came to call us into a law of liberty. And that was in taking
away the band of those very ceremonial laws. And therefore,
saith our Savior, of that law that he calleth us unto, "My yoke," saith
he, "is fit and easy, and my burden but
light." Whereby it appeareth that he meant
to take away the strait yoke and put on a more easy. And to take off
the heavy burden and lay on a lighter. Which he had not done if he
would lade us with a fardel full of men's laws more than a cart can
carry away."
"The laws of Christ," quoth I, "be made by himself and his
Holy Spirit for the governance of his people, and be not in
hardness and difficulty of keeping anything like to the laws
of Moses. And thereof durst I for need make yourself judge. For
if ye bethink you well, I ween if ye were at this age now to choose,
you would rather be bound to many of the laws of Christ's
church than to the circumcision alone.
Nor to as much ease as we ween that
Christ called us, yet be not the laws that
have been made by his church of half the
pain nor half the difficulty that his own be, which himself
putteth in the Gospel, though we set aside the counsels. It is, I trow,
more hard not to swear at all than not to forswear, to forbear
each angry word than not to kill, continual watch and prayer
than a few days appointed. Then what an anxiety and solicitude
is there in the forbearing of every idle word? What a hard threat,
after the worldly count, for a small matter. Never was there almost
so sore a word said unto the Jews by Moses, as is to us by Christ
in that word alone where he saith that we shall of every idle

word give account at the Day of Judgment. What say ye then by
divorces restrained, and liberty of divers
wives withdrawn, where they had
liberty to wed for their pleasure if they cast a fantasy to any that they
took in the war?"
"One of that ware is enough," quoth he, "to make any one man wary."
"Now that is merrily said," quoth I, "but though one eye were enough
for a fletcher, yet is he for store content to keep twain, and would,
though they were sometimes sore both and should put him to some
pain. What ease also call you this, that we be bound to abide all
sorrow and shameful death and all martyrdom upon pain of perpetual
damnation for the profession of our faith? Trow ye that these easy
words of his easy yoke and light burden were not as well spoken to his
apostles as to you, and yet what ease called he them to? Called he not
them to watching, fasting, praying, preaching, walking, hunger,
thirst, cold, and heat, beating, scourging, imprisonment, painful
and shameful death? The ease of his yoke standeth not in bodily ease,
nor the lightness of his burden standeth not in the slackness of any
bodily pain -- except we be so wanton, that where himself had
not heaven without pain, we look to come thither with play -- but
it standeth in the sweetness of hope, whereby
we feel in our pain a pleasant taste of
heaven. This is the thing, as holy Saint
Gregory Nazienzen declareth, that refresheth
men that are laden and maketh our yoke easy and our burden
light, not any delivering from the laws of the church, or from
any good temporal laws either, into a lewd liberty of slothful
rest. For that were not an easy yoke, but a pulling of the head out of
the yoke. Nor it were not a light burden, but all the burden
discharged, contrary to the words of Saint Paul and Saint Peter
both, which as well understood the words of their master as these
men do. And as a thing consonant and well agreeable therewith do
command us obedience to our superiors and rulers, one and other, in

things by God not forbidden, although they be hard and
"But see for God's sake how we be run a great way further than I
thought to go when I began and have left that we should go forth
"It is no loss," quoth he, "for there is a good thing well touched by
the way."
"Well," quoth I, "let us go back again where we left. Since ye agree
that Christ spoke his words not to his apostles only for their own
time, but such things as he said to them he meant to all that should
follow them, and thereof somewhat he spoke to them for the priests
and bishops only. As when he said, "Vos
estis sal terrae" (Ye be the salt of the earth);
and somewhat to the whole flock, as when he said: "Mandatum
novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut ego dilexi vos" (I give you a
new commandment, that you love together
as I have loved you). Tell me then, I require
you, when Christ said to Saint Peter, "Satan hath desired to
sift ye as men sift corn; but I have prayed for thee that thy faith
shall not fail," said he this to him as a promise of the faith to be by
God's help perpetually kept and preserved in Saint Peter only,
or else in the whole church, that is to wit,
the whole congregation of Christian people
professing his name and his faith, and abiding in the body of
the same, not being precided and cut off, meaning that his faith
should never so utterly fail in his church but that it should whole
and entire abide and remain therein?"
"Marry," quoth he, "this is good to be advised of. For though Christ for
the more part such things as he spoke to one, spoke to all,
according to his own words, "Quod uni
dico omnibus dico" (That I say to one, I say
to all), yet some things he said and meant particularly as he spoke it.
As when he bade Saint Peter come upon the
water to him, he bade not the remnant
come so. And so may it peradventure be that this word was spoken
and meant toward Peter alone."

"That will be," quoth I, "very hard to hold. For his faith after
failed. But since that upon his first confession of the right faith that
Christ was God's Son, our Lord made him his universal vicar
and under him head of his church; and that
for his successor he should be the first
upon whom and whose firm confessed faith he would build his
church and of any that was only man make him the first and chief
head and ruler thereof, therefore he showed him that his faith -- that is to
wit, the faith by him confessed -- should never fail in his church,
nor never did it, notwithstanding his denying. For yet stood still
the light of faith in our Lady, of whom we read in the Gospel
continual assistance to her sweetest Son without fleeing or flitting.
And in all other we find either fleeing from him, one time or other,
or else doubt of his Resurrection after his death -- his dear mother
only except -- for the signification and
remembrance whereof the church yearly
in the Tenebrae lessons leaveth her candle burning still when all the
remnant, that signifieth his apostles and disciples, be one by one
put out. And since his faith in effect failed, and yet the faith that he
professed abode still in our Lady, the promise that God made was (as it
seemeth) meant not to him but as head of the church. And therefore
our Lord added thereto: "And thou being one of these days
converted, confirm and strengthen thy brethren." In which by these
words our Savior meant and promised that the faith should stand forever.
So that the gates of hell should not prevail thereagainst. Or
else might ye say that these words spoken to Saint Peter, "Feed my
sheep," was meant but for himself, and no commandment to any
successor of his or any bishop or prelate. And by that means might
ye say also that these words of Christ's promise made unto his
disciples, that the Holy Ghost should instruct them of all things,
were only meant for themselves in their own persons. And not that
ever he should instruct his church after their days. And
when he said, "Wheresoever be two or three gathered together in
my name, there am I myself among them," we shall say by this
means that he meant but of his own disciples in his own time
while he was here with them, and not that he would be likewise

present with such other congregations in his church after.
And finally, then were these words frustrate where he said, "Lo, I
am with you all the days to the world's end," if he should mean it
but with them that heard him speak it, then should it appear that he
had intended a church only of them and for their time. And then
from their death hither all were done."
"Verily, sir," quoth he, "I can well agree that all such things was
spoken by Christ to make them sure that the faith should never
fail in his church. Howbeit, if I durst doubt in that point, one
thing is there that somewhat sticketh in my mind."
"Doubt on," quoth I, "between us twain and spare not, nor let not to
tell me what moveth you."
"Sir," quoth he, "I think that God setteth no more by faith than he doth
by charity. But as for charity and good works with virtuous living
shall cool and decay in the church as our Savior saith in the
twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, "Because iniquity shall abound, the
charity of many men shall cool." And surely methinketh it is well
near all gone already."
"God forbid," quoth I. "For albeit that it greatly day by day decayeth,
and much people naught, yet be there many good men about, and shall
be always, though they be few in comparison of the multitude. And
yet is it not all one of other virtues and of faith, that is to wit, of
knowledge and belief of the articles of our faith. I mean of such
articles as we be of necessity bound to believe. For albeit that the
flock of Christ shall never lack good and devout virtuous people,
yet shall both the best be sinners, and also much more the multitude
shall ever have the faith that I speak of than shall have the
goodness of living."
"Why so?" quoth he.
"For two causes," quoth I. "One, the malice of the people whereby they
will not be so ready to live well as to believe well. For the people themselves
will better keep the faith than other
virtues, since it is a thing of less labor
to know what they should believe, and to
believe it also when they know it, than it is to work well. For

though the knowledge and belief bring many men to the labor
of good works, yet the world commonly and the frailty of our
flesh with the enticement of our ghostly enemies, make us
willingly and wittingly, well knowing and believing the good,
yet to walk in the worse, as doth sometimes the sick man that,
believing his physician, and having had also right often good
proof by his own experience to his pain before, that some
certain meat or drink shall do him harm, doth yet of an importunate
appetite fall for his little pleasure to his great pain and hurt.
"Another cause is," quoth I, "the goodness of God, which how far soever
his people fall from the use of virtue, shall not yet as himself
hath promised suffer them to fall from the knowledge of virtue, not only
for the manifestation of his justice, that their own conscience may
condemn them in doing the things that themselves know to be naught,
but also to the intent they may still have among them a perpetual
occasion of amendment. For if the faith were once gone, and the
church of Christ fallen in that error that they believed vice to be virtue,
and idolatry to be the right way of God's worship, then had they no
rule to guide them to better. And therefore while we be not in
error of understanding and faith, howsoever we fall or how
often soever we sin, we see the way to turn again by grace to
God's mercy. But if faith were gone, all were gone, and then had
God here no church at all."
The Nineteenth Chapter
The author proveth that if the worship of images were
idolatry then the church, believing it to be lawful and
pleasant to God, were in a misbelief and in a deadly
error. And then were the faith failed in the church,
whereof Christ hath promised the contrary as is proved in the
chapter before.
"Surely, sir" quoth he, "that God made not his church for a while,
but to endure till the world's end, that is there is no Christian man but

he will well agree. And since his church cannot stand without
faith, which is the entry into Christendom -- for as Saint Paul saith,
"Accedentem ad deum oportet credere"
(Whoso will come to God must needs
believe) -- no man will deny but that faith
is and always shall be in his church. And that his church not in faith
only and the knowledge of the truths necessary to be known for
our soul's health, but also to the doing of good works and avoiding
of evils, is, hath been, and ever shall be specially guided and
governed by God and by the secret inspiration of his Holy Spirit."
"Well," quoth I then, "if the church have faith, it erreth not in
"That is truth," quoth he.
"It should err," quoth I, "if it believed not all the truths that we be
bound to believe."
"What else?" quoth he.
"What and we believed," quoth I, "all that is true, and over that some
other thing not only false, but also displeasant to God, did we
not then err in our necessary belief?"
"Whereby mean you that?" quoth he.
"As thus," quoth I, "if that one believed in all the three persons of the
Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and therewith were
persuaded that there were a fourth person besides, equal and one God
with them."
"He must," quoth he, "needs err in his necessary belief, by which he is
bound to believe in the Trinity. And that fellow believeth in a
"That is," quoth I, "the whole Trinity and one more."
"But we be not only not bound," quoth he, "to believe in any more,
but also bound not to believe in any more."
"Very well," quoth I, "then erreth he as much and as far lacketh his
right belief that believeth too much, as he that believeth too little; and he
that believeth something that he should not as he that believeth not something
that he should."
"What else," quoth he, "and what then?"
"Marry, this," quoth I, "if we believe that it were lawful and well done to

pray to saints, and to reverence their images, and do honor
to their relics, and visit pilgrimages. And then where we do
these things they were indeed not well done, but were displeasant
to God, and by him reputed as a diminishment and a withdrawing of
the honor due to himself, and therefore before his majesty reproved
and odious and taken as idolatry, were not this opinion
a deadly pestilent error in us, and a plain lack of right faith?"
"Yes, before God," quoth he.
"But ye grant," quoth I, "that the church cannot err in the right
faith necessary to be believed, which is given and always kept in
the church by God."
"Truth," quoth he.
"Then followeth it," quoth I, "that the church in that it believeth saints
to be prayed unto, relics and images to be worshipped, and pilgrimages
to be visited and sought, is not deceived nor doth not err,
but that the belief of the church is true therein. And thereupon also
followeth that the wonderful works done above nature at such
images and pilgrimages, at holy relics by prayers made unto
saints, be not done by the devil to delude the church of Christ
therewith, since the thing that the church doth is well done and not
idolatry. But by the great honor done unto saints, God himself
the more highly honored, in that his servants have so much
honor for his sake. And thereof followeth it that himself maketh
the miracles in comprobation thereof.
"Also, if it be true that ye have granted, that God keepeth and ever
shall keep in his church the right faith and right belief by the help
of his own hand that planted it, then can it not be that he
shall suffer the devil to work wonders like unto his own miracles
to bring his whole church into a wrong faith. And then if those
things be not done by the devil, I trow ye will not then deny
but they be done by God. And so is yet again our purpose double
proved. First, in that ye grant that God will not suffer his church to
err in his right faith; secondly, which pursueth thereupon, by that
he hath by many a visible miracle declared that this faith and manner
of observance is very pleasant and acceptable unto him, which

miracles, since they be proved to be done upon good ground and
cause, appear well to be done by God and not by our ghostly enemy.
The Twentieth Chapter
The messenger allegeth that the perpetual being and
assistance of Christ with his church to keep it out of all
damnable errors is nothing else but his being with his
church in holy scripture; whereof the author declareth the
"How think you," quoth I, "is there anything in this matter amiss?"
"I cannot well tell," quoth he, "what I might answer thereto. But yet
methink that I come to this point by some oversight in granting."
"Well," quoth I, "men say sometimes when they would say or do a
thing and cannot well come thereon but miss and oversee themselves
in the assay: "It maketh no matter," they say, "ye may begin
again and mend it, for it is neither Mass nor matins." And albeit
in this matter ye have nothing granted but that is in my mind
as true as the matins or the Mass either, yet if ye reckon yourself
over swift in granting, I give you leave to go back and call
again what ye will."
"In good faith," quoth he, "full hard were it in mine own mind
otherwise to think, but that God shall always keep the right belief
in his church. But yet since we come to this conclusion by the
granting thereof, let us look once again thereupon. And what if
men would say, as I heard once one say myself, that God doth
peradventure not keep always faith in his church, to give them
warning with, when they do well and when the contrary. But
since he hath given them and left with them the scripture, in
which they may sufficiently see both what they should believe,
and what they should do, he letteth them alone therewith, without
any other special cure of his, upon their faith and belief. For therein
they may see all that them needeth if they will look and labor
therein. And if they will not, the fault is their own sloth and folly.
And whoso be willing to mend and be better, may always have
light to see how by recourse to the reading of holy scripture, which

shall stand him in like stead, as ye said before, that God kept the
faith for, by his special means in his church."
"If this," quoth I, "were thus, whereof should Christ's promise serve,
"Ego vobiscum sum omnibus diebus usque
ad finem saeculi" (I am with you all the
days till the end of the world)? Wherefore should he be here with
his church if his being here should not keep his right faith and
belief in his church?"
"Marry," quoth he, "these words well agree withal. For God is and
shall be until the world's end with his church in his holy scripture.
As Abraham answered the rich man in
hell saying, "They have Moses and the
prophets," not meaning that they had them all at that time present
with them, but only that they had their books. And so Christ forasmuch
as the scripture hath his faith comprehended therein according
to his own words, "Scrutamini
scripturas, quia scripturae sunt quae
testimonium perhibent de me" (Search you the scriptures, for they
bear witness of me). Therefore he said, "Ego vobiscum sum usque ad
finem saeculi" (I am with you to the end of the world), because his
holy scripture shall never fail as long as the world endureth.
"Heaven and earth," saith he, "shall pass
away, but my words shall never pass
"And therefore in his holy writing is he with us still, and therein
he keepeth and teacheth us his right faith if we list to look for it,
and else as I said, our own fault and
folly it is."
"If God," quoth I, "be none otherwise with us but in holy scripture,
then be those words of Christ, "I am with you to the world's end,"
somewhat strangely spoken, and unlike the words of Abraham
whereunto ye resemble them. For Christ left never a book behind
him of his own making, as Moses did and the prophets. And in
their books he was spoken of, as he was in the Gospel. Wherefore if
he had spoken and meant of scripture he would have said that

they should have with them still his evangelists and writers of his
Gospels, as Abraham said they have Moses and the prophets,
which were the writers of the books that the Jews had. Christ
also said, "I am with you till the end of the world"; not "I shall be,"
but "I am," which is the word appropriated
to his godhead. And therefore that word
"am" is the name by which our Lord would, as he told Moses,
be named unto Pharaoh, as a name which
from all creatures, since they be all
subject to time, clearly discerneth his godhead, which is ever
being and present without difference of time past or to come.
In which wise he was not in his holy scripture, for that had
beginning. And at those words spoken, was not yet all written.
For of the chief part which is the New Testament, there was yet at
that time never one word written. And also we be not sure by any
promise made that the scripture shall endure to the world's end,
albeit I think verily the substance shall. But yet, as I say, promise
have we none thereof. For where our Lord
saith that his words shall not pass away,
nor one jot thereof be lost, he spoke of his promises made in deed,
as his faith and doctrine taught by mouth and inspiration. He
meant not that of his holy scripture in writing there should never a
jot be lost, of which some parts be already lost, more peradventure
than we can tell of. And of that we have the books in
some part corrupted with miswriting. And yet the substance
of those words that he meant be known, where some part of the
writing is unknown. He saith also that his Father and he should
send the Holy Ghost, and also that he would come himself, whereto
all this, if he meant no more but to leave the books behind them, and go
their way? Christ is also present among us bodily in the Holy
Sacrament, and is he there present with
us for nothing? The Holy Ghost taught
many things, I think, unwritten, and whereof some part was
never comprised in the scripture yet unto this day, as the article,
which no good Christian man will doubt of, that our blessed Lady
was a perpetual virgin as well after the birth of Christ as before.

"Our Savior also said unto his apostles that when they should
be accused and brought in judgment, they should not need to care
for answer, it should even then be put in their minds. And that he
meant not only the remembrance of holy scripture, which
before the paynim judges were but a cold and bare alleging, but
such words new given them by God, inspired in their hearts so
effectual, and confirmed with miracles, that their adversaries
though they were angry thereat, yet should not be able to resist it.
And thus with secret help and inspiration is Christ with his
church, and will be to the world's end present and assistant
-- not only spoken of in writing.
The Twenty-First Chapter
The author showeth that if it so were indeed as the
messenger said, that is to wit, that Christ continued with his
church none otherwise but only by the leaving of his holy
scripture to them, and that all the faith also were only
therein; then should it yet follow that, as far as the necessity of
our salvation requireth, God giveth the church the right
understanding thereof. And thereupon followeth further that
the church cannot err in the right faith. Whereupon is inferred
eftsoon all that the messenger would have fled from
before. And thereon also especially followeth that all the texts
of holy scripture which heretics allege against images,
or any point of that common belief of Christ's Catholic
Church, can nothing serve their purpose.
"But now would I wit, since ye reckon him none otherwise present
than in holy scripture, whether then doth he give his church the
right understanding of holy scripture or not?"
"What if he do not?" quoth he.
"Marry," quoth I, "then yourself seeth well that they were as well

without. And so should the scripture stand them in as good stead
as a pair of spectacles should stand a blind frere."
"That is very truth," quoth he. "But therefore hath his wisdom and
goodness provided it so to be written, that it may be well understood
by the collation and consideration of one text with another."
"May it not also be," quoth I, "that some of them which do read it
diligently, and diligently compare and consider every text how
it may stand with other, may yet for all that mistake and misunderstand
"Yes," quoth he, "it may be so. For else had there not been so many
heretics as there hath been."
"Very truth," quoth I. "But now if all the faith be in holy scripture,
and no part thereof anywhere else, but that it must be therein altogether
learned, were it then sufficient to understand some part aright,
and some other part wrong, in the necessary points of
our faith, or must we as far forth as concerneth the necessity thereof
misunderstand no part?"
"We must," quoth he, "mistake no part, as far as necessarily concerneth
our faith. But we must have so the right understanding
of all together, that we conceive no damnable error."
"Well said," quoth I, "then, if we must, we may. For if we may not
we must not. For our Lord bindeth no man to an impossibility."
"We may," quoth he.
"If we may," quoth I, "then may we either by good hap fall into the
right understanding, or else by natural reason come to it, or else by
supernatural grace be led into it."
"That is truth," quoth he, "needs must it be one of these ways."
"Well," quoth I, "we will not ensearch which. But I would first
wit whether Christ have a church in the world continually and
so shall have to the world's end, or else hath one sometimes, and
sometimes none at all? As we might think that he had one while
he was here himself, and peradventure a while after, and haply
none at all never since, nor shall not again we wot ne'er when."
"Nay," quoth he, "that cannot be in no wise but that he must needs
have his church continue still somewhere; for else how could he

be with them continually to the world's end, in scripture or otherwise,
if they, with whom he promised to be and continue to the
world's end, should not continually so long endure? Or how
could those words of Christ be true,
"Lo, I am with you all the days to the
world's end," if before the world's end he were away some
days, as he were indeed from the church some days, if in some
days he had no church."
"Well," quoth I, "yet would I wit one thing more. Can he have a
church without faith?"
"Nay," quoth he, "that were impossible."
"Forsooth," quoth I, "so were it. For his
church is a congregation of people
gathered into his faith. And faith is the
first substantial difference discerning
Christian men from heathen, as reason is the difference dividing man
from all the kinds of brute beasts. Now, then, if his church be, and
ever shall be continual, without any times between in which there
shall be none, and without faith it may never be, and no part of the
faith is, as ye say elsewhere, had but in holy scripture, and all it
must be had; and also, as we were agreed a little while before, there
must be none error adjoined thereto, and therefore as far as
toucheth the necessity of faith, no part of scripture may be mistaken,
but all must be understood right, and may be right understood
either by hap, reason, or help of grace, it necessarily
followeth that by one or other of these ways the church of Christ hath
always and never faileth the right understanding of scripture, as
far as longeth for our necessity."
"That followeth indeed," quoth he.
"Well," quoth I, "let pass for the while what followeth further.
And since the church so hath, let us first agree by which of these
three ways the church hath it, whether by hap, reason or grace."
"By hap," quoth he, "were a poor having. For so might it hap to
have and hap to fail."

"Then," quoth I, "since it hath it ever, it cannot be by hap; what
think you then of reason?"
"As little," quoth he, "as any man thinketh. For I take reason for
plain enemy to faith."
"Ye take, peradventure, wrong," quoth I. "But thereof shall we see
further after. But now since ye so think, ye leave but the third
way, which is the help of grace."
"No, surely," quoth he.
"Verily," quoth I, "where reason may
between divers texts stand in great doubt which way to lean, I
think that God with his Holy Spirit leadeth his church into the consent
of his truth. As himself said that the Holy Ghost, whom he
would send, should lead them into all
truth. He said not that the Holy Ghost
should at his coming write them all truth, nor tell them all the
whole truth by mouth, but that he should by secret inspiration lead
them into all truth. And therefore, surely, for a true conclusion in
such means, by God himself, by the help of his grace (as yourself
granteth), the right understanding of scripture is ever
preserved in his church from all such mistaking whereof might
follow any damnable error concerning the faith. And thereof doth
there first follow that, besides the scripture self, there is another
present assistance and special cure of God, perpetual with his
church, to keep it in the right faith, that it err not by misunderstanding
of holy scripture; contrary to the opinion that ye
purposed when ye said that Christ's being with his church was
only the leaving of his holy scripture to us. And over this, if God
were no otherwise present than ye speak of, yet since it is proved
that his church, for all that, ever hath the right understanding
of scripture, we be come to the same point again, that ye
would so fain flit from. For if the scripture, and nothing but the
scripture, doth contain allthing that we be bound to believe,

and to do, and to forbear, and that God also therefore provideth for
his church the right understanding thereof concerning
everything necessary for us that is contained in scripture, then
must there needs follow thereupon the thing that ye feared lest
ye had wrong and unadvisedly granted, that is to wit, that
God always keepeth the right faith in his church. And thereupon followeth
further the remnant of all that is in question between us,
that the faith of the church in the worship that it believeth to be
well given unto saints, relics, and images, is not erroneous, but
right. And thereupon followeth also that the miracles done at such
places be none illusions of damned spirits but the mighty
hand of God, to show his pleasure in the corroboration thereof,
and in the excitation of our devotion thereto."
"Indeed," quoth he, "we be come back here with going forward,
as men walk in a maze."
"Ye have not yet," quoth I, "lost all that labor. For though ye have
half a check in this point, yet have ye, if ye perceive it, mated
me in another point by one thing that is agreed between us
"What is that?" quoth he.
"This," quoth I, "that I have agreed as well as you that God hath
given his church the right understanding of scripture in as far forth
as longeth to the necessity of salvation."
"In what point," quoth he, "hath that mated you?"
"Why," quoth I, "see you not that? Nay then will I not tell you but if
ye hire me; or if I tell you, yet shall ye not win the game thereby.
For since ye see it not yourself it is but a blind mate."
"Let me know it yet," quoth he, "and I am agreed to take none
advantage thereof."
"On that bargain be it," quoth I.
"Ye wot well," quoth I, "that against the worshipping of images,
and praying to saints, ye laid certain texts of scripture to
prove it forbidden and reputed of God for idolatry. For answer
whereof, when I laid that men must lean to the sentence that the
church and holy doctors of the church give to those texts, ye

said they were but men's false glosses
against God's true texts. And now
since ye grant, and I also, that the church
cannot misunderstand the scripture to the hindrance of the
right faith in things of necessity, and that ye also acknowledge
this matter to be such, that it must either be the right belief
and acceptable service to God or else a wrong and erroneous
opinion and plain idolatry, it followeth of necessity that the
church doth not misunderstand those texts that ye or any
other can allege and bring forth for that purpose; but that
all these texts be so to be taken and understood as they
nothing make against the church, but all against your own
opinion in this matter.
"And thus have ye suddenly answered yourself, to all those texts
out of hand, with a gloss of your own, as true as any text in the
Bible, and which all the world will never void except they would
make the scripture serve the church of naught, or rather to their
hindrance than furtherance in the faith. For so were it if it
might be that God giveth them not the good understanding
thereof but suffereth them to be deceived and deluded in errors
by the mistaking of the letter."
"Marry," quoth he, "this is a blind mate indeed."
"Surely," quoth I, "these two things seem to me two as true points,
and as plain to a Christian man, as any petition of Euclid's geometry
is to a reasonable man. For as true as it is that every whole
thing is more than his own half, as true is it indeed and to
every Christian man faith maketh it as certain.
"First, that Christ's church cannot err
in any such article as God upon pain
of loss of heaven will that we believe. And
thereupon necessarily followeth that there is no text of scripture,
well understood, by which Christian people are commanded to do
the thing which the church believeth that they may lawfully
leave undone, nor any text whereby we be forbidden anything
which the church believeth that they may lawfully do.

The Twenty-Second Chapter
Because the messenger had in the beginning showed himself
desirous and greedy upon the text of scripture, with
little force of the old fathers' glosses, and with dispraise
of philosophy and almost all the seven liberal sciences,
the author therefore incidently showeth what harm hath
happed sometimes to fall to divers of those young men whom
he hath known to give their study to the scripture only,
with contempt of logic and other secular science, and little
regard of the old interpreters. Wherefore the author showeth
that in the study of scripture the sure way is, with virtue and
prayer, first to use the judgment of natural reason, whereunto
secular literature helpeth much. And secondly, the
comments of holy doctors. And thirdly, above allthing,
the articles of the Catholic faith received and believed
through the church of Christ.
"And for because we speak of scripture now, and that the church
in things needly requisite to salvation hath the right understanding
of holy scripture, wherein I perceive ye be studious of the text
alone, without great force of the old fathers' interpretations, or any
other science, of which ye reckon all seven (save grammar) almost to
serve for naught. I have of you so good opinion, that I trust all
your study shall turn you to good. But surely I have seen to some
folk so much harm to grow thereof, that I never would advise
any man else in the study of the scripture to take that way."
"Why so?" quoth he.
"For I have known," quoth I, "right good wits, that hath set all
other learning aside, partly for sloth refusing the labor and
pain to be sustained in that learning, partly for pride by which
they could not endure that redargution that should sometimes fall
to their part in dispicions. Which affections, their inward
secret favor toward themselves covered and cloaked under the

pretext of simplicity and good Christian devotion borne to the
love of holy scripture alone. But in little while after, the damnable
spirit of pride that, unaware to themselves, lurked in their hearts,
hath begun to put out his horns and show himself. For then
have they longed under the praise of holy scripture to set out to
show their own study. Which, because they would have seem the
more to be set by, they have first fallen to the dispraise and derision
of all other disciplines. And because in speaking or preaching of
such common things as all Christian men know they could not
seem excellent, nor make it appear and seem that in their study
they had done any great mastery, to show themselves, therefore,
marvelous, they set out paradoxes and strange opinions
against the common faith of Christ's whole church. And because they
have therein the old holy doctors against them, they fall to the
contempt and dispraise of them, either preferring their own
fond glosses against the old cunning and blessed fathers' interpretations,
or else lean to some words of holy scripture, that seem
to say for them against many more texts that plainly make against
them, without receiving or ear-giving to any reason or authority
of any man quick or dead, or of the whole church of Christ to the
contrary. And thus once proudly persuaded a wrong way, they
take the bridle in the teeth and run forth like a headstrong
horse that all the world cannot pluck them back. But with
sowing sedition, setting forth of errors and heresies, and
spicing their preaching with rebuking of priesthood and
prelacy for the people's pleasure, they turn many a man to ruin
and themselves also. And then the devil deceiveth them in their
blind affections.
"They take for good zeal to the people their malicious envy. And
for a great virtue their ardent appetite to preach, wherein they
have so great pride for the people's praise, that preach I ween they
would, though God would his own mouth command them the
"Why should ye ween so," quoth he, "or whereby can ye be sure that ye

do not now misconstrue their good mind? Hard is it oft-times to
judge another man's deed that hath some appearance of evil
because the purpose and intent may make it good. And what peril
is it then where the deed appeareth good there to judge the mind and
intent for naught, which who can see but God? As the scripture
saith, "Dominus autem intuetur cor" (Only
God beholdeth the heart). And therefore
saith our Savior, "Judge not before the time."
"I judge not," quoth I, "but upon open things and well apparent. For
I speak but of those whose erroneous opinions in their preaching,
and their obstinate pride in the defense of their worldly worship,
well declareth their minds. And some have I seen, which when
they have for their perilous preaching been by their prelates
prohibited to preach, have, that notwithstanding, proceeded on
still. And for the maintenance of their disobedience have
amended the matter with a heresy, boldly and stubbornly
defending that since they had cunning to preach they were by
God bound to preach. And that no man nor no law that was made
or could be made had any authority to forbid them. And this
they thought sufficiently proved by the words of the Apostle,
"Oportet magis oboedire Deo quam hominibus."
As though these men were apostles
now specially sent by God to preach heresies and sow sedition
among Christian men as the very apostles were indeed sent
and commanded by God to preach his very faith to the Jews.
One of this sort of this new kind of preachers being demanded
why that he used to say in his sermons about, that nowadays
men preached not well the Gospel, answered that he thought so
because he saw not the preachers persecuted, nor no strife nor
business arise upon their preaching. Which things, he said and
wrote, was the fruit of the Gospel because
Christ said, "Non veni pacem mittere sed
gladium" (I am not come to send peace into the world but the
sword). Was not this a worshipful understanding, that because
Christ would make a division among infidels, from the remnant
of them to win some, therefore these apostles would sow some
cockle of dissension among the Christian people whereby Christ might

lose some of them? For the fruit of strife
among the hearers, and persecution of the
preacher, cannot lightly grow among
Christian men, but by the preaching of some strange novelties, and
bringing up of some newfangled heresies to the infection of our
old faith.
"One wist I that was for his pertinacity in that opinion that he
would and might and was bound to preach -- any prohibition notwithstanding --
when he was after divers bold and open defense
thereof, at last before folk honorable and few reasoned withal,
and not only the law showed him to the contrary of his opinion,
which law was made at a general council, but also by plain
authority of holy scripture proved that his opinion was erroneous,
he so perceived himself satisfied, that he meekly acknowledged his
error, and offered to abjure it and to submit himself to penance.
But on the morrow when he came forth in the open presence of the
people, and there saw many that had often heard him preach, of his
secret pride, he fell in such an open passion of shame that those
should hear him go back with his word, which had before had
his sermons in great estimation, that, at the first sight of the people,
revoked his revocation, and said out aloud that he might well
be heard, that his opinion was true, and that he was the day
before deceived in that he had confessed it for false. And thus he
held his own stubbornly, without reason, till the books were
showed him again, and himself read them before all the people,
so that he perceived the audience that stood about him to feel
and understand his proud folly in the defense of his indefensible
error. And thereupon at the last yielded himself again. Such
secret pride had our ghostly enemy conveyed into the heart of him,
which, I ensure you, seemed in all his other outward manner as meek
a simple soul as a man should have seen in a summer's day. And some
of them let not with lies and perjury to defend themselves, and
some to stand in defense of their errors or false denying of their
own deed, to their great peril of the fire, if their judges were
not more merciful than their malice deserveth. And all this
done because, as themselves doth at last confess, they think if they
abjure they shall after be suffered to preach again. Such a scabbed

itch of vainglory catch they in their preaching that, though all the
world were the worse for it and their own life lie thereon, yet
would they long to be pulpited. And this I say hath come of some
that have with contempt of all other learning given them to
scripture alone. Whose affections of pride and sloth hath not in
the beginning been perceived to themselves but have accounted
their vices for devotion."
"Would ye then," quoth he, "condemn that manner of study by which
a man hath so great affection to the scripture alone that he, for the
delight thereof, feeleth little savor in anything else, but that we
should lose time in philosophy, the mother of heresies, and let
scripture alone?"
"Nay," quoth I, "that mind am I not of.
There was never thing written in this
world that can in any wise be comparable
with any part of holy scripture. And yet I think other
liberal science a gift of God also, and not to be cast away, but
worthy to wait and as handmaids to give attendance upon
divinity. And in this point I think not thus alone. For ye shall
find Saint Jerome, Saint Augustine, Saint Basil, and many of the
old holy doctors open and plain of the same opinion. And of
divinity reckon I the best part to be contained in holy scripture.
And this I say for him that shall have time thereto, and from
youth intendeth to the churchward, and to make himself with
God's help meet for the office of a preacher. Howbeit if any man
either happen to begin so late, that he shall peradventure have no
time thereto, or else any man of youth to have that fervent
appetite unto scripture, that he cannot find in his heart to read
anything else -- which affection whoso happeth to have given
him is very fortunate if he with grace
and meekness guide it well -- then would I
counsel him especially to study for the virtuous framing of his
own affections, and using great moderation and temperance in
the preaching to other men. And in allthing to flee the desire of
praise and show of cunning, ever mistrusting his own inclinations,

and live in dread and fear of the devil's subtle sleight
and inventions. Who though he lie in a continual await upon
every preacher to catch him into pride if he can, yet his highest
enterprise and proudest triumph standeth in the bringing
of a man to the most abuse of that thing that is of his own nature
the best. And therefore great labor maketh he and great boast if
he bring it about that a good wit may abuse his labor
bestowed upon the study of holy scripture.
"For the sure avoiding whereof, my poor advice were in the
study thereof, to have a special regard to the writings and
comments of old holy fathers. And yet ere he fall in hand with
the one or the other -- next grace and help of God to be gotten with
abstinence and prayer and cleanness of living -- before allthing
were it necessary to come well and surely instructed in all such
points and articles as the church believeth. Which things once
firmly had, and fastly for undoubted truths presupposed, then
shall reason and they be two good rules to examine and expound all
doubtful texts by, since the reader shall be sure that no text is so to be
understood as it standeth against them both, or against any
point of the Catholic faith of Christ's church. And therefore if it
seem to stand against any of them, either shall the light of natural
reason, with the collation of other texts, help to find out the
truth, or else (which is the surest way) he shall perceive the truth
in the comments of the good holy doctors of old to whom God
hath given the grace of understanding. Or finally, if all that he can
either find in other men's works, or invent by God's aid of
his own study, cannot suffice to satisfy but that any text yet
seem unto him contrary to any point of the church's faith and
belief, let him then, as Saint Augustine saith, make himself
very sure that there is some fault either in the translator, or in the
writer, or nowadays in the printer; or finally that for some
one let or other he understandeth it not aright.
And so let him reverently acknowledge
his ignorance, lean and cleave to the
faith of the church as to an undoubted truth, leaving that text

to be better perceived when it shall please our Lord with his light
to reveal and disclose it. And in this wise shall he take a sure way,
by which he shall be sure of one of two things, that is to wit,
either to perceive and understand the scripture right; or else, at
the leastwise, never in such wise to take it wrong that ever may
turn his soul to peril."
The Twenty-Third Chapter
The messenger objecteth against the counsel of the
author in that he would that the student of scripture
should lean to the commenters and unto natural reason,
which he calleth enemy to faith. And thereupon the
answer of the author to those objections, especially
proving that reason is servant to faith and not enemy,
and must with faith and interpretation of scripture needs
be concurrent.
"Sir," quoth he, "I will not say nay but this way will do well. Howbeit
I fear me that we were likely to build up many errors, if we
square our timber and stones by these three rules -- men's glosses,
reason, and faith -- not that we find in scripture, but that we bring
with us to scripture. For first, as for the commenters that ye speak of,
either their comments tell us the same tale that the text doth,
or else another. If they tell me the same, I believe them only because
the text saith the same. And if they tell me another, then believe
I them not at all, nor naught I should, except I should believe men
better than God. And as for reason, what greater enemy can ye find
to faith than reason is, which counterpleadeth faith in every
point. And would ye then send them twain forth to school together
that can never agree together, but be ready to fight together, and
either scratch out other's eyes by the way? It seemeth also somewhat
strange that when God hath left us in his holy scripture well and
sufficiently his doctrine whereby he would we should have

warning of all such thing as he would we should believe and
do or leave undone, and hath left us the
scripture for none other cause but for that
it should stand unto us for the witness of his will declared us by
writing, that we should not say nay but we were warned, and none other
cause why the scripture should be given us but to tell us his pleasure
and stir us to fulfill it, we shall now not shape our faith after the
scripture, but first frame us a faith ourselves, and then shape the
scripture of God thereby, and make it agree thereto. This were indeed a
good easy way for a slothful mason that were an evil workman
to make him a square and a ruler of lead, that when he list not to
take the labor to hew the stone to the square, he may bend the
square to the stone; and so shall he yet bring them together at the
least ways."
"As for the old commenters," quoth I, "they tell you the same tale
that the text doth, but they tell it you more plain, as we shall more
talk of after. But surely ye beguiled me now in that ye set reason so
short; for verily I would never have weened that ye would in scripture
like worse a wise man than an unreasonable reader. Nor I cannot see
why ye should reckon reason for an enemy to faith, except ye reckon
every man for your enemy that is your better and hurteth you not. Thus
were one of your five wits enemy to another. And our feeling should
abhor our sight because we may see farther by four miles than we
may feel. How can reason -- but if reason be unreasonable -- have more
disdain to hear the truth of any point of faith than to see the
proof of many things natural whereof reason can no more attain
to that cause than it can in the articles of the faith. But still for any
power that reason hath to perceive the cause, she shall judge it impossible
after she prove it true but if she believe her eye better than
her wit.
"When ye see the adamant stone draw
iron to it, it grieveth not reason to look
thereon; but reason hath a pleasure to behold the thing that passeth
her power to perceive. For it is as plain against the rule of reason

that a heavy body should move alone any other motion than downward,
or that any bodily thing should draw another without
touching, as is any article of the faith. Nor never was there yet
cause by reason assigned that men may perceive for probable, but
only that it is a secret property of the stone, which is as much to
say as I wot ne'er what. And yet, as I say, reason can believe that
thing well enough, and be not angry therewith nor strive against it.
And yet all the rules that ever she learned tell her still that it may not
"Yea," quoth he, "but a man's own eyes tell him that it may be. And
that must needs content him."
"May a man then better trust his eyes," quoth I, "than his wit?"
"Yea, marry," quoth he, "what may he better trust than his eyes?"
"His eyes may," quoth I, "be deceived and ween they see that they see
not, if reason give over his hold; except ye think the juggler blow
his galls through the goblet's bottom, or cut your girdle before your
face in twenty pieces and make it whole again, and put a knife into his eye
and see never the worse, and turn a plum into a dog's turd in a
boy's mouth."
Now happened it madly that even with this word came one of
my folk and asked whether they should make ready for dinner.
"Abide," quoth I, "let us have better meat first." And therewith your
friend and I began to laugh.
"Well," quoth I, "make none haste yet for a little while." And so went
he his way half out of countenance, weening that he had done or
said somewhat like a fool, as he was one that was not very wise indeed,
and wont so to do. And then said I to your friend, "Now ye
see that reason is not so proud a dame as ye take her for. She seeth
done indeed by nature that she cannot perceive how, and is well
contented therewith. She seeth a fond fellow deceive her sight and
her wit therewith and taketh it well and merrily, and is not angry
that the juggler will not teach every man his craft. And ween ye then
that she will take it so highly that God himself, her master and
maker, should do what him list, and then tell her what, and tell her not
how? I pray you," quoth I, "that our Lord was born of a virgin, how
know you?"

"Marry," quoth he, "by scripture."
"How know you," quoth I, "that ye should believe the scripture?"
"Marry," quoth he, "by faith."
"Why," quoth I, "what doth faith tell you therein?"
"Faith," quoth he, "telleth me that holy scripture is things of truth
written by the secret teaching of God."
"And whereby know you," quoth I, "that ye should believe God?"
"Whereby?" quoth he. "This is a strange question. Every man," quoth he,
"may well wit that."
"That is truth," quoth I, "but is there any horse or any ass that
wotteth that?"
"None," quoth he, "that I wot of, but if
Balaam's ass anything understood thereof.
For he spoke like a good reasonable ass."
"If no brute beast can wit that," quoth I, "and every man may, what
is the cause why that man may, and other beasts may not?"
"Marry," quoth he, "for man hath reason and they have none."
"Ah, well then," quoth I, "reason must he needs have, then, that shall
perceive what he should believe. And so must reason not resist
faith but walk with her, and as her handmaid so wait upon
her, that as contrary as ye take her, yet of a truth faith goeth
never without her. But likewise as if a
maid be suffered to run on the bridle, or
be cup-shot, or wax too proud, she
will then wax copious and chop logic with her masters,
and fare sometimes as she were frantic: so if reason be suffered to
run out at riot, and wax over high-hearted and proud, she will
not fail to fall in rebellion toward her master's faith. But on
the other side, if she be well brought up and well guided and kept
in good temper, she shall never disobey faith, being in her right
mind. And therefore let reason be well guided, for surely faith goeth
never without her.
"Now in the study of scripture, in devising upon the sentence,
in considering what ye read, in pondering the purpose of divers
comments, in comparing together divers texts that seem contrary
and be not, albeit I deny not but that grace and God's special

help is the great thing therein, yet useth he for an instrument
man's reason thereto. God helpeth us to eat also, but yet not without
our mouth. Now as the hand is the more nimble by the use of some
feats; and the legs and feet more swift and sure by custom of
going and running; and the whole body the more wieldy and lusty
by some kind of exercise; so is it no doubt, but that reason is by
study, labor, and exercise of logic,
philosophy, and other liberal arts corroborate
and quickened, and the judgment
both in them, and also in orators, laws and stories, much
ripened. And albeit poets be with many men taken but for painted
words, yet do they much help the judgment, and make a man
among other things well furnished of one especial thing,
without which all learning is half lame."
"What is that?" quoth he.
"Marry," quoth I, "a good mother wit. And therefore are in mine
opinion these Lutherans in a mad mind, that would now
have all learning save scripture only clean cast away; which
things, if the time will serve, be as methinketh to be taken and had,
and with reason brought, as I said before, into the service of divinity.
And as holy Saint Jerome saith, "The
Hebrews well despoil the Egyptians,
when Christ's learned men take out of the pagan writers the riches
and learning and wisdom that God gave unto them and employ the
same in the service of divinity about the profit of God's chosen
children of Israel, the church of Christ, which he hath of the
hard stony paynims made the children of Abraham."
The Twenty-Fourth Chapter
The messenger maketh objections against the author
in that he counseled the student of scripture to bring the
articles of our faith with him for a special rule to construe
the scripture by. And the author confirmeth his counsel
given in that behalf, declaring that without that rule

men may soon fall into great errors in the study of holy
With this your friend held, as he said, himself somewhat
content that reason was not so great an enemy to faith as she
seemed. But yet he thought that she should have need rather to
be well bridled, than to bear much rule in the interpretation of
scripture. But as for the other point, that we should needs bring the
faith with us all ready, as a rule to learn the scripture by, when we
come to the scripture to learn the faith by, that thing he thought in
no wise convenient, but a thing, he said, much like as if we would
go make the cart to draw the horse.
"Well," quoth I, "we shall see anon whether the cart draw the horse
or the horse the cart. Or whether we be yet haply so blind that
we see not well which is the cart, which is the horse.
"First," quoth I, "tell me how old would ye that one were ere he come
to the study of scripture?"
"By my faith," quoth he, "I would have a Christian man's child begin
therein very young and therein continue all his life."
"In good faith," quoth I, "that like I not amiss, so that ye do not
mean that ye would have him all his life learn nothing else. And
yet that could I suffer too and allow right well in some. But yet if he did
never in his life learn aught else, how old think ye that he
should be ere he learned the articles of his belief in the Bible?"
"I cannot readily tell," quoth he, "for I have not seen it assayed."
"Well," quoth I, "since we be not sure how long it would be in learning
there, were it not best then that for that while he were taught his
Creed before in his own mother tongue?"
"I deny not that," quoth he, "that he should con his Creed before,
because every Christian man's child by the law should know his
faith as soon as he could, but I say he should not therewith take
upon him to judge and examine holy scripture thereby."

"Well," quoth I, "let this Christian child of ours alone for a while. And
let us consider if there were a good old idolater that never had
heard in all his life anything of our belief, or of other god than
only the man in the moon, whom he had watched and worshipped
every frosty night. If this man might suddenly have that whole Bible
turned into his own tongue and read it over, think ye that he
should thereby learn all the articles of the faith?"
"I think," quoth he, "that he might."
"Think ye so?" quoth I. "I put case that he believed that all the book
were lies."
"Marry," quoth he, "that may he by the book itself learn the
contrary. For the book in telling its tale affirmeth its tale and
teacheth it to be true."
"Ye say very truth," quoth I, "if it were all one to read a thing and
learn a thing. But now might there be another book made also with
less wonders and fewer and thereby less unlikely, and yet all
untrue. And how should his mind give him then that this book,
telling so incredible wonders, should be true?"
"Nay," quoth he, "that thing must he needs believe, or else he can
perceive nothing."
"Well," quoth I, "then is there one point of faith, one great lesson to be
learned without the book that must be learned somewhere, either by
God or man, or else the whole book will do us little service. And of
whom we shall learn that, we shall see hereafter. But now suppose that
this old idolater were thoroughly persuaded in his mind that all the
book were true, think you then that he should find out therein all
the articles of our faith?"
"I think," quoth he, "that he should."
"Think ye so?" quoth I. "Be it so then. But think ye that he shall
find them out all in a week?"
"Nay," quoth he, "that can he not do."
"Well," quoth I then, "since he shall not at the leastwise find them
out all on a day, let us leave him a little while in seeking, and we
shall return again after to him and look what he shall have found.
And in the mean season we shall go look again upon our good
little godson, the boy, pardie, that we christened right now, and

taught him his Creed and set him to scripture. Were it need that
this child knew no more of his faith but his Creed before he go
to the scripture?"
"Methinketh," quoth he, "that it were enough."
"Be it so then," quoth I.
"What if it should fortune him to find some text of scripture
that should seem to him to be contrary to his Creed. As for example,
if he happened upon the reading of these
words, "Dii estis et filii excelsi omnes"
(Gods be ye all and the children of the high God), what if he would
ween that since in these words it is said all good men be the children
of God, our Savior Christ were not God's only-begotten Son,
but his Son in such wise as God by the Prophet calleth all good
"That could he not think," quoth he, "for he should in other parts
of scripture find many places that should show him well the
"Well said," quoth I, "and very truth. But now in the meantime,
will ye that he shall believe as that text shall seem to sound to
him against his Creed, till he have found another text in
scripture that answereth it, and seemeth to him to say more
plainly the contrary?"
"Nay," quoth he, "not one hour. For he
seeth that though other good men be
called God's children and gods, yet
as they be not very gods, so be they not God's very natural
children by generation, but by acceptation, whereas the Creed
saith of our Savior that he is God's only-begotten Son,
that signifieth him to be his Son by generation."
"That is," quoth I, "very true, and well and reasonably considered,
and according unto the very right faith. But now consider that ye
make him by and by fall to the squaring of his stones, like that
slothful mason that ye spoke of with his leaden rule. For now ye make
him to examine the truth of this text of the psalm by the article
of the faith which he brought with him, and by a collection and
discourse of reason. And so forthwith ye find both these rules

necessary to the discussion of scripture. Of which twain ye would
in the beginning admit neither nother.
"But now go further. What if he would upon this text, "Homines
et iumenta salvabis Deus" (God, thou shalt
save both man and beasts), ween that
beasts had immortal souls as men have, and that man and beast should
be both saved at last, and so that no deadly sin should be
punished with everlasting pain, till he came to other texts that
should prove well the contrary -- were that best? Or else were it better
that besides his Creed he had knowledge before of these articles of our
faith, that only our souls be immortal, and not beasts' also; and that
the pain of hell shall be for sinners everlasting; and that he may
thereby, with reason joined thereto, perceive that this text, "Thou
shalt save both men and beasts," is meant by some other kind of
saving and preserving here in this world, and not of bringing both
to heaven?"
"All this may he know," quoth he, "by scripture self well enough."
"That wot I well," quoth I. "And yet as plain as Christ speaketh of
hell in the Gospel, Origen, for all that,
which neither was a naughty man nor
unlearned in scripture, could not so clearly see it but that he said
the contrary. And took the words of Christ in a wrong sense. And
would peradventure with one that would stick only upon the
words of scripture (leaving the right sense thereof, which God and
his Holy Spirit hath taught his church) bring him to a bay
therein, that he should be fain, not our child only but also a well
elderly man and in scripture well forward, to take him in conclusion
to the faith of Christ's church.
"Now if our child should read on the text of scripture, without
care of the comments, and without any further instruction
of the points of our faith than be specified in our common
Creed, made in the beginning as a brief
remembrance by the apostles, not
setting out in so short a thing and
clearly declaring all that we be bound to believe -- albeit that

he should well find in scripture many plain and open texts
whereby the godhead of our Savior, and his equality with his
Father may well and sufficiently be proved, yet were he not unlikely
by such other texts as seem to show him to be less than
his Father, to fall into the sect and heresy of the Arians. And
against those other texts, proving his equal godhead, to devise such
false glosses as they did. Whereas, being before taught and confirmed
by the faith of the church that our Savior is one God
and one equal substance with his Father, he shall well perceive and
understand thereby that all the texts that seem to make him
less be nothing to be understood of his godhead, but of his
manhood only. As when we commonly speak of ourselves and of
our own nature, and say we shall die and worms eat us up,
and turn all to dust, we mean all this by our body only, and
nothing intend thereby to deny the immortality of our
"We may not dine today if I should reckon you the tenth part
of such things as we must needs, upon loss of heaven, believe,
which neither our child with his only Creed (and much less
our old idolater without Creed) should so find out by scripture
but that they were both well likely to take the scripture to the
wrong part, except we take with us for a rule of interpretation
the articles of our faith."
The Twenty-Fifth Chapter
The author, taking occasion upon certain words of
the messenger, declareth the preeminence, necessity, and
profit of holy scripture, showing nevertheless that many
things have been taught by God without writing. And
many great things so remain yet unwritten of truths
necessary to be believed. And that the New Law of Christ is
the law so written in the heart that it shall never out of
his church. And that the law there written by God is a
right rule to interpret the words written in his holy
scripture. Which rule with reason and the old interpreters

the author showeth to be the very sure way to wade with
in the great stream of holy scripture.
"Why then," quoth he, "this were as much to say as that God had
not well written his holy scripture, if he have caused it to be written
so, as men may be so soon deceived therein that they were as
likely and (as it seemeth by you) more likely, to fall into a false way
than find out the true. And better were it then that God had not
given us the scripture at all, than to give us a way to walk
wherein we were more likely to sink than save our selves."
"Holy scripture," quoth I, "both is such as I have said, and yet
nothing followeth it thereupon that God hath not caused it to be
written well, or that it had been better to have kept it from us. And
albeit that in this point were a great occasion of a long tale, in
declaring and making open that God hath in that writing of holy
scripture used so high wisdom, and showed such a wonderful
temperance, that the very strange familiar fashion thereof may to
good men and wise well declare that, as it was written by men, so
was it indited by God; yet, passing over the praise, I will speak one
word or twain for the answer of such blame as ye lay thereto.
For it is almost a common thing among men so to speak sometimes
as though they could amend the works of God. And few men be
there, I ween, but they think that if they had been of God's counsel
in the making of the world, though they dare not be so bold
to say that they could have made it better, yet, if they might
have ruled it, he should have made many things of another
fashion. And for all that, if he would yet call us all to counsel, and
change nothing till we were upon everything all agreed,
the world were well likely till Doomsday to go forth on as it goeth
already, saving that I wot ne'er whether we would all agree to be
"But as for the scripture, shortly, God hath so devised it that he
hath given the world therein an inestimable treasure as the case
standeth. And yet we should haply nothing have needed thereof
if the wounds of our own folly had not of our great necessity, and
God's great goodness, required it. For at our creation he gave but

two precepts or three by his own holy mouth to our first parents.
And as for all that was for them to do besides, the reason which he
had planted in their souls gave them sufficient warning, whereof
the whole sum stood in effect, in the honor of God and God's
friends, with love of each to the other and to their offspring and
lineage. But the precepts that he gave by
mouth was three: twain commanding
generation and eating; the third forbidding
the tree of knowledge. And that was for them continual,
where the other twain albeit they were thereto bound by the
precept, yet were not they and their posterity bound
thereto at all hours and all places. But need was it in the beginning
to give them knowledge thereof, forasmuch as they had no
hunger to warn them of the one, nor sensual rebellious appetite
to warn them of the other. But after that they were by God once
admonished thereof, then did reason interpret the remnant,
whereby they wist that they should eat for conservation of their
bodies, and engender for propagation of their kind. And since
they perceived that these two things was the end and intent of
those commandments, they thereby consequently knew when
it was time and place and occasion convenient to fulfill them. But
when they had once at the subtle suasion of the devil broken the
third commandment in tasting the forbidden fruit, being then
expelled out of paradise, then, concerning their food and engendering,
not only reason often showed them what was honest and
profitable, but also sensuality, what was beastly and pleasant;
which sensuality labored so busily to cause man to set by delight
above good and convenient, that for the resistance thereof it then
became to be the spiritual business and occupation of man so to
preserve and bring up the body, that it
were not suffered to master the soul, and
so to rule and bridle sensuality, that it were
subject and obedient unto reason, as God willed the woman to be
subject and obediencer of man. Wherein God would that we were
learned rather to suffer our sensual parties plain and mourn,

than to follow their own hurt and ours too. As it had been
better for our father Adam and us all that he had suffered his
wife our mother Eve to be sad and angry both, and like a woman
to weep too, than to have eaten the apple for fellowship to please her
"Now did all the sin anon spring up for the more part upon
the occasion of feeding and engendering, whereof sprang covetousness,
gluttony, sloth, wrath, and lechery. And many times
pride and envy, as one perceiving himself in these things in
better condition or worse than another, so began to conceive a
setting by himself with contempt of other, or envy and hatred
to some other (saving that pride sometimes also sprang out of the
soul), and so liked itself that it envied the better as Cain did
Abel; and for to be the more set by, pride longed superfluously to
get by covetousness and greediness many folks' livings in his own
hands, to make other folks serve him and honor and hang
upon him for necessity.
"And of all these mischiefs was always sensuality ready to minister
matter, and by all the doors and windows
of the body, by feeling, tasting,
smelling, sight and hearing, ceased never to send in occasions
to the soul, nor the devil never ceased for his part diligently
to put forward. Against whom did reason resist, with good
counsel given to the soul; and good spirits, appointed by
God, gave their help also; and God assisted with his aid and
grace where he found the person willing to work therewith.
And in this manner continued man long time, not without
revelation of Christ once to come. Which faith delivered to
the father, went by the mouth to the son; and so from child
to child, heard and believed among them. And what so were
God's pleasure besides, that nature and reason could not plainly
show them, God of his goodness by special message gave them
undoubted knowledge; as he did to Noe, Lot, and Abraham,
and divers other, whereof some be since written and comprised
in scripture, and of likelihood not all. For well probable is it

that the patriarchs in divers things that they did, as in their divers
marriages and some such other things (as then were by them
well done for the time), were to them
appointed specially by God for causes
well-known to himself and unknown to us; and the things
now forbidden us, and therefore to us unlawful except God's
like ordinance or dispensation should hereafter in general or
particular be revealed to the contrary.
"But so was it after that the world waxing worse, right good and
virtuous lineages declined and decayed. And by the lewd conversation
of evil people fell by disorder in such a blindness, that albeit
some were there always that perceived well their duty, yet
were the common people of the children of Israel by custom of
sin so darked in their natural knowledge, that they lacked in
many things the right perceiving that reason -- had it not been
by evil custom corrupted -- might verily well have showed them.
For the remedy whereof, God of his endless mercy, by the law
written with his own finger unto Moses
in the tables of stone, by the Ten Commandments
put in remembrance again certain conclusions
of the law of nature, which their reason, overwhelmed with
sensuality, had then forgotten. And to the end that they should
keep his behests the better, he gave them
a great heap of the laws and ceremonies
more, to keep them in straitly for straying
abroad in riot. And wrought great wonders that they should well see
that those things were his own deed whereby they might have the
more dread to transgress them. And there in writing he gave a
warning also of Christ, that God would once send them one
springing of themselves, to whom they should give hearing instead
of Moses. Of whom also, as well before as after, by patriarchs
and prophets, by figures and prophecies, God ceased not in
such wise to foreshow his coming, his cause, his living, his

dying, his Resurrection, and his holy acts, that if pride and envy
had not letted it, the figures and prophecies set and compared
with his coming, conversation, and doings, might well have
made all the Jews to know him. And for the perceiving and good
understanding of the law written, he sent always some good men
whose words, well living, and sometimes also manifest miracles
showed therewith, never left them destitute of sufficient knowledge
that longed to learn the law. Not to plead it, and for glory to dispute
it, but to teach it again meekly. And, as man's frailty could
suffer it, specially to fulfill and keep it.
"Yet after all this, when the world was in a more decay and
ruin of all virtue, then came our Savior Christ to redeem us
with his death, and leave us his New Law, whereof was long before
prophesied by the prophet Jeremy,
"Lo, the days be coming," said our
Lord, "when I shall order and dispose to the house of Israel, and the
house of Juda, a new covenant or testament. I shall give my law
in their minds. And I shall write it in their heart. And I will be
their Lord, and they shall be my people." This law written in men's
hearts was, according to the words of the prophet, first brought
by our Savior to the house of Israel and
the house of Juda, to whom, as himself
saith, he was especially sent. "I am
not sent," saith our Lord, "but unto the sheep that are perished of the
house of Israel." And also he said, "It is not
good to take the bread from the board of the
children and cast it to dogs." But yet not only the ready towardness
of some paynims caused them to be partakers of that bread,
but also soon after the stubbornness and obstinate infidelity of
the Jews caused Saint Paul and the
apostles to say unto their face, "The
Gospel of Christ was ordained by God to be first preached unto you.
But since that ye refuse it, lo, we depart from you to the gentiles."
And so was in their stead the church gathered of all the world
abroad. All which notwithstanding, both were there at that time
out of the Jews converted and made many a good Christian man,

and many of the same people turned unto Christ since; and in conclusion,
the time shall come when the remnant that shall be
then left shall save themselves by the same faith.
"This is called the law of Christ's faith, the law of his Holy
Gospel. I mean not only the words written in the books of his
evangelists, but much more specially the substance of our faith
itself, which our Lord said he would write in men's hearts;
not only because of the secret operation of God and his Holy
Spirit in justifying the good Christian, either by the working with
man's good will to the perfection of faith in his soul, or with
the good intent of the offerers, to the secret infusion of that virtue
into the soul of an innocent infant; but also for that he first without
writing revealed those heavenly mysteries by his blessed mouth
through the ears of his apostles and disciples into their holy hearts;
or rather, as it seemeth, it was inwardly infused into Saint Peter's
heart, by the secret inspiration of God without either writing
or any outward word.
"For which cause, when he had, upon Christ's question demanding
"Of whom say you that I am?" answered and said:
"Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God, which art come
into this world."
Our Savior said again unto him,
"Thou art blessed, Simon the son of
Iohan; for neither flesh nor blood hath revealed and showed this
to thee, but my Father that is in heaven." And thus it appeareth that the
faith came into Saint Peter's heart, as
to the prince of the apostles, without
hearing, by secret inspiration, and into the remnant by his
confession and Christ's holy mouth. And
by them in like manner, first, without
writing, by only words and preaching,
so was it spread abroad in the world
that his faith was by the mouths of his holy messengers put into
men's ears, and by his holy hand written in men's hearts, ere ever
any word thereof almost was written in the book. And so was it

convenient for the law of life rather to be written in the lively
minds of men than in the dead skins of beasts. And I nothing
doubt but all had it so been that never Gospel had been written,
yet should the substance of this faith never have fallen out of Christian
folk's hearts; but the same Spirit that planted it, the same should
have watered it, the same should have kept it, the same should have
increased it.
"But so hath it liked our Lord, after his high wisdom, to provide
that some of his disciples have written many things of his holy
life, doctrine, and faith, and yet far from all, which (as Saint
John saith) the world could not have
"These books are tempered by the secret counsel of the Holy Ghost
so plain and simple, that every man may find in them that he
may perceive. And yet so high again
and so hard, that no man is there so
cunning but he may find in them things far above his reach,
far too profound to pierce unto. Now were to the Christian people
the points of Christ's faith (with which points our Lord would
have them charged) known, as I say, and planted before; and by
reason thereof they far the better understood those books. And
although there might haply be some texts which were not
yet of necessity for them to perceive, yet by the points of their
faith were they warned that no text might there be construed
contrary to their faith.
"And none evangelist was there, nor none apostle, that by
writing ever sent the faith to any nation but if they were
first informed by word, and that God had begun his church in
that place.
"And for my part, I would little doubt but that the evangelists
and apostles both of many great and secret mysteries spoke
much more openly and much more plainly by mouth among
the people than ever they put it in writing; forasmuch as their
writings were likely enough at that time to come into the
hands of pagans and paynims, such hogs and dogs as were
not meetly to have those precious pearls put upon their nose, nor
that holy food to be dashed in their teeth. For which cause Saint

Peter in his first sermon unto the Jews, abstained from the
declaration of Christ's godhead and equality with his Father, as our
Savior himself (when the Jews that were unworthy to hear it
were offended with that he told them plainly that he was the Son
of God) withdrew the doctrine from them again, and covered it
with the verse of the Prophet, "I have
said ye be gods and the sons of the high
God all," as though he would say, "What grieveth it you that name in
me, which name God by the Prophet
hath given to all good men?" In which
demeanor he denied not the truth that he had said of himself;
but he blinded their willfully winking eyes, in hiding and
putting up again the jewel that he began to bring forth and
show them, the bright luster whereof their bleared eyes might not
endure to behold.
"And what marvel though the apostles thus did in their speech
before infidels or writing that might come into pagan hands,
when it appeareth upon the epistles of Saint Paul that among the
Christian flock, where he taught them by mouth, he told them not all
the truths at one tale; not only for that it were too long, but also
for that in the beginning they could not haply well have
abided it. And therefore, as Christ said to
his disciples, "I have more to say to you,
but ye be not able to bear it yet" -- which once appeared what time
that upon the disclosing of the great mystery of the Holy Sacrament,
the holy flesh of his Body, the hearers said, "Who can
abide this hard word?" and therewith went almost all their
way; so did Saint Paul, I say, by the
Corinthians, not teach them all at once.
And therefore he saith in his epistle to them, "I have given you
hitherto but milk and not strong meat. And wisdom speak
we," saith he, "among folk that be perfect." Nor I mean not this
that there were any points of the substance of the faith, which
he showed to the clergy that he kept from the lay people, or showed
unto one man that he kept from another; but that to no man

lightly he showed all at once. But because some came from the Jews,
and some came of the gentiles, therefore, as they were, so were they
handled, not only by grace but also by wisdom; and not only in
the points of the faith, but also in the rites and ceremonies,
either of the church or of Moses' law: whereof some ceremonies
were forthwith abolished, some not by and by, and some taken into
the church of Christ and observed still. But in conclusion, when
they were meet therefor, they were all taught all that God would
have them bound to believe. And then doubt I nothing but
that many things that now be very dark in holy scripture were
by the apostles -- to whom our Lord opened their wits, that they
might understand scripture -- so plainly declared, that they were
by the people well and clearly understood. I say not all the whole
scripture, in which it may be that many a secret mystery lieth
yet covered, concerning the coming of Antichrist and the
day, manner, and fashion of the final
judgment, which shall never be fully
disclosed till the times appointed by
God's high providence meet and convenient for them. And from
time to time, as it liketh his majesty to have things known or
done in his church, so is no doubt but he tempereth his revelations,
and in such wise doth insinuate and inspire them into
the breasts of his Christian people, that by the secret instinct of the
Holy Ghost, they consent and agree together in one -- except heretics
that rebel and refuse to be obedient to God and his church.
Who be thereby cut off from the lively tree
of that vine, and waxing withered
branches, be kept but for the fire, first here and after in hell,
except they repent and call for grace that may graft them into the
stock again. But as it may be that many things be there not all at
once revealed and understood in the scripture, but by sundry
times and ages more things and more by God unto his church disclosed,
and that as it shall like his high goodness and wisdom to
dispense and dispose; and as it may be also in things to be done

may fall in his church variety, mutation, and change; so am I
very sure that the Holy Ghost that God sent into his church, and
Christ himself, that hath promised unto the end of the world
to persevere and abide in his church, shall never suffer his Catholic
Church neither to agree to the making of any law that shall be to
God damnably displeasant, nor of any truth that God would were
believed, to determine or believe the contrary. For then had Christ,
which is all truth, broken his promise, and -- which were
blasphemy and abominable to think -- were waxen untrue.
And therefore over this as it may be that, as I said before, some things
in holy scripture be not yet fully perceived and understood, so am
I very sure that the church neither doth, nor can do, damnably
construe it wrong, which it should, if they should construe it so as it
should make an article of misbelief and of a false erroneous
faith. As if they should by misconstruction of the scripture
bring up and believe that Christ were one God, and equal with his
Father and with the Holy Ghost, if the truth were otherwise indeed.
And therefore since the church (in which Christ is assistant, and his
Holy Spirit) cannot to God's displeasure, and their damnation,
fall in any false belief in any such substantial point of the
faith, it must needs be therefore that Arius and all other heretics
be drowned in damnable errors. The contrary opinion of whose
execrable heresies, the church was in the beginning taught by
the mouth of Christ himself. And after of his blessed apostles,
which read and declared the scriptures among the people in their
time, showing them in what wise the words of holy scripture
proved the truth of such articles of the faith as they taught them
by mouth. And how such texts as seemed the contrary were not
contrary indeed. And therewith declared them of those texts the
right understanding.
"And albeit that our Savior showed and plainly proved that in
the scripture was given good tokens and sufficient knowledge of
him, yet to the intent we should well know that his own word
and ordinance needeth none other authority but himself, but is
to be believed and obeyed, be it written or not written, some

things did he therefore bid to be done and some things also
to be believed, whereof we have in holy scripture no writing in
the world. Saint Paul commandeth
the people of Thessalonica in his epistle
to keep the traditions that he took them, either by his writing or by
his bare word. For the words that he
said among them, our Lord had told
them him for them. And therefore he writeth unto the Corinthians
that of the Holy Housel, the Sacrament of the Altar, he had showed
them the matter and the manner by mouth, as our Lord had himself
taught it to him. And therefore no doubt
is there but that by the apostles was the
church more fully taught of that matter
than ever was written in all the scripture.
There was learned the manner and form of consecration. There was
learned much of the mystical gestures
and ceremonies used in the Mass. And
if any man doubt thereof, let him
consider where should we else have the beginning of the water put
with the wine into the chalice. For well we wot that the scripture
biddeth it not. And every wise man may well wit than when
the Gospel speaketh only of wine, there durst no man in this
world have been so bold to put anything else thereto. For when
the Gospel speaketh of wine only turned into his precious Blood,
what man would adventure to make any mixture of water? And now
is the church so well ascertained of God's pleasure therein without
any scripture, that they not only dare put in water, but also dare
not leave it out. And whereby knew the church this thing but by
God and his holy apostles which taught it in their time? And
so went it forth from age to age, continued in the church until
this day, begun by God in the beginning, without any mention
made in holy scripture.
"Howbeit, Luther saith because it is not commanded by scripture
we may choose therefore whether we will do it or leave it. For
this one point is the very fond foundation
and ground of all his great heresies,
that a man is not bound to believe anything

but if it may be proved evidently by scripture. And thereupon
goeth he so far forth that no scripture can be evident to
prove anything that he list to deny. For he will not agree it for
evident be it never so plain. And he will call evident for him
that text that is evident against him. And sometimes if it be too
plain against him, then will he call it no scripture, as he
playeth with the Epistle of Saint James. And because the old holy
doctors be full and whole against him, he setteth them all at naught.
And with these worshipful wise ways he proclaimeth himself a
conqueror, where besides all the remnant wherein every
child may see his proud frantic folly, he is shamefully put to flight
in the first point, that is to wit, that nothing is to be believed for
a sure truth but if it appear proved and evident in Holy Writ. And
yet had that point at the first face some visage of probability. Howbeit,
to say the truth, he were a lewd lorel that would nothing
do that his master would bid him, nor nothing believe that his
master would tell him, but if he take it him in writing, as Luther
playeth with Christ. Of whose words or acts he will believe nothing
except he find it in scripture, and that plain and evident.
Now must he by that means condemn the church of Christ for
that they sanctify not the Saturday, which was the Sabbath
Day instituted by God among the Jews, commanding the Sabbath
Day to be kept holy. And albeit
the matter of the precept is moral and the
day legal, so that it may be changed,
yet will there, I ween, no man think that ever the church would
take upon them to change it without special ordinance of God.
Whereof we find no remembrance at all in holy scripture. By what
scripture is evidently known that every man and woman hath
power to minister the sacrament of baptism? Let it be showed,
either by commandment, counsel, license or example expressed
in scripture.
"Many things are there like which, as holy doctors agree, were
taught the apostles by Christ, and the church by the apostles,
and so come down to our days by continual succession from
theirs. But I will let all other pass over and speak but of one.

"Every good Christian man, I doubt not, believeth that our blessed Lady
was a perpetual virgin, as well after the birth of Christ as before.
For it was a strange thing that she should, after the blessed
birth, be less minded to cleanness and purity, and set less by her
holy purpose and promise of chastity, vowed and dedicated unto
God, than she did before. For surely, whoso considereth the words
of the Gospel, in Saint Luke, shall well
perceive that she had vowed virginity.
For when the angel had said unto her,
"Lo, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a child,
and thou shalt call his name Jesus," she answered him, "How may
this be? For as for man, I know none"; which, though it be spoken
but for the time then present, yet must it needs signify that she never
would know none, after the manner of speaking. By which a nun
might say, "As for man there meddleth none with me," signifying
that never there shall. And in common speech is that figure much in
use. By which a woman saith of one who she is determined
never to marry, "We may well talk together, but we wed not
together," meaning that they never shall wed together. And in
such wise meant our Lady when she said, "How may this be, for I
know no man?" meaning that she never would meddle with man.
Or else had her answer nothing been to the purpose. For the angel
said not, "Lo, thou art conceived," which if he had said, she
might well have marveled only for that she knew no man already.
But when he said, "Thou shalt conceive," this could be no
marvel unto her for that she knew no man already. And therefore,
since she marveled how it might be that ever she should conceive
and have a child, it must needs be that her answer meant that
she never would meddle with man. And therefore she marveled because
he said it should be, and she knew not how it could be but
that ways by which she was at full point with herself that it should
never be, so that then he showed her how it should come about
by the Holy Ghost coming into her and the power of God on high
shadowing her. And then she assented and said, "Lo, here the
handmaid of God; be it done to me after
thy word as thou tell me." And thus

appeareth it evidently that she had then a full determined purpose
of virginity. And that as it seemeth such as she thought not lawful
to change. For else when the angel did the message, she might
have inclined thereto, though she had before been in another mind.
Now when she had then so full and fast a purpose of perpetual
virginity before the birth of her blessed child -- which came
among his other heavenly doctrine to call and exhort the world
from all pleasure of the flesh to the purity and cleanness of the
body and soul, and from the desire of carnal generation to a
ghostly regeneration in grace -- more were it then wonder if she should
have then more regard of fleshly delight or cure of worldly procreation
than ever she had before her celestial conception of her
Maker, made man in her blessed womb. Or what man could
think it that ever God would suffer any earthly man after to be
conceived in that holy closet taken up and consecrated so especially to
God? This reverend article of our Lady's perpetual virginity, the
church of Christ, being taught the truth by Christ, perpetually hath
believed since the time of Christ. And yet is there no word thereof in
Christ's Gospel written, but rather divers texts so sounding to the
contrary, that by the wrong understanding of them, the heretic
Helvidius took the occasion of his heresy,
by which he would that our Lady after the
birth of Christ had other children by Joseph. How can we then say
that we could, without the learning of the faith before, find out all
the points in the scripture, when there be some that all Christendom
believe, and believe themselves bound to believe, whereof the
scripture giveth no plain doctrine, but rather seemeth to say the
"But as I began to say, the holy apostles, being taught by their
great master, Christ, did teach unto the church as well the articles
of faith, as the understanding of such texts of scripture as
was meet and convenient for the matter. Whereby it is not unlikely
that the Gospel of Saint John and the epistles of Saint Paul were
then better understood among the common people than they be
peradventure now with some that take themselves for great clerks.

And as the apostles at that time taught the people, so did ever
some of them that heard them teach, forth, and leave their doctrine
and traditions to other that came after. By reason whereof, not
only came the rites and sacraments and the articles of our faith from
hand to hand, from Christ and his
apostles unto our days, but also the great
part of the right understanding of holy
scripture by good and godly writers of sundry times. By whose good
and wholesome doctrine set forth by their virtue with God's good
inspiration, grace, and help of the Holy Ghost, we have also the
knowledge and perceiving what was the faith of Christ's church
in every time since. And thereby perceive we that these heretics
be not only barkers against the faith that now is, but also that
hath been ever since Christ died.
"And therefore is holy scripture, as I said, the highest and the best
learning that any man can have, if one take the right way in the
"It is, as a good holy saint saith, so marvelously tempered, that a
mouse may wade therein, and an elephant be drowned therein. For
there is no man so low but if he will
seek his way with the staff of his faith
in his hand, and hold that fast and
search the way therewith, and have the old holy fathers also for his
guides, going on with a good purpose and a lowly heart, using
reason and refusing no good learning, with calling of God for
wisdom, grace, and help that he may well keep his way and follow
his good guides, then shall he never fall in peril, but well and surely
wade through and come to such end of his journey as himself
would well wish. But surely if he be as long as Longius, and
have a high heart and trust upon his own wit (as he doth, look
he never so lowly, that setteth all the old holy fathers at naught),
that fellow shall not fail to sink over the ears and drown. And
of all wretches worst shall he walk that, forcing little of the faith of
Christ's church, cometh to the scripture of God to look and try
therein whether the church believe aright or not. For either
doubteth he whether Christ teach his church true, or else whether
Christ teacheth it at all or not. And then he doubteth whether Christ

in his words did say true when he said he would be with his
church till the end of the world. And
surely the thing that made Arius,
Pelagius, Faustus, Manichaeus, Donatus,
Helvidius and all the rabble of the old heretics to drown themselves
in those damnable heresies, was nothing but high pride of
their learning in scripture, wherein they followed their own wits
and left the common faith of the Catholic Church, preferring
their own gay glosses before the right Catholic faith of all Christ's
church, which can never err in any substantial point that God
would have us bound to believe. And therefore, to end where we
began, whoso will not unto the study of scripture take the points
of the Catholic faith as a rule of interpretation, but of diffidence
and mistrust, study to seek in scripture whether the faith of the
church be true or not, he cannot fail to fall in worse errors and
far more jeopardous than any man can do by philosophy, whereof
the reasons and arguments in matters of our faith have nothing
in like authority."
The Twenty-Sixth Chapter
The messenger saying that him seemed he should not
believe the church, if he saw the church say one thing
and the holy scripture another thing, because the scripture
is the word of God, the author showeth that the faith
of the church is the word of God as well as the scripture,
and therefore as well to be believed. And that the faith and the
scripture, well understood, be never contrary. And further
showeth that upon all doubts rising upon holy scripture
concerning any necessary article of the faith, he that
cannot upon all that he can hear in the matter on both the
sides perceive the better and truer part, hath a sure and
undoubtable refuge provided him by the goodness of God to
bring him out of all perplexity, in that God hath commanded
him in all such doubts to believe his church.

"Truly, sir," quoth he, "methinketh it well said that ye have said.
And in good faith, to say the truth, I see not what I should answer
it withal. And yet when I look back again upon holy scripture,
and consider that it is God's own words, which I wot well ye
will grant, I find it hard in mine heart to believe all the men in
the whole world if they would say anything whereof I should see that
the holy scripture saith the contrary, since it is reason that I believe
God alone far better than them all."
"In that," quoth I, "ye say very truth. But now I put case that God
would tell you two things: whether of them would ye believe best?"
"Neither other," quoth he, "but I would believe them both firmly
and both alike."
"What if neither other," quoth I, "were likely to be true, but seemed
both twain impossible?"
"That should," quoth he, "make little force to me. For that once
known that God telleth them, seemed they never so far unlikely
nor never so far impossible, I neither should nor could have any
doubt but that they were both twain true."
"That is well said" quoth I. "But now and it so were that those two
things seemed the one to the other clean contrary, what would ye
then think, and which would ye then believe?"
"Yet could I not," quoth he, "doubt anything but that they were
very true both; but I would verily think that I did not well understand
the one of them."
"What would ye then do," quoth I, "if he bade you believe them both?"
"Marry," quoth he, "then would I pray him tell me first how he understandeth
them both. For though I believe that they be both true
in that sense and purpose that he taketh his own words and may,
in that manner understood, well stand and agree together, yet
can I not believe them both in that sense and understanding
wherein they repugn and be directly contrary each to other."
"That is," quoth I, "so well said, that in my mind no man can
amend it.

"But now would I wit," quoth I, "whether that the faith of the church
be the word of God and by God spoken to the church or not?"
"Yes," quoth he, "God speaketh to his church in the scripture."
"And is nothing God's words," quoth I, "but scripture? The words
that God spoke to Moses, were they not God's words all, till they
were written? And the words of Christ to his apostles, were they not
his words till they were written?"
"Yes, then," quoth he. "But now since he hath perfected and finished
the corpus of holy scripture, allthing that he would Christian people
should believe, and all that he would the church should do, and all
that he would the church should eschew, all this hath he left them
his mind sufficiently in holy scripture."
"And none otherwise," quoth I, "besides? I had weened we had been at
another point in that ye see the Sabbath Day changed into Sunday
without any word of scripture giving any commandment of
the change in the New Testament from the commandment
given for the Saturday in the old. And also for the point that we
spoke of touching the perpetual virginity of our Lady, whereof is
no word written in scripture. But since I perceive that the great
affection and reverence that ye bear to the scripture of God -- not
without great cause, but without any measure -- maketh you in the
case that ye take all authority and credence from every word of God
spoken besides the scripture, I would ask you therefore this question.
If God in holy scripture tell you two things that seem the one contrary
to the other, as for example, if he tell you in one place he is
less than his Father, and in another place that he and his Father be all
one, which of these will you believe?"
"Marry," quoth he, "both twain. For they may stand together well
enough. For he was less as man, and was all one and equal as
"Very truth it is," quoth I, "that ye say. But now if ye had been
born in the days of Arius the heretic, he would not have
received nor held himself content with this answer; but he
would have agreed you the first part and put you further to prove

the second part. And unto that text he would have made you a
gloss, that his Father and he were one not in substance but in will.
And that gloss he would have fortified and made somewhat
seemly with another word of Christ in which he prayed his Father,
saying, "As thou and I both one, so make thou that they and we
may be made one," meaning by his Christian people, which shall never
be one with him in substance. So that for the inequality of Christ, by
reason of his manhood, ye must agree with him. But for unity of
godhead, he will not agree with you but put you always to prove
"Well," quoth he, "and though he so did, yet, if I were provided therefor,
there be texts enough that plainly prove it."
"That is," quoth I, "very truth. But yet is there none but he shall
always set you another against it, and a gloss as fast for yours as
ye shall have an answer for his, in such wise as he may abuse a
right wise and well-learned man, as he did in his own days and
many days after many a thousand. Then if it so were, that in
that dispicion ye could not make your audience to discern the
truth, nor peradventure persuade them to believe the truth, because
the false part might hap to have to the minds of many a
more face of truth -- as it had at that time to many that then were
of the sect -- what way would ye wind out?"
"Marry," quoth he, "I would believe well myself the truth and go to
God, and let them that would believe the false part go to the
"Ye should," quoth I, "have taken therein a good sure way. But now if
ye had been in that time -- albeit ye be now fast and sure in the truth --
ye might have happed while the matter was in question, and many
great clerks and well scriptured men and some seeming right holy
set on the wrong side, ye might have happed, I say, so to have been
moved with the reasons on both the sides that ye should not have
wist on which part to determine your belief. And what would ye
then have done?"
Quoth he, "Ye put me now to a pinch, and I shall answer you as
I have heard say that Doctor Mayo, sometime
almoner to King Henry the Seventh,

answered once the king at his table. It happed that there was
fallen in communication the story of Joseph, how his master's
Potiphar's wife, a great man with the king of Egypt, would have
pulled him to bed, and he fled away.
"Now Master Mayo," quoth the King's Grace, "ye be a tall strong
man on the one side, and a cunning doctor on the other side,
what would ye have done if ye had been not Joseph, but in Joseph's
"By my troth, sir," quoth he, "and it like Your Grace I cannot tell
you what I would have done, but I can tell you what I should
have done."
"By my troth," quoth the king, "that was very well answered." And
since that answer served him well there, I shall make the same
serve me here. For surely if I had been in Arius's days in the point
that ye spoke of, what I would have done that wot I ne'er. But
what I should have done that can I well tell you; and surely trust I
would have done so too."
"What is that?" quoth I.
"Marry, I would have believed the best," quoth he.
"The best?" quoth I. "That were best indeed if ye wist which it
were. But the case is put that the reasons grounded upon scripture
seemed unto you in such wise each to impugn and answer other
that ye stood in such a doubt that ye could in no wise discern
whether side said best."
"By God," quoth he, "I had forgotten that; well then were it best," quoth
he, "and so would I have done, I think, kneel me down and make
my special prayer to God that it might please his goodness in so
great a peril not to leave me perplexed; but vouchsafe to incline
mine assent unto that side that he knew were true and would I
should believe to be true. And then would I boldly believe the one
which God should have put in my mind. Had not this been
the best way?"
"If it were not," quoth I, "the best, it might peradventure serve for a

"A second," quoth he; "then ye take it for
"Nay," quoth I, "there be two seconds after two manner countings:
one next unto the worst, another next unto the best. And your way
is surely far from the worst. But yet dare I not assent that it were the
best till I understand it better. And therefore I pray you tell me this.
If after your special prayers made, ye wrote the one part in one
paper and the other part in another and laid them both on the
ground, and then set up a staff between them both, would ye be
then indifferent to take the one side or the other after, as it should
hap your staff to fall?"
"Why not?" quoth he. "Or else put it upon two lots and then, at
adventure, draw the one and take it. For when I have done as much
as mine own wit will serve, and have heard thereto all that I can
of other men, and yet by neither can perceive the better opinion,
what should I do or what could I do further than pray for grace to
guide my choice, and so at adventure boldly take the one and hold
it fast, doubting nothing but God assisted my choice, if I have a
firm faith in his promise, by which he promiseth that if we ask
we shall have -- asking, as Saint James saith, without any doubt. And
why should not I in such perplexed case, after help called for of God,
take the one part at adventure by lot,
as did the apostles in the choosing of a
new to fulfill the place of the traitor Judas?"
"Lots," quoth I, "be well lawful in the
choice of such two things as be both
so good that we be likely to choose well enough whether soever we
take. But now if ye were in the case that I have heard my father
merrily say every man is at the choice of his wife, that ye should put
your hand into a blind bag full of snakes and eels together, seven
snakes for one eel, ye would, I ween, reckon it a perilous choice to
take up one at adventure, though ye had made your special prayer
to speed well. Nor ye ought not in such case to adventure it upon
your prayer and trust in God without necessity."
"That is peradventure truth," quoth he. "But in our case there is

necessity. For there were none other way to avoid the perplexity,
but even take the one by prayer and firm trust in God, which
never deceived them that trust in him."
"If there were," quoth I, "none other way, somewhat were it then that
ye say. But now consider your case again. And when it so
were, that ye could not, upon that ye heard the Arians and the
Catholic part argue together, perceive whether part were the
better. And therefore of those two tales told you by God in many
texts of holy scripture some seeming plainly to say that
Christ was not equal with his Father, some seeming as plainly to say
the contrary, ye could in no wise find any reason whereby ye
could find yourself moved to take the one part for more probable
than the other. I put case then, that God would himself say to you, "I
have showed the truth of this matter to such a man, and how my
scripture is to be understood concerning the same. Go thy ways
therefore to him. And that thing that he shall tell thee, that thing
believe thou." Would ye say, "Nay, Good Lord, I will ask no man but
thyself; and therefore tell me thine own mouth or else I will
take the one part at all adventures and think that thou would
have it so"; or else would ye think that God were your good Lord and
had done much for you in that it liked him so graciously for
your surety to bring you out of such a great perplexity whereby
ye should, for your own mind, have remained in an insoluble doubt
in a matter of the faith wherein it is damnable to dwell in doubt,
or (which yet much worse were) have declined peradventure into
an invincible error?"
"Verily," quoth he, "great cause should I have had highly to thank
"Ye would not then," quoth I, "first make your prayer and then, with
good hope that grace should guide your fortune, take the one part
at adventure by lot, but ye would in your prayer thank God for that
provision? And then would ye get you to that man as fast as ye
"Very truth," quoth he.
"Then if that man should tell you that Arius and his company were

heretics all, and took texts of scripture wrong, ye would believe
"Yea, verily," quoth he, "that would I."
"I put case," quoth I, "that ye had not doubted before but had been
in yourself at clear point that the Arians' opinion were the
truth, yet ye would against Arius and all his, and against your
own mind also, lean unto his word whom God had bidden you
"What else?" quoth he.
"What if ye asked him," quoth I, "whether God have sufficiently
showed that point in scripture, so that it may by the words of Holy
Writ well and evidently be proved, and that he told you, "Yea."
And that thereupon he would bring in all the texts that ye had well
in remembrance all ready, and that ye laid against them all that
you could lay for the contrary, so far forth that when each of you
had laid all your texts and all your glosses that either of you
both could bring forth, till ye both confessed that neither of
ye both could any further thing find therein, he saying still
that his way were the truth, and that he had by scripture well
proved it unto you, and yourself on the other side for all that
ever ye had heard him say, perceiving in your own mind
none other but that ye had by scripture better proved the other
part -- which would ye now believe, that way that as far as ye see
God saith himself in holy scripture, or else that man whom God
sent you to and bade you believe?"
"Nay, verily," quoth he, "I would believe him."
"Well said," quoth I. "But whether would ye only believe him that
the truth of the matter were against the Arians, or else would you
believe him further, in that he said he had so proved it unto you
by scripture?"
"I would," quoth he, "believe him therein also. For since God so had commanded
me, and had showed me that he had himself
instructed that man in what sense the scripture were to be understood,
I could none otherwise think but that were true,
and though it appeared to mine own reason the contrary."

"Very well said," quoth I. "Now if God had said unto you that ye
should believe that man concerning the matter self, and of
scripture had nothing spoken, then would ye have believed him
yet in the matter? Would ye not, although he should have told you
that he understood no scripture at all?"
"That is true," quoth he.
"Now if he should then have told you that the Arians were
heretics in that point and their opinion erroneous and
false, ye would have believed him?"
"What else?" quoth he.
"What if he had told you therewith," quoth I, "that he wist ne'er
whether it might be well proved by scripture or not?"
"Yet would I," quoth he, "nevertheless believe to be true the matter
self that he had told me."
"What would you then think," quoth I, "of those texts that ye did
reckon before well and plainly to prove the contrary?"
"I would," quoth he, "then reckon that they were meant some other ways
than I could understand. For I could not doubt but being truly
understood they could never witness against the truth."
"In good faith," quoth I, "ye say marvelously well. Do ye not," quoth I,
"take it for all one, whether God bid you do a thing by his own
mouth, or by holy scripture?"
"Yes," quoth he, "saving that I take the bidding by scripture for the
more sure. For there wot I well God speaketh and I cannot be illuded."
"Now," quoth I, "this man that God biddeth you go to, and in all
thing believe him, will it make any change in the matter
whether it be man or woman?"
"No change at all," quoth he.
"What if it were a certain known company of men and women
together," quoth I. "Would that make any difference?"
"Never a whit," quoth he.
"Then," quoth I, "in case it appear unto you, as I suppose it doth to
you and to every Christian man else, that in all points of faith, both
in things to be believed above nature, and in things also that are
of necessity to be known and believed, which may be perceived by

reason given us with nature, God giveth
us in commandment that we shall believe
his church, then are ye full answered.
For then have ye the man that ye must needs resort unto for your
final answer and solution of all points and doubts in any wise
concerning the salvation of your soul. Of which points no
man can deny but one of the most especial points is to take in
holy scripture always the right sense. Or else if we cannot attain
the right understanding, yet then at the leastwise to be sure that
we shall avoid and eschew all such mistaking as might
bring us into any damnable error."
The Twenty-Seventh Chapter
The author proveth that God hath commanded us in all
things necessary to salvation to give firm credence and full
obedience unto his church. And a cause why God will have
us bound to believe.
"That is truth," quoth he, "if this may appear. But where shall it
appear that God commandeth us in all such things to believe the
church? For first methinketh that were a very strange manner of
commanding. For of the church be all we that should, as ye say,
be by God commanded to believe the church; and all we together
make the whole church. And what reason were it then to command
us to believe the church? Which were no more in effect but to
bid us all believe us all, or each of us to believe other. And then if
we fell at diverse opinions why should the one part more believe the
other than be believed of the other, since both the parts be of the
church and make the church among them -- saving that always
that part seemeth to be believed which best and most clearly can
allege the scripture for their opinion. For the words of God must

break the strife. He is only to be believed and his only Son of whom
himself commanded: "Ipsum audite";
"Hear him," said the Father at the time of his
baptism. And therefore the man that ye speak of whom God
sendeth me to, and whom he biddeth me hear and believe is our
Savior Christ only, and not any congregation of men. Whose
words, if we believe before the words of God, and instead of the
scripture of God, put our trust and confidence in the doctrine and
ordinance of the church, it were haply to be feared lest we fall
in the reproof that is touched in the Gospel where is said, "In vain
worship they me with the doctrine of men," and where our Savior
also reproveth the Scribes and the Pharisees, saying unto them,
"Wherefore do you break and transgress the commandment of God
for your traditions?""
"I trust," quoth I, "yet at last we shall agree. But much ado methinketh
it is to come to it. But since we must, as ye say, and truth it is, hear
our Savior Christ and believe him, is it enough to hear him and believe
him, or be we besides that also bound to obey him?"
"To obey him also," quoth he. "For else were he better unheard."
"Well said," quoth I. "But whether are we bound to hear him and
obey him in some things or in all things?"
"In all things," quoth he, "without exception that he commanded us
to do."
"Then if Christ," quoth I, "bid us believe and obey his church, be
we not bound so to do?"
"Yes," quoth he.
"Then may we," quoth I, "no more doubt
to be true what so the church biddeth
us believe, than the thing that our Savior himself biddeth us
believe, if he bid us hear his church as his Father bade us hear him."
"That is truth," quoth he, if he so do, but methinketh it were a
strange bidding, as I said, to bid each of us believe other."
"It seemeth not," quoth I, "so strange a thing to Saint Paul. For he
marvelous effectually beseecheth Christian
people to agree together all in one mind,

and in the faith to tell one tale, suffering no sects or schisms
among them. Which agreement and consent can never be where
no man giveth credence to other. But among Christian people it will
soon be if every man give credence to the church."
"But yet," quoth he, "since all be of the church, of diverse parties
which shall believe which?"
"Ye take that," quoth I, "for a great doubt, and a thing very perplex,
which seemeth me very plain. For either first the church hath
the truth and belief all one way till some one or some few begin
the change, and then though all be yet of the church, till some
by their obstinacy be gone out or put out, yet is it no doubt but if
I will believe the church, I must believe them that still believe that
way which all the whole believed before.
"Or else, if there were any thing that was peradventure such that in
the church sometime was doubted and reputed for unrevealed and
unknown, if after that, the whole church fall in one consent upon
the one side, either by common determination at a general council,
or by a perfect persuasion and belief so received through
Christendom that the Christian people think it a damnable error to
believe the contrary, then if any would after that take the contrary
way, were it one or more, were it few or many, were they learned or
unlearned, were they lay people or of the clergy, yet can I nothing
doubt which part to believe, if I will believe the church."
"That is truth," quoth he, "but ye prove me not yet that God hath
bidden me believe the church."
"Ye somewhat interrupted me," quoth I, "with your other subtlety, by
which ye would it should seem an absurdity to bid us believe the
church. Forasmuch as thereby ye said it should seem that we were
commanded nothing else but each to believe other, and then in
diverse opinions taken we could not wit which part should
believe which. Whereof since I have showed you the contrary and
removed that block out of the way for stumbling, we shall,
I think, soon see the other point, that Christ commandeth us to
believe his church. For as his Father said of himself, "Hear him," so
said he of his church when he sent it abroad to be spread forth.
"For when he had gathered his church of his apostles and his

disciples, and thereupon sent them forth to preach, said he not
unto them, "He that heareth you heareth me"? Did he not also command
that whoso would not hear the church should be reputed and
taken as paynims and publicans?"
"That was," quoth he, "where men would not amend their living."
"Was it not," quoth I, "general where a man would not amend any
damnable fault?"
"Yes," quoth he.
"Is misbelief," quoth I, "none such?"
"Yes, marry," quoth he.
"Then is," quoth I, "the church his judge upon his belief, to show
him whether it be true or false?"
"So it seemeth," quoth he.
"Hath his living," quoth I, "nothing a do with faith?"
"How mean you that?" quoth he.
"Thus," quoth I, "as if Luther late a frere and having now wedded a
nun, were commanded to amend his lewd living and put
away that harlot, whom he abuseth in continual incest and sacrilege
under the name of a wife, and he would say that he did well
enough, and that their vows could not bind them, were he not
bound to believe the church and obey thereto as well concerning
his belief as his living?"
"Yes, verily," quoth he.
"Then appeareth it," quoth I, "that we be by
Christ commanded to hear, believe, and
obey the church, as well in matters of faith as of manners. Which
thing well appeareth also by that our Lord would that whoso were
disobedient should be taken as a paynim or a publican. Of which
two the one offended in misbelief, the other in lewd living. And
thus it appeareth that not only Christ is the man that ye be sent unto and
commanded by God to believe and obey, but also the church is the
person whom ye be by Christ commanded to hear and believe and
obey. And therefore if ye will in faith or living or avoiding of all
damnable error (that ye might fall in by misunderstanding

of scripture) take a sure and infallible
way, ye must in all these things here,
believe and obey the church, which is, as I say, the person whom
Christ sendeth you to for the sure solution of all such doubts, as to
the man in whose mouth he speaketh himself, and the Holy Spirit
of his Father in heaven.
"And surely this is much to be marked. For it is the perpetual order
which our Lord hath continued in the governance of good men
from the beginning, that like as our nature first fell by pride to
the disobedience of God with inordinate desire of knowledge like
unto God, so hath God ever kept man in humility, straining
him with the knowledge and confession of his ignorance, and
binding him to the obedience of belief of certain things,
whereof his own wit would verily ween the contrary. And
therefore are we bound, not only to believe against our own
reason the points that God showeth us in scripture, but also that
God teacheth his church without scripture
and against our own mind also, to give
diligent hearing, firm credence, and
faithful obedience to the church of Christ, concerning the sense
and understanding of holy scripture. Not doubting but since he
hath commanded his sheep to be fed, he hath provided for
them wholesome meat and true doctrine. And that he hath therefore
so far inspired the old holy doctors of his church with the light
of his grace for our instruction, that the doctrine wherein they have
agreed, and by many ages consented, is the very true faith and
right way to heaven, being put in their minds by the holy hand
of him, "Qui facit unanimes in domo," that maketh the church of
Christ all of one mind."
The Twenty-Eighth Chapter
The messenger eftsoons objected against this, that we
should believe the church in anything where we find the
words of scripture seeming plainly to say the contrary, or
believe the old doctors' interpretations in any necessary

article where they seem to us to say contrary to the text,
showing that we may perceive the scripture as well as they
might. And the answer of the author proving the authority
of the old interpreters and the infallible authority of the
church in that God teacheth it every truth requisite to the
necessity of man's salvation. Which he proveth by a deduction
partly depending upon natural reason.
"It seemeth me," quoth he, "that all this goeth well that we should believe
the church as Christ as long as they say as Christ saith, for so methinketh
meant our Lord.
"But now if they tell me tales of their own, whereof Christ never
spoke word nor mention made thereof in holy scripture, I may
then say with the prophet Jeremiah, "Non
mittebam prophetas et ipsi currebant.
Non loquebar ad eos et ipsi prophetabant"; "Those prophets," quoth our
Lord, "ran forth of their own head and I sent them not, and prophesied
of their own heads when I spoke nothing to them."
And then how much may I more say so, if they say me a thing
whereof Christ or holy scripture saith the contrary, shall I believe the
church above Christ? Were that a good humility, to be obedient
more to men than to God? More ought I, methinketh, to believe God
alone speaking in his holy scripture himself, than all the old
fathers, if they make a gloss against the text. Nor they do not themselves
for their opinions say and write that they have them by
inspiration, or by revelation, or by miracle; but by wisdom,
study, diligence, and collation of one text with another. By
all which means men may now perceive the sentence of scripture
as well as they might then. And if ye will peradventure say that
grace helped them, which I will well agree, then will I say again
that God's grace is not so far worn out yet but that it may as
well help us as it helped them, and so may we be for the right understanding
of scripture equal with them, and peradventure one ace
above them. Whereby when we perceive that they went wrong and
other after them, shall we then call it humility so to captive and

subdue our understanding, whereby God hath haply given us
light to perceive their errors, that, without thanks given him
therefore, we shall so set his gift at naught that we shall believe them
before himself, and tell him that himself bade so? And therefore
methink where the old doctors or the whole church telleth me the
tale that God doth, there he biddeth me believe them. But where God
saith one thing in scripture and they tell me another, it thinketh
me that I should in no wise believe them."
"Well," quoth I, "then in somewhat, ye say, ye will believe the church,
but not in all. In anything besides scripture ye will not, nor in the
interpretation of scripture ye will not, and so where ye said that ye
believe the church in somewhat, in very deed ye believe the church in
right naught. For wherein will ye believe it if ye believe it not in the
interpretation of scripture? For as touching the text ye believe
the scripture self and not the church."
"Methinketh," quoth he, "the text is good enough and plain enough,
needing no gloss if it be well considered and every part compared
with other."
"Hard it were," quoth I, "to find anything so plain that it should
need no gloss at all."
"In faith," quoth he, "they make a gloss to some texts that be as plain
as it is that twice two make four."
"Why," quoth I, "needeth that no gloss at all?"
"I trow so," quoth he. "Or else the devil is on it."
"Iwis," quoth I, "and yet though ye would believe one that would
tell you that twice two ganders made always four geese, yet ye would
be advised ere ye believed him that would tell you that twice two
geese made always four ganders. For therein might ye be deceived.
And him would ye not believe at all that would tell you that twice
two geese would always make four horse."
"Tut," quoth he, "this is a merry matter. They must be all the twice
twain always of one kind. But geese and horse be of diverse."
"Well," quoth I, "then every man that is neither goose nor horse seeth
well that there is one gloss yet.
"But now," quoth I, "the geese and the ganders be both of one kind,
and yet twice two geese make not always four ganders."
"A sweet matter," quoth he; "ye wot what I mean well enough."

"I think I do," quoth I. "But I think if ye bring it forth it will
make another gloss to your text, as plain as your text is; and ye
will in all holy scripture have no gloss at all. And yet will ye
have collation made of one text with another, and show how
they may be agreed together, as though all that were no gloss."
"Yea," quoth he, "but would you that we should believe the church if it
set a gloss that will in no wise agree with the text, but that it
appeareth plainly that the text, well considered, saith clean the
"To whom doth that appear," quoth I, "so plainly, when it appeareth
one to you and to the whole church another?"
"Yet if I see it so," quoth he, "though holy doctors and all the whole
church would tell me the contrary, methinketh I were no more
bound to believe them all, that the scripture meaneth as they take
it, than if they would all tell me that a thing were white which I
see myself is black."
"Of late," quoth I, "ye would believe the church in something. And
now not only ye would believe it in nothing, but also whereas God
would the church should be your judge, ye would now be judge
over the church. And ye will by your wit be judge whether the
church, in the understanding of holy scripture that God hath
written to his church, do judge aright or err. As for your white
and black, never shall it be that ye shall see the thing black that
all other shall see white. But ye may be sure that if all other see it white
and ye take it for black, your eyes be sore deceived. For the church
will not, I think, agree to call it other than it seemeth to them. And
much marvel were it if ye should in holy scripture see better than
the old holy doctors and Christ's whole church.
"But first," quoth I, "ye must consider that ye and I do not talk of one
doctor or twain, but of the consent and common agreement of the
old holy fathers. Nor that we speak not of the doctrine of one man
or two in the church but of the common consent of the church. We
speak not also of any sentence taken in any text of holy scripture,
whereby riseth no doubt or question of any necessary article of our
faith, or rule of our living (for in other by-matters may there be
taken of one text ten senses peradventure, and all good enough without
warrantise of the best); but we speak of such two diverse and

contrary senses taken as, if the one be true, the other must needs
be false, and that as I say concerning some necessary point of our
faith or rule of our living, which is also depending upon
faith and reducible thereto. As if one would boldly break his vow
for that he thought that no man were bound to keep any. Such
points, I say, let us consider they be that we speak of. And this
remembered between us, then will we somewhat see what your saying
doth prove.
"I shall not much need," quoth I, "to stick with you in disputing
by what means the scripture is understood, since ye be agreed
with nature and diligence the grace of God must needs go, or else
no diligence or help of nature can prevail. Nor I will nothing
deny you but that God may and will also give his grace now to
us, as he gave of old to his holy doctors, if there be as much
towardness and no more let or impediment in ourselves than was in
them. I will also grant you that we may now by the same
means by which they might then, understand the scripture as
well as they did then, and I will not much stick with you for one
ace better. And were it not for the sins that we sink in, we
might percase understand it better by quater tre deuce, having
their labors therein and our own therewith. But since I am so gentle
to grant you so many things, I trust ye will grant me this one,
that if in any such point of our faith as God would have men
bound to believe, they did understand the scripture one way and
we another, being the one to the other so clean contrary that if
the one were true, the other must needs be false, ye will then grant
I say, that either they err or we."
"That must needs be," quoth he.
"Ye will also grant," quoth I, "that in such points as we speak of,
the error were damnable. For we speak of those points only, to
the belief whereof God will have us bound."
"I grant," quoth he. "For damnable were it in such case to believe
wrong. And wrong should they or we believe if they or we believed
a wrong article because they or we thought that the scripture
affirmed it. And as damnable were it, and yet much more, if we

believed a thing whereof we believed that the scripture affirmeth
the contrary. For then believed we that the scripture were false."
"This is," quoth I, "very well said. But for the more plainness let us
put one example or twain. And what point rather than the article
touching the equality in godhead of our Savior Christ with his Father?
For if the contrary belief were true, then were this always damnable
and plain idolatry."
"Very truth," quoth he.
"May not," quoth I, "the other example be the matter that we have
in hand, concerning saints' relics, images, and pilgrimages,
which things if it be -- as ye say many reckon it -- idolatry,
then is it yet worse to do therein as we do, than if our belief were
wrong in the other point? And that as much worse as the saints
or the images either be worse than the holy manhood of Christ."
"That is," quoth he, "very true."
"Then," quoth I, "let the first point alone because therein we be all
agreed, and speak of the second, if the old fathers took the
scriptures one way and we the contrary. Though it might be that
we were able to understand the scriptures as well as they, yet if
they so understood them that they thought this kind of worship
not forbidden but commanded and pleasant to God, and we new
men on the other side thought it utterly forbidden and held for
idolatry, the one part did not indeed understand the scripture
right, but were in a damnable error."
"That will no man deny," quoth he.
"I doubt not now," quoth I, "but that yourself seeth very well how
many things I might here lay for them to prove you that they
erred not so. First, their wits as much
as our new men's, their diligence as
great, their erudition greater, their
study as fervent, their devotion hotter, their number far greater,
their time continued longer by many ages persevering, the contrary
opinions in few and those always soon faded, they taken
always for Catholic, the contrary part for heretics. Here might
I lay you the holiness of their life and the plenty of their grace well

appearing thereby. And that our Lord therefore opened their eyes and
suffered and caused them to see the truth. And albeit he used
therein none open miracle nor sensible revelation, whereof as ye say
they none allege or pretend for the proof of their opinions in their
interpretations of holy scripture, yet used he the secret supernatural
means by which his grace, assistant with good men that
labor therefor, by motions insensible to themselves, inclineth
their assent unto the true side, and that thus the old holy fathers
did in the point that we speak of and in such other, perceive the
right sense of holy scripture so far forth at the leastwise, as they well
knew that it was not contrary to their belief. And here might I
lay you also that if it had been otherwise, and that they had
therein damnably been deceived, then living and dying in
damnable error they could not have been saints, as God hath
showed them to be by many a thousand miracle both in their
lives and after their deaths. With this might I also lay and very
well conclude, that since those holy doctors and the church be, as
by their books plainly appeareth, all of one faith in this point and
such other, that thereby well appeareth that the church is in the
truth, and is not in the understanding of the scripture that speaketh
of the matter anything deceived, but they clearly deceived that do
understand those texts of holy scripture to the contrary. These
things, as I say, and yet many other more might I lay. But since ye
did yourself put the church and them both in one case, and so
they be indeed, I will rather prove you the truth of them by the
truth of the church, than the truth of the church by the truth of them.
And so seemeth me good reason. For surely, since they were but members
of his church, God had his special cure upon them most especial
for the profit of his church, by whose whole corps he more setteth
than by any member thereof, saint, apostle, evangelist, or other.
And therefore must I yet ask you again whether the church may
have any damnable error in the faith by mistaking of scripture
or otherwise?"
"That is," quoth he, "somewhat hard to tell."
"Now," quoth I, "somewhat I marvel that ye remember not that yourself
hath agreed already that these
words of Christ spoken unto Peter, "I

have prayed that thy faith shall never fail," were not only meant by
the faith in Peter's own person, but also by the faith of the
church. For to him was it spoken as head
of the church."
"Yes I remember," quoth he, "right well that I agreed it. But I remember
also that notwithstanding mine agreement ye were content that
we should ensearch again and again the matter otherwise besides,
wherein mine agreement should not bind me."
"Lo," quoth I, "that had I forgotten again. But let it then alone for the
while and tell me this. Did not Christ intend to gather a flock and
congregation of people that should serve God and be his special people?"
"Yes," quoth he, "that is very truth. For so saith plain scripture of
Christ in sundry places. As where the Father of heaven saith unto
Christ in the psalm, "Postula a me et dabo tibi gentes hereditatem
tuam" (Ask of me and I shall give the paymin people for thine
inheritance) and many other places. And else undoubtedly his whole
coming had been in manner frustrate and in vain.
"That people," quoth I, "which should be an inheritance, did he
intend should endure for his own days only while he lived here,
or else that it should go forth and continue long after?"
"Nay," quoth he, "that shall continue while the world lasteth here
till Doomsday, and after in heaven eternally."
"Shall this people," quoth I, "have among them the knowledge and
understanding what he would they should do to please God withal?"
"Yea," quoth he.
"Whether shall they," quoth I, "have this knowledge for a while in the
beginning and then lose it, or shall they have it still as long as
they continue?" Here he began a little to stagger.
"Why," quoth I, "can ye call them his people any longer if they lose the
knowledge how to serve him and please him? If they forsloth to do
their duty as slack servants sometimes do, yet may they mend
and do better another time. But if they lose the knowledge of their
duty, then wot they ne'er which way to amend, as he that
knoweth fornication for sin may fall by frailty to fornication.

But since he knoweth it for naught, though he sinned more in the
doing than if he had not known the prohibition, yet doth the
knowledge give him warning and occasion of repentance and
amendment, which must needs lack if he had lost the knowledge."
Upon this he granted that it must needs be that this people must
needs have always the knowledge how to serve and please our Lord,
or else they ceased to be his people.
"Is not this people," quoth I, "called the church?"
"Yes," quoth he.
"Then the church," quoth I, "always hath and always shall, by your
reason, have the knowledge and understanding how God may be
served and pleased."
"Truth," quoth he.
"Is," quoth I, "that knowledge fully had without the knowledge of such
things as God bindeth us to believe?"
"Nay," quoth he.
"What if we knew them in such wise," quoth I, "as we could rehearse
them on our fingers' ends and yet believed them not to be true,
would this knowledge serve?"
"In no wise," quoth he, "for if ye believed them to be false, though ye
so knew them that he could rehearse them by row, ye could take
no warning by them to please and serve God with them, which is
the cause wherefore the church should of necessity know them."
"This is," quoth I, "very well said. Then since ye grant that the church
shall ever endure, and that it could not endure without the knowledge
of such things as may please God, nor those things can be
all known if knowledge lacked of those things that God bindeth
us to believe, nor the knowledge of them anything serve to the
knowledge and warning given us of God's pleasure but if we not
only can tell them but also believe them, which belief ye
grant is called faith, of this it consequently followeth that the
church always hath and always shall have the knowledge and belief
of such things as God will have it bound to believe."
"That is truth," quoth he, "because God hath left holy scripture to the
church, and therein is all, and the church believeth that to be
true. And therefor, therein, and thereby hath the church all that

warning and learning of God's pleasure that ye speak of, without
which it cannot endure."
"Are ye there yet again?" quoth I. "We
have sundry ways proved and agreed between us that this knowledge
and faith was before scripture and writing, and many things
of necessity to be both believed and done that are not in holy
scripture. And yet after all this, too long to be repeated, ye return
again to the first point so often confuted, that nothing is learned
nor known but by holy scripture. But now go to and suppose it
were so; what should ye win thereby? For what if God," quoth I, "had
left the scripture to the church locked up in a close chest, and that
no man should look therein; would that have served?"
"Nay, pardie," quoth he.
"What if he had left it open and written in suchwise that no
man could read it?"
"That were all one," quoth he.
"What if every man," quoth I, "could read it and no man understand
"As little would it serve," quoth he, "as the other."
"Then," quoth I, "since it serveth the church to learn God's pleasure
therein, and that can it not, as ye grant yourself, but if the church
understand it, it followeth of this that the church understandeth it.
And thus every way for the faith and knowledge of God's
pleasure, if it be, as ye say, all known by the scripture, and no part
otherwise, yet always to this point ye bring it in the end, that
the church hath the sure knowledge
thereof. And then, if that be so, ye shall
not -- as ye lately said ye should -- in any divers texts of scripture
seeming to make a doubtous article of our faith and to bring in
question what we be bound to believe, after ye have read in
scripture all that can be read, and heard on both sides all that
can be said, then take which part seemeth to yourself most
probable. Nor if ye stand still for all that in a doubt, then after
your bitter prayers made to God for his grace and guide in the
choice, go take you the one part at adventure and cleave thereto, as
though ye were sure by your confidence in God, that his grace had

inclined your assent to the surer side. But since I have showed you
plainly by reason that he hath given his church in all such
things knowledge of the truth, ye shall take the sure way and put
yourself out of all perplexity, if in the point itself, and the scriptures
that touch it, ye shall take for the truth that way that the church teacheth you
therein, howsoever the matter seem besides unto yourself or to any
man else."
The Twenty-Ninth Chapter
The author proveth by scripture that God instructeth the
church of Christ in every truth necessarily requisite for
our salvation.
"Truly," quoth he, "ye wind it well about. But yet ye made as
though ye would have showed that God had in scripture told me
that he had and ever would tell his church the truth in all such
matters. And now ye bring it to the point, not the holy scripture
telleth me that tale, but man's reason. And surely as I showed you
before, I dare not well trust reason in matters of faith and of holy
"I began," quoth I, "to prove it you by scripture, and ye then put me
out in the beginning. Howbeit this reason hath scripture for his
foundation and ground. And though it
somewhat build further thereon, yet is
not reason always to be mistrusted where
faith standeth not against it, nor God
saith not the contrary. Except reason be so far out of credence
with you that ye will not now believe him if he tell you that twice
twain make four. I ween ye will fare by reason as one did once by
a false shrew. He swore that he would not for twenty pounds hear him say his
Creed. For he knew him for such a liar that he thought he should
never believe his Creed after, if he heard it once of his mouth.

"Howbeit," quoth I, "let us yet see whether God himself in scripture
tell you the same tale or no. God telleth
you in scripture that he would be with
his church to the end of the world. I think ye doubt not thereof
but those words he spoke to the whole church that then was and ever
shall be from the apostles' days continued till the end of the
"That in good faith," quoth he, "must needs be so."
"Then were this in good faith enough," quoth I, "for our purpose,
since no man doubteth wherefore he will be with his church; except
we should think that he would be therewith for nothing, wherefore
should he be with it but to keep it and preserve it with the assistance
of his gracious presence from spiritual mischief especially, and of
all other especially from infidelity and from idolatry --
which was the special thing from which he called his church
out of the gentiles which else, as for moral virtues and political,
if they had not lacked the right cause and end of referring their
acts to God, were many of them not far under many of us. Let us
go further. Doth he not in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth chapters of Saint
John again and again repeat that after his going he will come
again to them; and saith he will not
leave them orphans as fatherless children,
but will come again to them himself? Let us add now thereunto
the words before rehearsed, that he will be with them till the world's
end, and it appeareth plain that he meant all this by his whole church that
should be to the world's end.
"When he said unto them, "I call you
friends, for all that I have heard of my Father
I have made known unto you," he spoke as to his perpetual church and
not to the apostles alone, but if he said to them alone these words
also, "I command that ye love each other," so that none should love
each other after but only they. Now lest the things that he taught
them should by the church after be forgotten, which was more to
be doubted than of themselves that heard it, he said unto them also,
"These things," quoth he, "have I spoken to you abiding here with you.

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost,
whom my Father shall send in my
name, he shall teach you allthing, and he shall put you in mind
and remembrance of allthing that I shall have said unto you."
So that here ye see that he shall again always teach the church of
new, the old lessons of Christ. And he said also to them that this
Comforter, this Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Truth, should be sent to
abide with them forever, which cannot be meant but of the whole
church. For the Holy Ghost was not sent hither into the earth here to
dwell with the apostles forever, for they dwelled not so long
here. Now if the Spirit of Truth shall
dwell in the church forever, how can
the church err in perceiving of the truth, in such things I
mean as God will bind them to know or be necessary for them
to know? For only of such things meant our Lord, when he said
that the Holy Ghost shall teach them allthing. For as Saint Paul
saith, the manifestation and showing
of the Spirit is to the utility and profit.
This Holy Spirit also was not promised by our Savior Christ that he
should only tell his church again his words; but he said further, "I
have," quoth he, "besides all this many things to say to you, but ye be not
able to bear them now. But when he shall come that is the Spirit of
Truth, he shall lead you into all truth." Lo, our Lord said not that
the Holy Ghost should write unto his church all truth, but that
he should lead them by secret inspiration and inclination of their
hearts into all truth -- in which must needs be conceived both
information and right belief of every necessary article, and
of the right and true sense of holy scripture as far as shall be requisite
to conserve the church from any damnable error.
"Now when the Holy Ghost shall, by
God's promise, be for this purpose
abiding in the church forever, and Christ himself hath also
said that he will not leave his church as orphans, but will come
himself and be with it unto the end of the world, and saith also
that his Father is in him and he is in his Father, and that his Father and
he be both one thing, not both one person, but both one

substance, and with the Holy Ghost both one God, then must it
needs follow that to the world's end
there is with the church resident the whole
Trinity. Whose assistance being to the
church perpetual, how can it at any time fall from true faith to
false errors and heresies?
The Thirtieth Chapter
Whereas the messenger had thought before, that it were
hard to believe anything certainly save holy scripture
though the scripture did agree therein and command it, the
author showeth that, saving for the authority of the church,
men could not know what scripture they should believe.
And here is it showed that God will not suffer the church to
be deceived in the choice of the very scripture of God from
any counterfeit.
"Now is it, I suppose, well and clearly proved by scripture the thing
that I promised, that is to wit that the church cannot err in any
such substantial article as God will have us bound to believe.
"But yet, forasmuch as ye regard nothing but scripture only,
this would I fain wit of you, whether ye believe that Christ was
born of a virgin."
"What else?" quoth he.
"Why believe you that?" quoth I.
"The Gospel showeth me so," quoth he.
"What if it did not?" quoth I. "Were then your Creed out of credence
but if he bring witness with him?"
"The Creed," quoth he, "is a thing by itself."
"Yet is it," quoth I, "no part of the Gospel as the Pater Noster is. And
yet I think, if Gospel had never been written, ye would have believed
your Creed."
"So think I too," quoth he.
"And wherefore," quoth I, "but for because the church should have
showed you so? But let our Creed alone a while and go we to the

Gospel self. Which Gospel telleth you that Christ was born of a
"The Gospel of Saint Luke," quoth he.
"How know you that?" quoth I.
"For I read it so," quoth he, "in the book."
"Ye read," quoth I, "such a book. But how know you that Saint
Luke made it?"
"How know I," quoth he, "other books but by that they bear
the names of their authors written upon them?"
"Know you it well thereby?" quoth I. "Many books be there that have
false inscriptions, and are not the books of them that they be
named by."
"That is truth," quoth he. "But yet though men did peradventure err
and fail in the name, as if he should repute a book of stories to be
made by Titus Livius, which he never made, but some other
honest cunning man, yet were the books neither less elegant nor
less true therefor. Nor in like wise if the church did mistake
the very name of some evangelist and Gospel, yet were the Gospel
nevertheless true."
"That is," quoth I, "well said. But how be ye sure that the matter of the
book is true?"
"Marry," quoth he, "for I am."
"That is," quoth I, "the reason that a maid layeth for her own
knowledge of her maidenhead. But she could tell another how she
knoweth she hath it, saving that she is loath to come so near as to be
acknown that she could tell how she might lose it. But here is no
such fear. Tell me therefore whereby wot ye that the matter of that
book is true?"
"I think," quoth he, "that God showeth me so."
"That is well thought," quoth I. "But he told it you not mouth to
"No," quoth he. "But he hath told it to other in the beginning or
else it was well-known in the beginning when he wrote it. And he
was known and believed by his living, and the miracles that God
did for him. And after that it was once known, the knowledge
went forth from man to man. And God hath so wrought with us that
we believe it because the whole church hath always done so before our

"Now come you," quoth I, "to the very point. For many things hath
been true that in process after hath left to be believed. And
many a thing hath in the beginning been known for false and
yet hath after happed to be believed. But the Gospels and holy scripture
God provideth that though percase some of it may perish
and be lost, whereby they might have
harm but not fall in error -- for the
faith should stand though the scriptures were all gone -- yet shall
he never suffer his church to be deceived in that point that they
shall take for holy scripture any book that is not. And therefore
saith holy Saint Augustine, "I should not believe the Gospel, but if it
were for the church." And he saith good reason. For were it not for the
Spirit of God keeping the truth thereof in his church, who could
be sure which were the very Gospels? There were many that wrote
the Gospel. And yet hath the church, by secret instinct of God,
rejected the remnant and chosen out these four for the sure
undoubted true."
"That is," quoth he, "sure so."
"This is," quoth I, "so sure so, that Luther himself is driven of necessity
to grant this, or else he perceiveth that there were none hold nor
surety in scripture itself, if the church might be suffered by God to
be deceived in that point, and to take for holy scripture that
writing that indeed were not. And therefore he confesseth that this
must needs be a sure infallible ground that God hath given this
gift unto his church, that his church can always discern the
word of God from the word of men."
"In good faith," quoth he, "that must
needs be so, or else all would fail."
Quoth I, "Then ye that would believe the church in nothing, nor
give sure credence to the tradition of the church but if it were
proved by scripture, now see it proved to you that ye could not
believe the scripture, but if it were proved to be scripture by the
judgment and tradition of the church."
"No," quoth he, "but when I have learned once of the church that it is
holy scripture and the word of God, then I believe it better than I
believe all the church. I might by a light person sometimes know a

much more substantial man. And yet when I know him, I will
believe him much better than him by whom I know him, if they
varied in a tale and were contrary."
"Good reason," quoth I. "But the church biddeth you not believe the
contrary of that the scripture saith. But he telleth you that in
such places as ye would better believe the scripture than the
church, there ye understand not the scripture. For whatsoever
words it speaketh, yet it meaneth not the contrary of that the church
teacheth you. And the church cannot be deceived in any such
weighty point."
"Whereby shall I know?" quoth he.
"Why be we at that point yet?" quoth I. "Have we so soon forgotten
the perpetual assistance of the Trinity in his church, and the
prayer of Christ to keep the faith of his church from failing, and
the Holy Ghost sent of purpose to keep in the church the remembrance
of Christ's words and to lead them into all truth? What
would it have profited to have put you in the remembrance of the
assistance of God with the children of Israel, walking with them in
the cloud by day and in the pillar of fire by night, in their earthly
voyage; and thereby to have proved you the much more special
assistance of God with his Christian Church in their spiritual voyage,
wherein his special goodness well declareth his tender diligence,
by that he doth vouchsafe to assist and comfort us with the continual
presence of his precious Body in
the Holy Sacrament? All this would not
help, if manifest reason that I made
you and evident scripture that I rehearsed you, cannot yet print
in your heart a perceiving that the assistance of God in his church
must needs preserve his church from all damnable errors in the
faith, and give his church so far forth the understanding of
scripture that they may well perceive that no part thereof, well
understood, standeth against any article that the church believeth
as parcel of their Christian faith."
"Nay," quoth he, "I perceive it well when I remember it, but it was
not ready in remembrance."
The Thirty-First Chapter
In that the church cannot err in the choice of the true
scripture, the author proveth, by the reason which the

King's Highness in his noble and most famous book objecteth
against Luther, that the church cannot err in the necessary
understanding of scripture. And finally, the author in
this chapter doth briefly recapitulate certain of the principal
points that be before proved. And therewith endeth the
first book.
"Yet would I," quoth I, "ask you one thing: wherefore, think you,
will not Christ suffer his church to be deceived in the discerning of
holy scripture from other writing, and suffer them to take a book of
holy scripture that were none indeed?"
"Lest men might," quoth he, "of some false book, reputed of holy
scripture, have great occasion given them to conceive the wrong
doctrine and wrong opinions of the faith, if God would suffer
his church to take a false devised book for holy scripture and for his
own holy words."
"Ye say," quoth I, "very truth. Now what if in the very scripture he
should suffer his church mistake the very sentence in a matter
substantial of our faith, were they not in like peril to fall by
false understanding into like errors, as they might by false
"Yes, that they were," quoth he.
"Forsooth," quoth I, "so were they and in much more. For in a false
book mistaken for scripture, though they had it in never so
high reverence for some good things that they found in it, and
thereby should have great occasion to believe false errors written
in the same, yet having, as the church
always shall have, the true faith
first in heart, they should find many
shifts to keep out the errors. But now if they falsely should
understand the true scripture, there were no way to escape from
damnable errors. And therefore may I say to you, as the King's
Highness most prudently laid unto Luther, since God will not suffer
his church to mistake a book of scripture for peril of damnable

errors that might ensue thereon -- and like peril may there ensue
by the misconstruing of the sentence as
by the mistaking of the book -- it must
needs follow that God will in things of our faith no more suffer them
to take a false sentence for true, than to take a false book for
scripture. And with this reason His Highness concluded him so clearly,
that he durst never since for shame touch that point again, nor
any color could lay but that upon his own confession in all
substantial points concerning the faith or knowledge of virtue
pleasant to God, the church hath so right understanding of
scripture that it well and truly perceiveth that no text therein
can be right understood, against any article that the church
believeth for thing to be believed of necessity. And this
point durst he never since touch nor make answer thereto; albeit
that the King's Highness with this one point alone plainly turneth
up and destroyeth the ground and foundation of all the heresies
that Luther would have believed. And therefore, of all things had
Luther greatest cause to answer this point earnestly, and would
undoubtedly if he had wist how."
"Surely," quoth your friend, "I marvel not though he did not. For
this point is so clear he could not, and I am herein fully satisfied."
"Then be you," quoth I, "satisfied in this
also, that the faith of the church is a
right rule to carry with you to the study
of scripture, to shape you the understanding
of the texts by, and so to take them as they may always
agree therewithal."
"Be it," quoth he.
"Then are you," quoth I, "also fully answered in this: that where ye said
ye should not believe the church telling a tale of their own, but
only telling you scripture, ye now perceive that in such things
as we speak of, that is to wit necessary points of our faith, if
they tell you a tale which if it were false were damnable, ye must
believe, and may be sure that since the church cannot in such

things err, it is very true all that the church in such things
telleth you. And that it is not their own word, but the word of
God though it be not in scripture."
"That appeareth well," quoth he.
"Then are ye," quoth I, "as fully satisfied that where ye lately said that
it were a disobedience to God, and preferring of the church before
himself, if ye shall believe the church in such things as God in
his holy scripture saith himself the contrary, ye now perceive it
can in no wise be so. But since his church in such things as we
speak of cannot err, it is impossible that the scripture of God can
be contrary to the faith of the church."
"That is very true," quoth he.
"Then it is true," quoth I, "that ye be further fully answered in the
principal point, that the scriptures laid against images and
pilgrimages and worship of saints, make nothing against them.
And also that those things -- images, I mean, and pilgrimages and
praying to saints -- are things good and to be had in honor in
Christ's church, since the church believeth so. Which, as ye grant,
and see cause why ye should grant, can in such points not be
suffered, for the special assistance of God and instruction of the
Holy Ghost, to fall in error. And so be we for this matter at last
with much work come to an end. And therefore will we now to
dinner. And your other objections that ye have laid, by which
you would prove those things reprovable and make them seem
idolatry, which we deferred before, those will we talk of after
"By my troth," quoth he, "I have another tale to tell you that all
this gear granted, turneth us yet into as much uncertainty as
we were in before."
"Yea," quoth I, "then have we well walked after the ballad, "The further
I go, the more behind." I pray you what thing is that? For that
long I to hear yet ere we go."
"Nay," quoth he, "it were better ye dine first. My lady will, I ween, be
angry with me that I keep you so long therefrom. For I hold it now
well toward twelve. And yet more angry would wax with me if I

should make you sit and muse at your meat -- as ye would, I wot well,
muse on the matter, if ye wist what it were."
"If I were," quoth I, "like my wife, I should muse more thereon now
and eat no meat for longing to know. But come on then and let us
dine first, and ye shall tell us after."
The End of the First Book

The Second Book
The First Chapter
The messenger recapitulating certain things before
proved and for his part agreeing that the church of Christ
cannot in any necessary article of the faith fall in any
damnable error, doth put in doubt and question which
is the very church of Christ, alleging that they peradventure
whom we call heretics will say that themself is the
church, and we not. Whereof the author showeth the contrary,
declaring whereby we may know that they cannot
be the church.
After dinner we walked into the garden. And there shortly
sitting in an arbor began to go forth in our matter, desiring him
to show what thing might that be that made our long forenoon
process frustrate and left us as uncertain as we began.
"Sir," quoth he, "that shall I shortly show you. Whereas there was
principally in question whether worshipping of images and
relics, praying to saints, and going on pilgrimages
were lawful or not. And that I put you in mind that men laid
against them certain texts of holy scripture, and also said unto
you that it seemed the text's self, which be the words of God, were of
more authority against them than the glosses of men that in such
wise expound the texts as they may seem to make for them: ye
laid on the other side the consent and agreement and common Catholic
faith of the church, which ye said, and indeed, to say the
truth, both by reason and scripture ye proved that it could
not be erroneous, and that the church
could not err in the faith that God would
have known and believed. Ye proved the
matter also by miracles. In which when I laid divers things

moving men to doubt, partly lest they were not true, but
especially lest they were not done by God for corroboration of the
faith, but were percase by God's sufferance done by the devil
for our delusion, deserving so to be served by our falling from
the worship of God himself to the
worship of his creatures, ye proved me yet
again that the miracles were true; and
that they must needs be done by God. And that ye proved me by this
that it should else follow that the church had a wrong belief and a
damnable. Which, eftsoons, ye proved well and substantially to be
impossible. And forasmuch as there fell in the way occasion to
speak of the contrariety that seemed sometimes to fall between the
texts of holy scripture self, and the common persuasion and faith
of the church, where I said that it was thought reasonable to
believe the scripture, being God's own words, rather than the
words of men, ye therein proved that the common faith of the
church was as well God's own words
as was holy scripture self, and of as
great authority, and that no student in
scripture should presume to try, examine, and judge the Catholic
faith of Christ's church by the scripture, but by the Catholic
faith of Christ's church should examine and expound the texts of
scripture. And that in the study of scripture this were the sure way,
wherein should give, ye said, great light the writing of the old
holy doctors, whereby we be ascertained that the faith that the
church hath now is the same faith and the same points that
they had then of old in every age and every time. And in this part
ye proved yet again by reason and holy
scripture that the church hath by the
teaching of God and the Holy Ghost the
right understanding of scripture in all points that are of necessity
to be known. And thereupon, eftsoons, ye deduced and proved
that no text of scripture, well understood, could stand
against the worshipping of images and relics, and the seeking of
pilgrimages; but that all these things be well-proved good and
pleasant to God, and the miracles done in such places done by
God, since his special assistance so informeth and instructeth his

church in so great and so substantial an article, so highly touching
the honor or dishonor of God, that it cannot be suffered to
fall to superstition and idolatry instead of faith and honor done
to God.
"And this is," quoth he, "as far as I remember, the whole sum and
effect of all that hath hitherto been proved between us."
"Very true," quoth I. "And this is of you very well remembered, and
well and summarily rehearsed."
"But now," quoth he, "all this gear granted, we be never the nearer."
"Why so?" quoth I.
"Marry," quoth he, "for a man that believed the worship of images to
be wrong and unlawful might grant that, that the church
doth not err, and that the church hath the right faith, and
that the church doth not mistake the scripture. And when all
this were agreed, he might say, that the church peradventure
doth not believe as ye say it doth. For he might haply deny
the church to be that people that ye take it for, and say that it is
the people that believeth as he believeth, that is, to wit, all these
kinds of worship to be wrong, and that believeth them whom
ye take for the church to believe wrong."
"If he and his company," quoth I, "be the church, he must tell where
his fellows be."
"Why so?" quoth he; "If men should ask you and me where the church
is, we could tell no one place but many diverse countries."
"Let him," quoth I, "in like wise assign some companies that be
known for congregations together in diverse countries."
"Why," quoth he, "in the beginning, and a good while after, the
church of Christ in every place hid itself, that men could not
tell in any country where they were, nor durst not come out and
show themselves."
"That was in the beginning," quoth I, "while the persecution lasted.
But when the persecution ceased once, it was soon known in
every country where the church was."
"Marry," quoth he, "if I should take that part, I would haply say
that in that case it is still, and that the church is that company
peradventure that ye, which call yourself the church, do use to
call heretics, which now do know one another well enough
and call themselves and their fellows about the world the very

church, though they dare not profess it openly, because that ye,
that call yourself the church and them heretics, do persecute
them as the church of the paynims did in the beginning. And
therefore they do hide themselves as the church did in the beginning.
But and if ye would cease your persecution once, and let
them live in rest, you should see them flock together so fast, that
they should soon show you the church with a wet finger."
"They might," quoth I, "peradventure show a shrewd sort within
a while, if they were suffered, and the church that the prophet
David speaketh of, "Odi ecclesiam malignantium"
(I hate the church of malicious
men). But they shall never show themselves the church of
"The church of Christ wheresoever it was in all the persecution
used to come together to the preaching and prayer, though it were
privily in woods or secret houses. They
used also the sacraments among themselves,
as baptism, confirmation, matrimony, holy order, priests
and bishops among them, fastings, vigils kept, the Sundays
hallowed, the Mass said, holy service sung, and their people houseled,
as well appeareth, not only by the stories of the church but
also of the paynims. And partly well appeareth by an epistle of Pliny
written to the Emperor Trajan. And such things must there be
therein, if it be any church or congregation of Christ. Now these
people that ye speak of, use no such things among themselves,
and therefore they cannot be the church of Christ."
"They preach," quoth he, "privily among themselves, and all the
remnant they do in our churches."
"This," quoth I, "plainly proveth that they cannot be the church of
Christ. For the church of Christ ever fled and forbore the temples
in which idols and mammets were. And
it was a plain renaying of Christ's faith
to do any observance thereto, though they did it only with their
body for fear and thought the contrary with their heart. For our
Lord saith, "He that denieth me before the world, I will deny

him before my Father in heaven." And holy
scripture saith, "Spiritus Sanctus effugiet
fictum" (The Holy Ghost fleeth from feigning).
But these men whom you call the church, come to the
churches where the images be which they take for idols, and
there they come to service with us whom they take for idolaters.
And where they teach among themselves that we do naught, they
come to our church, as I say, and in face of the world they do the
same, kneel to images as we do, set up candles as we do, pray to
saints as we do, and haply more loud with their mouths while
they mock them with their hearts. And over this many mock also
the sacraments which they receive.
"And this putteth me in mind also that, besides all this, ye cannot
say that these be the church whom we call heretics, but ye
must tell which kind of them is the church. For all cannot be,
since the church is and must be all of one belief, and have all one
faith. And as it was written in the Acts of the Apostles, "Erat multitudo
credentium, anima una et cor unum"
(The multitude of faithful believing men
were all of one mind and of one heart). And in the church is the
Holy Ghost, "qui facit unanimes in domo" (which maketh all of one
mind in the house of God) -- that is, in the church. But as for among
heretics, there be as many diverse minds almost as there be
"The church of Christ also is a thing that always hath stand and
continued. But the sects of heretics and their churches never
continued but ever shortly decayed and vanished quite away, so
far forth, that of all the old heretics the books also be gone
and lost when there was no law made yet to burn them, so that
it is easy to see that God himself destroyed them, and the world
clean gave them up at some time, though new heretics, now
long after, take them up again. For if their opinions had anywhere
continually endured, there would their books have been
continually reserved, which be now quite gone many years ago.
And thus may ye well see that there can no such folk be the
church that in so many years have no church nor come to none,

but to theirs in which, they say themselves, that they worship
"Well," quoth he, peradventure they will not stick much to assign
you a place and show you a company and congregation, which
they will say is the very church. For what if they will show you
Boheme, and now in Saxony where Luther is, and peradventure in a
good part of Germany?"
"Marry," quoth I, "if they say so, then leap they like a flounder out of
a frying pan into the fire. For in Saxony first and among all
the Lutherans there be as many heads
as many wits. And all as wise as wild
geese. And as late as they began, yet be
there not only as many sects almost as men, but also the masters
themselves change their minds and their opinions every day
and wot ne'er where to hold them. Boheme is also in the same case.
One faith in the town, another in the field. One in Prage, another
in the next town. And yet in Prage itself one faith in one
street, another in the next. So that if ye assign it in Boheme, ye
must tell in what town. And if ye name a town, yet must ye
tell in what street. And yet all they acknowledge that they cannot
have the sacraments ministered but by such priests as be made by
authority derived and conveyed from
the pope, which is under Christ vicar
and the head of our church.
The Second Chapter
The author showeth that no sect of such as the church
taketh for heretics can be the church, forasmuch as
the church was before all them, as the tree from which all
those withered branches be fallen.
"That none of all these can be the church shall well appear also
by another means. Whether will ye say, that the very church and
congregation of Christ was before all the churches and congregations

of heretics, or some church of heretics before the church of
"Marry," quoth he, "there might be some church of heretics before
the church of Christ. For there might be some among the
Jews before the birth of Christ. And such I suppose were the
Sadducees that believed not the resurrection nor the immortality of
the soul."
"If we should go," quoth I, "to that reckoning, we might fetch the
church of Christ far above, and begin it at Adam. For from the
first good man to the last, all shall in conclusion be his church
triumphant in heaven. But I speak of Christ's church now as of that
congregation that, bearing his name and having his right faith
and being begun to be gathered by himself and spread abroad by
his apostles, hath and doth and shall, till his coming to the dreadful
Doom, continue still in this world: whether was this church
before all the churches and congregations of heretics, or some one
of them before it?"
"Nay," quoth he, "I think it was before them all."
"Whereby may we," quoth I, "be sure of that?
"Marry," quoth he, "for always the heretics came out of it."
"That is," quoth I, "true. For they could be none heretics but by
being first therein, and after coming out. And it appeareth by the
Gospel, in which the good husbandman
went forth to sow his seed, and when he
had sown good seed, then the enemy sowed his evil after, and they
grew up together. It appeareth also by the words of the apostle and
holy evangelist Saint John, where he said of heretics, "E nobis
profecti sunt, sed non erant ex nobis" ("They be gone," he said, "out of
us, but they were none of us") -- meaning that ere ever they professed
themselves openly for heretics, yet being such indeed since the
church of Christ is a people of one faith, these folk that have
another special faith by themselves, varying and gainsaying the
other, be not perfectly of the church though they be for the while in
it. So it is now that any member of that body, till it be cut off for
fear of corruption of the remnant, hangeth on it in a manner and

some little light or life hath by the Spirit of God, that upholdeth
the body of his church, being ever in case to take occasion of
amendment by some vein of that wholesome moisture of God's
grace that especially spreadeth throughout that holy body. But those
that by the profession of heresies and infidelity fall off from that
body, or for fear of corrupting the remnant be by curse cast out of
the body, they plainly dry up and wither away. Our Savior saith
himself, "I am," saith he, "a very vine,
and my Father is a gardener. I am the vine
and ye be the branches. And every branch that beareth in me no
fruit my Father taketh it away. And every branch that beareth
fruit, he purgeth it to make it bring the more fruit. And as the
branch can do no good being taken from the tree, right so can
ye do no good nor serve to naught but for the fire except ye abide
in me." By these words of our Savior, and
many more there spoken at length, though
it appeareth that whoso keep the faith, yet except he work well therewith,
God will pluck him out; and whoso by faith abiding in the
stock doth work good works, the more he doth, the more
grace and help shall have of God to grow the better and to do the
more; yet appeareth it also that all the good works that may be
done will not serve if we be out of the stock. And out of the
stock of the vine be all that be not grafted in by faith, or fallen
off by open profession of heresy, or cut off and cast out for infidelity.
For faith is the gate into God's church, as misbelief is the
gate into the devil's church. For as the
Apostle saith, "Accedentem ad deum oportet
credere" (A man cannot come to God
without faith). And therefore whoso
professeth a false belief, let him be sure that he is gone out of the
gate of God's church before actual excommunication, and
fallen off the body of the vineyard. And if they be secret, neither
professing their heresies nor actually being accursed and cast
out, they be in the church but not perfectly of it. But in such wise
in a manner thereof be they as a dead hand is rather a burden in the

body than verily any member, organ, or instrument thereof. And
therefore saith Saint John, as I said
before, that the heretics be gone out
of us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us they would
have tarried with us. Meaning thereby, not as some would have it
seem, that a good man is not of the church nor in God's favor while
he is good, because he happeth to wax worse afterward. But he
meaneth that, in that they went their way from us, they showed that
they were naught in deed while they were with us. And so though
they were with us yet were they not of us. For though heretics
and infidels be among faithful and well-believing people, yet
be they, pardie, none of them. And so it appeareth, as ye said before,
that the church of Christ is before all the churches of heretics,
and that all congregations of heretics have come out of the
church of Christ."
"That is very true," quoth he.
"Well," quoth I, "if that be true, as it is indeed, then can no sect in
Boheme be the right church. For the church which we call the
church, that believeth as we believe, was there before them all. And
never a church had any church of heretics yet but it was
built by our church to their hands. So that it is evident that
none of all them can be Christ's church, but Christ's church must
needs be that church that was before all them, and out of which all
they have sprung and since severed themselves, which is the
church that all they deny not to believe against them the
points which we believe and they reprove."
The Third Chapter
The messenger moveth that the very church peradventure
is not the people that we take for it, but a secret unknown
sort of such only as be by God predestinate to be saved.
Whereunto the author answereth and declareth that it cannot
be so.

"Peradventure," quoth he, "there might be said that it needeth not to
assign any place where the very church and true Christian congregation
is. But since every place is indifferent thereunto, it may
be that all the good men and chosen people of God that be predestinate
to be saved, in what part soever they be and howsoever
they be scattered, here one and there one, here two and there
two, that these be the very church of Christ. And be in this world
unknown as yet while the church doth but wander in the pilgrimage
of this short life."
"Marry," quoth I, "this gear groweth from worse to worse. And in very
deed yet is this point their sheet-anchor.
For, first, they see plainly that they must
needs grant that the very church can
neither be deceived in the right faith nor mistake holy scripture
or misunderstand it to the introduction of infidelity and false
belief. And this ground find all the heretics themselves so
sure and fast, that they perceive well, except they would openly
and utterly deny Christ altogether, it cannot be undermined. And
since they manifestly see that, and as evidently see therewith that the
church (which is the very church indeed) damneth all their
ways, whereof, since the church cannot err in discerning the
truth, it must needs follow that they mistake themselves all the whole
matter and be quite in a wrong way -- therefore be they driven to
deny for the church the people that be known for the church. And
go seek another they neither know what nor where, build up in the
air a church all so spiritual that they leave therein, at length, neither
God nor good man. And first where they say that there be none
therein, but they that be predestinate to be saved, if the question
were of the church triumphant in heaven, then said they well.
But we speak of the church of Christ militant here in earth, and
therefore goeth their frame as far wide from the place they should set it on,
as heaven and earth stand asunder. For first would I wit, if the
church be none but those that be predestinate, whether all that be
predestinate be members thereof?"
"Why not?" quoth he.

"Then," quoth I, "he that is predestinate to be saved, whether may he or
not be divers times a sinner in his days?"
"What if he may?" quoth he.
"May he not," quoth I, "be also divers times in his days in a wrong
belief and false heresy, and after, turn, repent and amend, and so
be saved at last as God hath predestinate him to be?"
"What then?" quoth he.
"Marry," quoth I, "for then shall it follow that he shall be a member of
the very church and so still continue, and never can be cast out
being a stark heretic."
"Yet," quoth he, "is he all that while a quick member of the church,
by reason of God's predestination, since though he be not sure,
yet it is indeed sure, that he is and ever shall be one of the very
"It is," quoth I, "sure indeed and well-known to God that he so shall
be. But as sure is it that for the while he is not, except that allthing
that ever shall be is already present in deed, as it is present
to God's knowledge. And then were Saint Paul as good while he
was a persecutor as when he was apostle. And as verily a
member of Christ's church ere he was born as he is now in
"Well," quoth he, "though that peradventure all those that be living
and predestinate to be saved be not in it, yet may it be that there be
none other in it than predestinates."
"But it may be," quoth I, "that as men be changeable, he that is
predestinate may be many times in his life naught. And he that
will at last fall to sin and wretchedness, and so finally cast himself
away, shall in some time of his life be good and therefore for
the time in God's favor. For God blameth nor hateth no man for
that he shall will, but for that malicious will that he hath or hath
had already. And thus shall there by this reason be good men out
of Christ's church and naughty men therein, faithful men out of it,
and heretics in it, and both the one and the other without reason
or good cause why."

The Fourth Chapter
The messenger moveth that though the church be not
the number of folk only predestinate to bliss, yet may it
peradventure be the number of good and well-believing folk
here and there unknown, which may be, peradventure, those
whom we condemn for heretics for holding opinion
against images. Whereof the author proveth the contrary.
"Well," quoth he, "yet may it be that the very church of Christ is all
such as believe aright and live well wheresoever they be, though
the world know them not, and though
few of them knew each other. For God, as
Saint Paul saith, know who be his. And Christ saith that
against his church the gates of hell shall
not prevail; but the gates of hell do
prevail against sinners. And therefore it appeareth well that there
can be no sinners in his church, nor that there be none of his
church but good folk. And unto them our Lord is present and keepeth
them from errors, and giveth them right understanding of his
holy scriptures. And where they be forceth not, how few they be
together maketh no matter. For our Savior
saith, "Wheresoever be two or three
gathered together in my name, there am I also among them." And
so is his very church here and there of only good men to the
world unknown, and to himself well-known. And though they
be few in comparison, yet make they about in all the world a
good many among them. As God said when the children of
Israel were fallen to idolatry and worshipped the idol Baal so
far forth that it seemed all were in the case and men knew not who
were otherwise; yet said our Lord, as appeareth in the nineteenth
chapter the third book of the Kings, "I shall reserve for myself
seven thousand that have not bended their knee before Baal." So that where

the synagogue and church was then, it was unknown to man, but it
was well-known to God. And they were not his church that seemed
to be, but a company ungathered that no man was aware of, nor would
have weened. And so may it be peradventure now, that the very
church of Christ is not, nor many days hath not been, the people
that seemeth to be the church, but some good men scattered here
and there unknown, till God gather them together and make
them known, and haply those that believe against images and
whom we now call heretics."
"This is," quoth I, "a reason that Luther maketh himself. By which
he would bring the very church of Christ out of knowledge, and
would put it in doubt whether the saints that the church honoreth
were good men or not. And would that it might seem peradventure
nay, but that they were haply not good. But the good men and
saints indeed were some other whom the world for their open
lewd living reputed for naught. But where he saith that the
church or synagogue of the right belief was then unknown, that is
not true. For it was well-known in Jerusalem and Judea,
though it had been unknown who were faithful in Samaria. And
the scripture also saith not that these seven thousand, whom he would leave
yet in Israel that had not bowed their knees before Baal, were
secret and unknown, but he saith only that such a number of
such folk he would leave. But now for our purpose, since ye will
have the very church a secret unknown, not company and congregation,
but a disparkled number of only good men, will you
that those good men which, after your reckoning, make the very
church, shall have the same faith and none other than we have,
which be now reputed for the church, or else a faith and belief
"What if they have the same?" quoth he.
"Marry," quoth I, "then will your new built church nothing help
your purpose. But they shall as fast confirm the worship of
images, praying to saints, and seeking to pilgrimages as we.
And as deeply condemn for heresy your opinion to the contrary."
"That is very truth," quoth he. "But it may be that of that very
church the faith and belief shall be that all this gear is erroneous
and as plain idolatry as was the worshipping of Baal."

"If that were so," quoth I, "then had Christ not kept him seven thousand from
the worship of Baal, in all the regions that bear the name of Christendom,
except these new folk of Saxony and Boheme which yourself
grant to be the heretics, as sects come out of the church.
And more than wonder were it if all the church of Christ should
be clean among infidels and heretics and no part at all thereof
among the great unchangeable Christian countries which have
kept their faith in one constant fashion derived from the beginning.
For this am I sure, that in all those regions as I say, if any
have any such opinion against images and saints, yet cometh
he to the church among his neighbors and there boweth his
knees to Baal (if the images be Baal) as his neighbors do; but go
to, let us forth on a little further. And supposing that there were
some such secret good folk, as ye speak of, that had the right
belief and were the right church, and that they were so dispersed
asunder that they were to the world unknown, hath not God set
an order in his church that some shall preach to the remnant for
exhortation of good living, and information wherein good living
standeth, as in faith and good works?"
"Yes," quoth he.
"Bade not Christ," quoth I, "sacraments also to be ministered in his
church by the priests of the same?"
"Yes," quoth he.
"Now," quoth I, "if some infidels, as Turks or Saracens, having heard
of Christ's name, did long to know his scripture and his faith,
and hearing that there were many people that professed themselves
for Christian men, whole nations, but they were all open idolaters and
in a misbelief, and clearly deceived and beguiled, and that
especially by the clergy that teacheth them; howbeit, there were yet
a few good folk and right believing which were not deceived,
which among them be the very true church, but who they be
or where they be or how to ask for them, or if he happen on
them yet whereby to know them, that can no man tell him, how
should these infidels come to the faith, and of whom should they
hear it? For they being warned before that there were many sects

of heretics, and but one true church, would never be so
mad to learn of them that they might ween were wrong. And
how should they now come to the right when the true church
is unknown?"
"They might," quoth he, "take the scripture."
"They should," quoth I, "be therein like to Eunuchus that could not
understand without a reader. And then
if they took a wrong reader of a wrong
church, all were marred. And also they would not trust the scriptures,
nor reckon that they had the right books of scripture among false
sects, but would look to receive the true scripture of the right
and true church. And thus here it appeareth if it were thus, God had
left none ordinary way for his Gospel and faith to be taught. But
let go these infidels and speak of ourselves which are (if this way
were true) as false as they. Where be then the preachers of this very
church that should preach and teach us better? For it is no church if
it have no preachers."
"It hath," quoth he, "some that preach sometimes; but ye will not
suffer them; ye punish them and burn them."
"Nay," quoth I, "they be wiser than so; they will not be burned for
us, for they will rather swear on a book that they never said so, or
else that they will no more say so. And in this appeareth that there is
no such secret unknown church of Christ that, having such
opinions, is the very church. For the very church hath ever had
some that hath abided by their faith and their preaching, and
would never go back with God's word to die therefor. And this
church that we be of, that take your church for heretics, have
had many such martyrs therein, that believed as we do against
your opinions, as appeareth by the histories and by many of their
books; whereas of your secret church I never yet found or heard
of anyone in all my life, but he would forswear your faith to save
his life. Where be also your priests and your bishops? For such
must they have if they be the church of Christ. Now such can your
church have none, ye be each to other unknown. And though
some of such churches have a false opinion that every man is a priest and

every woman too, yet this heresy, false as it is, will not serve this
unknown church. For the holders of that opinion do put that no
man may, for all that, take upon him to preach or meddle as priest till
he be chosen by the congregation. And where can that be in this
imaginary church, of which no man knoweth other? And whereas
our Lord saith, "Wheresoever be two or three gathered together
in my name, there am I with them," he
spoke not as though every two or three whatsoever
they were should make his church, but that wheresoever
there came together two or three in his name that be of his church,
there is he with them. And so doth that one text of scripture in
the Gospel plainly declare, as it is well set out and opened by the
holy doctor and glorious martyr Saint Cyprian in his epistle
against Novatian.
"When our Savior saith also that he which would not amend by
his fault, showed him before two or three
witness, should be complained upon unto
the church, did he mean a secret church which no man wist
where to find? Now when the apostle
writeth unto the Corinthians, that
rather than they should plead and strive in the law before the
infidels, they should set such as were in the church little set by
to be judges in their temporal suits, of what church did he speak --
of such one as no man wist where to seek it? This unknown
church which they be driven to seek that be loath to know the
church, will never serve. But the church of Christ is a church well
known. And his pleasure was to have it
known and not hid. And it is built upon
so high a hill of that holy stone -- I mean
upon Christ himself -- that it cannot be hid. "Non potest abscondi
civitas supra montem posita" (The city cannot be hid that is set on
a hill). And he would have his faith divulged and spread abroad
openly, not always whispered in hugger-mugger. And therefore he
bound his preachers to stand thereby and not to revoke his word for
no pain. For he said that he did not light
that candle to put it and hide it under a

bushel; for so would no man do; but he had kindled a fire which
he would not should lie and smolder as coals doth in quench; but he
would it should burn and give light. And therefore folly were it to say that
Christ, which would have his church spread through the world and
everywhere gathered in company, would have it turned to a
secret, unknown, single sort, severed asunder and scattered about in
corners, unknown to all the world, and to themselves too. Now where
they say that there is none of the church but only those that be good
folk, this would make the church clearly unknown, were the people
never so many and the place never so large. For who can know of the
multitude who be good in deed and who be naught, since the bad may
suddenly be mended unaware to the world, and the good as suddenly
waxen worse. Now lay they for the proof of that opinion the words
of Christ, which Luther allegeth also for the same intent in his book that
he made against Ambrosius Catherina;
that is, to wit, the words wherein our Lord
said unto Saint Peter that against his church the gates of hell should
not prevail, by which words Luther doth, as he thinketh and saith
himself, marvelous gaily prove that there can be no man of the
church but he that sinneth not. For this argument he maketh: Christ
saith that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church; but
the gates of hell is nothing but the devil, and he prevaileth against
all folk that sin; ergo, no folk that sin be the church. And by this worshipful
argument it is a world to see what
boast the mad man maketh, that he hath
clearly proved that the church is not these people whom we take for the
church, because they be sinners, which argument hath so many
follies and faults therein, and so much inconvenience and absurdity
following thereupon, that it is more than marvel that a child of one
week's study in sophistry could for shame find in his heart to bring
it in place for any earnest argument. For first, if men deny him that the
gates of hell do in that place signify the devil, then he can never
prove it, and then is all his reason wiped
quite away. Now do there indeed divers
old commenters and doctors of the church take in that place for the gates
of hell, the great tyrants and heretics by whose persecutions and

heresies, as it were by two gates, many a man hath gone into hell; and
our Savior promiseth in that place that neither of those two gates -- that is
to wit, neither paynim tyrant nor christened heretic -- should
prevail against the church. For though they have destroyed and shall
destroy many of the church, yet shall they not be able to destroy the
church, but the church shall stand and be by God preserved in despite
of all their teeth. And thus ye see how soon Luther's special arguments
were overthrown with truth. But if a man would grant
him that the gates of hell did here signify the devil, yet should we
not need to grant him that the devil, as he is called of God by the
name of the gates (which is not done for naught), doth prevail
against every man that sinneth. For he that sinneth and riseth again out
of sin -- and so cometh within the gates, as yet the gates cannot
hold him but that he breaketh out of the gates -- the gates do not
prevail against him; but he prevaileth against the gates. And
thus is Luther's wise argument, which he groundeth upon the text,
voided again. It appeareth also that it is a very frantic argument.
For where he saith that against the church of Christ the gates
of hell prevail not, but they prevail against our church, that is
to wit, all the Christian people whom we call the church under
obedience of the pope; ergo they be not of the church: this argument
proveth that there is in earth no church at all. For what church can
he find or imagine in earth that doth not sin -- and especially if
that were true that himself saith among his other heresies,
where he holdeth stiffly that all the good works of good men be sins
and that men sin in that they do good? And thus he would both
have the church to be only a secret unknown sort of folk that do
not sin, and yet he confesseth that there be none such. And so
as he goeth about to take away the very church that is well-known,
making as though he would find out a better, he leaveth in conclusion
no church at all. And to such a fond and false end must they
needs bring it all, that will make it a number of only such as be
good men and do not sin. For if he should be in it always when he
is out of sin, and out of it when he is in sin, then should a man
peradventure be in it in the morning and out of it at noon, and in

again at night. So that who were in it, or when, or where it were,
who could tell? And of that uncertainty must needs grow all
such inconveniences and contradiction unto scripture, as is
before rehearsed. The church therefore must
needs be the common known multitude of
Christian men, good and bad together, while the church is here in
earth. For this net of Christ hath for the while good fishes and
bad. And this field of Christ beareth for the while good corn and
cockle, till it shall at the Day of Doom be purified, and all the bad
cast out, and the only good remain.
And therefore when the Apostle wrote unto
the Corinthians of him that had lain with his mother-in-law, he
commanded that he should be separate out of the church. Which
he never was after the deed done, till the excommunication denounced;
but was still for all his sin one of the church, though
he was naught and out of God's favor.
Christ himself said to his apostles, "Now
be you clean but not all," and yet were they all of his church. Albeit
that one of them was, as our Savior said
himself, a devil. "Did I not," said he,
"choose twelve of you and one of you is a devil?" And if there were
none of the church but good men as long as they were good, then
had Saint Peter been once no part of the church after that Christ
had appointed him for chief.
"But our Lord, in this his mystical body of his church, carrieth
his members some sick, some whole, and all sickly. Nor they be not
for every sin clean cast off from the body, but if they be for
fear of infection cut off, or else willingly do depart and separate themselves,
as do these heretics, that either refuse the church willfully themselves,
or else for their obstinacy be put out. For till their stubborn
hearts do show them incurable, that body beareth them yet about, sick
and naughty and key-cold as they be, to prove whether the warmness of
grace going through this whole mystical body of Christ's church
might get yet and keep some life in them. But when the time shall
come that this church shall whole change her place and have heaven for

her dwelling instead of earth, after the final judgment pronounced
and given, when God shall with his spouse, this church of Christ, enter into
the pleasant wedding chamber to the bed of eternal rest, then shall
all these scald and scabbed pieces scale clean off, and the whole body of
Christ's holy church remain pure, clean, and glorious without wem,
wrinkle, or spot, which is -- and for the while I ween will be, as long as
she is here -- as scabbed as ever was Job; and yet her loving spouse
leaveth her not, but continually goeth about by many manner
medicines, some bitter, some sweet, some easy, some grievous, some
pleasant, some painful, to cure her.
The Fifth Chapter
The author showeth and concludeth that this common known
multitude of Christian nations, not cut off nor fallen off by
heresies, be the very church of Christ, good men and bad
"And finally -- to put out of question which is Christ's very church,
since it is agreed between us and granted
through Christendom and a conclusion very
true, that by the church we know the scripture --
which church is that by which ye know the scripture? Is it not this
company and congregation of all these nations that, without factions
taken and precision from the remnant, profess the name and faith
of Christ? By this church know we the scripture; and this is the very
church; and this hath begun at Christ and hath had him for their head,
and Saint Peter his vicar after him the head
under him, and always since, the successors
of him continually -- and have had his holy faith, and his blessed sacraments,
and his holy scriptures delivered, kept, and conserved therein by
God and his Holy Spirit. And albeit some nations fall away, yet
likewise as how many boughs soever fall from the tree, though they

fall more than be left thereon, yet they make no doubt which is the
very tree, although each of them were planted again in another
place and grew to a greater than the stock he came first of; right so,
while we see and well know that all the companies and sects of heretics
and schismatics -- how great soever they grow -- came out of this church
that I spoke of, we know evermore that the heretics be they that be
severed, and the church the stock that all they came out of. And since that only the
church of Christ is the vine that Christ spoke of in the Gospel, which he
taketh for his body mystical; and that every branch severed from that
tree loseth his lively nourishing, we must needs well know that all these
branches of heretics fallen from the church -- the vine of Christ's
mystical body -- seem they never so fresh and green, be yet indeed
but witherlings that wither and shall dry up, able to serve
for nothing but for the fire."
The Sixth Chapter
The messenger moveth that since the church is this
known multitude of good men and bad together, of whom
no man knoweth which be the one sort and which be the
other, that it may be peradventure that the good sort of the
church be they that believe the worship of images to be
idolatry, and the bad sort they that believe the contrary.
Which objection the author doth answer and confute.
When I had said,
"Sir," quoth he, "ye have in good faith fully satisfied me concerning
the sure and undoubted knowledge of the very church here in earth.
But yet thinketh me that one little doubt remaineth for our principal
"What is that?" quoth I.
"Marry, sir," quoth he, "it is this: that though the very faith be in the
church; and the church cannot err therein; nor the church cannot
be deceived against the faith in any text of scripture, nor
no scripture is there that (being well understood) doth or can do

stand against the faith of the church,
and that also the church is none other,
but as ye say, and as I see it is indeed, but this whole, common congregation
of Christian people good and bad, not separating themselves
for frowardness, nor being put out for their obstinate faults, yet
since it appeareth well that though the right faith be in the church,
it is not in every man of the church. And though the church cannot
err in such things, yet some of the church may. Now seemeth
it to some men, that it may well peradventure happen that the good
men well-believing and undeceived, be those that believe the
worship of images and praying to saints to be idolatry. And on the
other side, that those which believe the contrary be that part of
the church that be the naughty men -- misbelievers and foul
"That were a very strange work," quoth I. "Ye would right now," quoth
I, "that in the church we should think that there were none other
but good men. Will ye now agree that there be therein some good men?"
"Yea," quoth he, "that must needs be."
"Well," quoth I, "whether be they good men that do naught?"
"Nay," quoth he.
"Do they well," quoth I, "that do idolatry indeed, though it be against
their hearts?"
"Nay," quoth he.
"But all," quoth I, "come to church and worship images, and all pray
to saints. Wherefore, if that be idolatry, then the church of Christ
is all naught. For thus do they that be of the contrary side, for fear of
being perceived. Also, if one do well or preach well, is he a good man
if he deny it for fear?"
"Nay," quoth he.
"But now," quoth I, "all that are of that sort, if they happen to adventure
somewhat and be spied, they will first perjure themselves, and after
abjure their opinion, so that if their opinion were good, yet were
themselves naught."
"But yet," quoth he, "if their opinions be good, then be not they so
evil in hiding their intents for fear, as they that against their

true opinions do, and preach openly and pursue them for saying truth.
As some that fainted and fled from martyrdom were not so evil as they
that pursued them."
"Very truth," quoth I, "if these men's opinions were true. But yet
though they were true, yet were these men naught."
"And the other worse," quoth he.
"That is well said," quoth I, "but they and the other be the whole church.
And if yours be naught as ye grant and must needs grant they be,
if the other were naught too, then were in the church none good. But
yourself deny not but in the church it must needs be that there be
some good. And there can be none but either your part or the
other. Ergo, since yours be naught, those that be good must needs be
the other. But none of those that be of the other could be good men
if they were idolaters and pursued your part for saying the truth, and
compelled them to deny the truth; ergo, the other part be not
idolaters, nor the opinion of your part, for which they pursue
your part, be not true. And thus it appeareth as meseemeth, that good
men of the church be against you and the naughty with you.
The Seventh Chapter
The author somewhat doth corroborate the truth against the
heresies holding against images, and recapitulating somewhat
briefly what hath been proved, so finisheth and endeth
the proof of his part.
"And yet speak I nothing of all the good men and well-known for
good men, and holy men and now saints in heaven that have condemned
your part and written against you. And your part therefore
be so sore against saints again, because they see their
heresies impugned and condemned by their holy writings. Nor
besides this have I nothing spoken of the general councils condemning
your part by good and substantial authority, comprobate
and corroborate by the whole body of Christendom -- led thereunto both

long before and ever since through the secret operation of the Holy
Ghost, who could never suffer, as yourself agreeth, the church
of Christ to continue so whole and so long in so damnable idolatry,
as this were if it were superstition and not a part of very faith and
true devout religion. Wherefore, since I have proved you that the
church cannot err in so great a point, nor, against the right faith,
mistake the sentence of holy scripture; and also that these people that
believe images to be worshipped be the very church of Christ; and that of
his church the good and bad both doth use it, and the good men doth
it truly and the bad falsely; and that all the good men of old hath
allowed and used this way and condemned the contrary, which hath
also been declared for false heresy by the whole general council of
Christendom, approved by the faith and custom of all the people besides --
growing into such consent by God's Holy Spirit that governeth his
church -- I never need to go further or touch your texts or arguments
to the contrary. For this side thus proved good, it must needs
follow that the other side is naught: except ye have against
this any further thing to say. Which if ye have, never let to bring
it forth. For I will for none haste leave any corner of the matter unransacked,
as far as we can any doubt find therein."
"In good faith, sir," quoth he, "I am in this matter even at the hard wall,
and see not how to go further."
"Now I assure you," quoth I, "if I could myself find any further
objection I would not fail to bring it in. But in good faith, I
suppose we be waded in this matter as far as we can both find.
And I am sure as far as ever Luther found, or any that ever I have
seen, that anything have said or written on that side.
The Eighth Chapter
The author entereth the answer to the objections that had
been before laid by the messenger against the worship of
images, and praying to saints, and going on pilgrimages.
And first he answereth in this chapter the objections made
against praying to saints.

"Now therefore, as I say, further need I not to go. But yet will I somewhat
touch the things which, as ye say, do move many men to take
the worship of images for idolatry. And it so taken and their opinion
so reputed, they reckon it a ground to think that miracles done at
the images or by invocation of saints to be illusions of the
devil. And first will we begin at the saints themselves. And by the way
shall we speak of their relics, images, and pilgrimages, as there shall
occasion rise in our matter. And for the first, in good faith, saving that
the books and writings of holy doctors condemn these men's
heresies, the displeasure and anger whereof setteth them on a fire to
study for the diminishing of their estimation that so stand in their
light; else would I much wonder what these heretics mean, to
impugn the worship of saints and forbid us to pray to them. And
albeit I now see the cause of their malice, yet can I not much the less
marvel of their madness that show their evil will so openly that
they neither have reason nor good color to cloak or cover it with.
First they put in doubt whether saints can hear us. And if they do,
yet whether they can help us. And finally, if they could, yet would
they we should think it folly to desire them, because God can do it
better and will do it sooner himself than they all. Now where they
doubt whether saints hear us, I marvel whereof that doubt ariseth,
but if they think them dead as well in soul as body. For if their
holy souls live, there will no wise man ween them worse and of
less love and charity to men that need their help, when they be now
in heaven, than they had when they were here in earth. For all that
while, were they never so good, yet the best was worse than the
worst is now. As our Savior said by Saint
John the Baptist that there was no woman's
son greater than he; yet the least that was already in heaven was his
better. We see that the nearer that folk draw thitherward, the
more good mind bear they to men here. And therefore Saint
Stephen, when he saw heaven open for him, he began to pray for
them that maliciously killed him. And think we then that being
in heaven, he will not vouchsafe to pray for them that devoutly
honor him, but hath less love and charity, being there, than he

had going thitherward? If the rich man that lay in hell had
yet not only for fear of increase of his own punishment by his
brother's damnation growing of his evil example in sin, but
also of carnal love and fleshly favor towards his kin -- which
fleshly affection being without grace or virtue may peradventure
stand with the state of damnation -- had a cure and care of his five
brethren, were it likely that saints, then being so full of blessed
charity in heaven, will nothing care for their brethren in Christ
whom they see here in this wretched world? Now if there be no
doubt -- as I trow none there is -- but their holy souls be alive,
they would we did well. And as little doubt but that they be alive
if God be their God as he is indeed, and he not the God of dead men
but of living, as our Savior saith in the
Gospel; for all men live still, and ever
shall, that he hath taken to him and once
given life unto; there resteth then no further to see but whether
they can do us any good or no, either for that they cannot hear us, or
for that they cannot help us. And first I marvel much if they
think they cannot help us. For while they were here they could,
as appeareth in the Acts of the Apostles. And since imbecility and
lack of power is here part of our misery, and strength and plenty
of power is one great part of wealth, they were well furthered in
that point, if they were now less able to do good to them whom
they fain would were helped than they were before. For whether
they be able there to do it themselves, or only by their intercession
made unto God, this maketh no force for our matter, so that by their
means, the one way or the other, we take help by our devotion
toward them, and prayer made unto them."
"I think," quoth he, "they may do indeed much more than they
might both by power and prayer. But it is hard somewhat to
think that they should hear us and see us, and especially in so many
places at once. For though they be not circumscribed in place, for
lack of bodily dimension and measuring, yet are they and
angels also definitively so placed where they be for the time,
that they be not at one time in divers places at once, as saints

be in sundry countries, and very far asunder, called upon at
"Ye marvel," quoth I, "and think it hard to be believed that saints
hear us. And I, while we see that the things
we pray for we obtain, marvel much
more how men can doubt whether the prayers be heard or not.
When saints were in this world at liberty and might walk the
world about, ween we that in heaven they stand tied to a post?
But the wonder is how they may see and hear in sundry places
at once. If we two could no more but feel, and neither see nor hear,
we would as well wonder. Or if we could not wonder thereof because
we could not hear thereof, yet should we be far from any conceiving
in our mind that it were possible for man to see or hear
further than he can feel. For we that prove it, and do see and hear indeed,
cannot yet see the cause, nor in no wise cease to wonder by
what reason and means it may be that I should see two churches or two
towns, each of them two a mile asunder, and both twain as far
from me as each of them from other, and measure so great quantities
with so small a measure as is the little apple of mine eye. And of
hearing many men's voices or any man's words, coming at
once into many men's ears, standing far asunder, hath like
difficulty to conceive. And when all the reasons be made, either of
beams sent out from our eyes to the things that we behold, or the
figure of the things seen multiplied in the air from the thing
to our eye, or of the air struck with the breath of the speaker and
equally rolling forth in rondels to the ears of the hearers -- when all
the reasons be heard, yet shall we rather delight to search than be
able to find anything in these matters that were able to make us
perceive it. Now when we may with our fleshly eye and ear in this
gross body see and hear things far distant from us, and from sundry
places far distant asunder, marvel we so much that blessed
angels and holy souls, being mere spiritual substances uncharged
of all burdenous flesh and bones, may, in doing the same,
as far pass and exceed us and our powers natural, as the lively
soul self exceedeth our deadly body; nor cannot believe they hear

us though we find they help us, but if we perceived by what
means they do it -- as whether they see and
hear us coming hither to us, or our
voice coming hence to them, or whether
God hear and see all and show it them, or whether they behold it
in him, as one doth in a book the thing that he readeth, or whether
God by some other way doth utter it unto them, as one doth in
speaking -- except we may know the means we will not else believe
the matter? As wise as were he that would not believe he can see, because
he cannot perceive by what means he may see."
"Yet see I," quoth he, "no cause or need why we should pray to them,
since God can as well and will as gladly both hear us and help us
as any saint in heaven."
"What need you," quoth I, "to pray any physician to help your fever,
or pray and pay any surgeon to heal your sore leg, since God can
hear you and help you both, as well as the best, and loveth you
better and can do it sooner, and may afford his plasters better
cheap, and give you more for your word than they for your
"But this is his pleasure," quoth he, "that I shall be helped by the
means of them as his instruments, though indeed all this he
doth himself, since he giveth the nature to the things that they
do it with."
"So hath it," quoth I, "pleased God in like wise that we shall ask
help of his holy saints and pray for help to them. Nor that is
not a making of them equal unto God himself, though they do
it by his will and power, or he at their intercession. Though God
will, as reason is, be chief and have no match, yet forbiddeth he
not one man to pray for help to another.
And though the Father hath given all the
judgment to his Son, yet doth he delight to have his holy saints
partners of that honor, and at the Day of Judgment to have
them sit with him. Was Eliseus made equal to God because the
widow prayed him to revive her dead
son? Were the apostles equal to Christ

because that they were prayed unto for help after his death and in his
life also? And many things did they at
folks' prayer. And sometimes they were
prayed unto, and assayed it also, and yet could not do it; but the
parties were fain to go from them to their master therefore. And
yet was he content that they were prayed unto. And for proof
thereof suffered them at men's devout instance and prayer to do
many miracles. And sometimes were they prayed to be intercessors
to their master. As where they came to Christ and said, "Dimitte
illam quia clamat post nos" (Dispatch this
woman for she crieth upon us). And think
you then, that he being content and giving men occasion to pray
to them while they were with him in earth, he will be angry if
we do them as much worship when they be with him in heaven?
Nay, but I think on the other side, since his pleasure is to have his
saints had in honor and prayed unto, that they may be for us
intercessors to his high majesty, whereunto, ere we presume to
approach, it becometh us and well behooveth us to make friends of
such as he hath in favor. He will disdain once to look on us, if
we be so presumptuous and malapert fellows that upon boldness of
familiarity with himself we disdain to make our intercessors
his especial beloved friends. And where Saint Paul exhorteth us
each to pray for other, and we be glad to think it well done to
pray every poor man to pray for us, should we think it evil done
to pray holy saints in heaven to the same?"
"Why," quoth he, "by that reason I might pray not only to saints
but also to every other dead man."
"So may ye," quoth I, "with good reason if ye see none other likelihood
but that he died a good man. And so find we, as I remember, in the
dialogues of Saint Gregory, that one had help by prayer made unto
a holy man late deceased which was himself yet in purgatory.
So liked it our Lord to let the world know that he was in his
special favor, though he were yet in pain of his purgation.
For our Lord loved him never the less,
though he left not for him the order of

his merciful justice. And therefore let no man take his trouble or
sickness as a token of God's hatred, but
if he feel himself grudge and be
impatient and evil content with it. For
then is it a token of wrath and vengeance, and is to the sufferer as
fruitless as painful. And in effect nothing else but the beginning
of his hell, even here. But on the other side, if he take it patiently, it
purgeth; if gladly, it greatly meriteth, and glad may he be that is with
meekness glad of God's punishment. Saint Augustine, as is written
by Posidonius, lying sore sick himself of an access, cured another
with his prayer; and yet he died of his sickness himself. Wherein
there was to him more mercy and favor showed than if himself
had been cured too. For now instead of health he had heaven where
he should never more be sick again."
"Marry," quoth he, "but I have ever heard it said, that we should not
pray to any dead man but with this condition, "If thou be a saint,
then pray for me."
"Why so," quoth I, "more than praying to a quick man, where I am
not bound to say, "If thou be a good man, pray for me." But since I may
reasonably think him good, while I know him not the contrary,
so may I think him that is dead."
"Why," quoth he, "whereof serveth canonizing them? If this be true I
am never advised to be canonized while I live."
"Ye do the better," quoth I, "nor seven years after neither. For it would
be but a business for you."
"But why be they canonized then?" quoth he.
"Those," quoth I, "that be not canonized, ye may for the more part
both pray for them and pray to them. As ye may for and to them that be
yet alive. But one that is canonized ye
may pray to him to pray for you, but ye
may not pray for him. For as I remember,
Saint Augustine saith, that he that prayeth for a martyr doth the
martyr injury. And of every man ye may trust well and be seldom
certain, but of the canonized ye may reckon you sure."

The Ninth Chapter
The messenger yet again objecteth against relics. And
putteth great doubt in canonizing. Whereunto the author
maketh answer.
"How can I," quoth he, "be sure thereof? May the taking up of a
man's bones, and setting his carcass in a gay shrine, and then
kissing his bare scalp, make a man a saint? And yet are there
some unshrined, for no man wotteth where they lie. And some that
men doubt whether ever they had any body at all or not. But, marry,
to recompense that withal, there be some again that have two bodies,
to lend one to some good fellow that lacketh. For, as I said before,
some one body lieth whole in two places far asunder, or else the
monks of the one be beguiled. For both places plainly affirm
that it lieth there. And at either place they show the shrine. And in
the shrine they show a body, which they say is the body and boldly
abide thereby that it is it, alleging old writings and miracles also for
the proof. Now must we confess, that either miracles at the
one place be false or done by the devil, or else that the same saint
had two bodies indeed. And then were that in my mind as
great a miracle as the greatest of them all. And therefore is it likely
somewhere a bone worshipped for a relic of some holy saint, that
was peradventure a bone, as Chaucer
saith, of some holy Jew's sheep. Our
Savior also seemeth in the Gospel to blame and reprove the
Pharisees for making fresh the sepulchres of holy prophets and
making shrines of their graves. Whereby it appeareth that he would
not have the dead bodies worshipped and set in gay golden shrines.
And yet besides this ye shall find many more worshipped, I ween,
than shrined; many shrined that ye find not canonized though
ye seek up all the registers in Rome. And when they be shrined and
canonized too, yet since the church in the canonization useth a
means that may beguile them, for they stand to the record of men
both of their lives and of their miracles, which men may
peradventure lie, why may it not then be that the church be

deceived in the canonization? And that they may for lack of
true knowledge, believing untrue men, canonize for saints
such folk sometimes as be full far there
from? I dare not say so much as saith
Saint Augustine. For he letteth not to say plainly that many bodies be
worshipped for saints here in earth whose souls be buried in hell."
"Ye have," quoth I, "said many things very stoutly. But yet let
us first consider whereunto altogether weigheth. For it stretcheth
no further, if it were all true, but that we might be deceived in
some that we should take for saints. And it neither proveth that
there be no saints, which I wot well no wise man will say, nor
that if any be they should not be worshipped nor prayed unto.
Except ye would say that if we might by possibility mistake
some, therefore we should worship none. And then should you by that
reason never take any physician, since ye might happen upon a
dogleech for lack of knowledge of the cunning. For in records
of men ye might be as well deceived there as here. Now suppose
then first, that of saints and of relics, some were true and
some were false, yet the worship that ye would we should do
to them all, should be because that, standing as they do unknown
and undiscerned, ye reckoned them all true and all for God's well
beloved servants. For if ye knew of them which were true and
which false, then would ye worship the true, and tread the
false under foot."
"That is no doubt," quoth he.
"Then," quoth I, "if we were beguiled in some, I see no great peril
grow toward us thereby. For if there came a great many of the
king's friends into your country, and ye for his sake made them
all great cheer, if there came among them unaware to you some
spies that were his mortal enemies, wearing his badge, and seeming
to you, and so reported, as his familiar friends, whether would
he blame you for the good cheer ye made his enemies, or thank
you for the good cheer ye made his friends?"
"He would, I think," quoth he, "thank me for the good entreating of
them both, since both seemed good to me and both had of me
their cheer but for they seemed his friends and for his sake."

"Ye say," quoth I, "good reason. But I put the case now that ye had an
inkling or else a plain warning that some of them were his
enemies that seemed his best friends, but which they were no man
can tell you; what would you now do, make them all cheer and
honorably treat them all, or else, showing them that ye hear say
plainly that some of them be naught, therefore bid them be
walking all with sorrow?"
"Nay," quoth he, "no doubt were it but that I should look for thanks
if I cherished his enemies for his friends, rather than despitefully
to handle his friends for his enemies."
"Very well," quoth I. "And this were true although ye had warning
that some of them were his enemies. But what thanks would ye then
desire if ye should shake off both, where ye had no such warning
at all, but would say that ye durst not make any of them cheer,
because ye thought that peradventure it might be that some
were worse than they were taken for? For in such case be you here;
ye know not that any man worshipped for a saint is none, but only
ye think that ye be not sure whether all be or some not."
"Yes," quoth he, "Saint Augustine, as I told you, giveth me warning
that many be none."
"Ye be," quoth I, "deceived therein, as I shall tell you after. But in the
meanwhile, mark me well this, and let it stand for a sure
ground, that all your objection, if it were true, serveth not against
worshipping of saints or saints' relics but against the worshipping
of such as were no saints nor no saints' relics. And
that after it were proved, and now this thing that is in question
being first confessed and agreed between us for a thing nothing
able to hurt our principal matter, let us go further therein and
search whether we find any such cause of doubt in any, or have
good cause to reckon ourselves sure that all be saints indeed whom
the church of Christ hath in honor and veneration for saints.
First, as for the authority that ye allege of Saint Augustine, I have
heard it often alleged in like wise for the same purpose. But
surely they that so take Saint Augustine be foul deceived. I durst
be bold to say that Saint Augustine did never write such words,
but it is a word run in many men's mouths begun by
mistaking, and believed without examination. For surely the

words whereof they took the occasion, which he writeth in the
first book De civitate Dei, and repeateth again in his book of that
cure and care that men should have for them that be dead, those
words, I say, go far wide from all such purpose. For there he
speaketh only of costly burying and making of sumptuous sepulchres
and doing the dead corpse of rich men worldly worship
in the carrying forth and entering of the body -- as it plainly and
evidently appeareth by the matter that he writeth of.
"And surely since our Lord never would among his chosen people
give the glory of his name to another, nor never so suffer idolatry
among the Jews but that either he forthwith punished and
purged it, or so severed the flock of idolaters that it might well
appear where his faithful flock remained -- as it did when that
Samary, falling to idolatry, the right synagogue of the Jews remained
in Jerusalem and in Judea -- this were full unlikely, that
this Holy Spirit being sent unto his church here to remain and
instruct it, and himself also therewith being and giving his
special assistance unto the end of the world, should either suffer
his church to be unknown or in such wise to err and be deceived
as to give honor to the devil instead of himself, or to his
enemies instead of his friends. And therefore, when the church by
diligent ensearch findeth the life of a man holy, and that thereto
it is well witnessed that God by his miracles testifieth that man's
blessedness and the favor in which he standeth with him in heaven,
declaring, by the boot and profit which he doth to many men
for his sake, that he will have him honored and had for hallowed in
his church here in earth; and this thing either by them that hath
the cure of his church, after such diligence used, being by the
canonization declared unto the people or peradventure without
canonization growing thereof by the holiness well-known and
miracles many seen, so sure a common persuasion through the whole
people of Christendom, that the person is accepted and reputed for
an undoubted saint, be the bones translated or not, his body found
or not -- albeit by possibility of nature it might be that men
were in such things deceived, as ye have said, yet we boldly may
and well we ought in this case to trust that the grace and aid of

God and his Holy Spirit assisting his church hath governed the
judgment of his ministers, and inclined the minds of his people
to such consent. And that he hath not suffered them to err in a
thing so nearly touching his honor and worship, either truly
to be applied where his will were it should, upon himself or his
holy saints for his sake; or to be withdrawn thence and by erroneous
mistaking of truth, necessary, meet, and convenient to be perceived
of the church for God's honor (which kind of truth God
sent the Holy Ghost to teach his church), the same worship to be bestowed
upon them whom he would in no wise should have it, but
whom he reserveth for eternal shame. For the body shrined or not,
maketh no doubt of the saint. No man doubteth of our Lady. No man
doubteth of Saint John the Evangelist, though their bodies be not
found. And yet if they were, then were there, I think no good
Christian man but he would be contented they were shrined and
had in honor.
"For whereas ye would take the reverence from all relics because
that some be doubtful, in that some saint's head is, as you say, and of
some the whole body showed at two sundry places, it may fortune for
all this that of one head there may be sundry parts, and either
part in the common speech of people called the head. For at Amias
is Saint John's head the Baptist as men
call it in talking, even they that have
been there and seen it. But then if they be asked further question
thereof, they tell that the nether jaw lacketh. This may well happen
also, and so doth it hap indeed, by some saint of whom in two
diverse countries be diverse shrines, and there be reckoned and
reported that in either of them be laid the whole body, and the
pilgrims at neither places do look into the coffin of that shrine to see
whether it be all or part. In some place peradventure lay the body,
and by some occasion the body translated thence of old, and yet
the shrine showed still with some of the relics remaining therein.
It may well hap also that there were two good holy men in diverse
countries both of one name. And percase in some place may there

be some very relics unknown and misnamed. For in old time,
when men at the incursion of infidels did hide holy saints' relics,
at the finding again the names haply decayed, some relics
might rest unknown, or some peradventure lost or mistaken.
And myself saw at the Abbey of Barking beside London, to my
remembrance about thirty years past, in the setting an old image
in a new tabernacle, the back of the image being all painted
over and of long time before laid with beaten gold, happened to
crack in one place, and out there fell a pretty little door, at which
fell out also many relics that had lain unknown in that image,
God wot how long. And as long had been likely to lie again
if God by that chance had not brought them to light. The bishop
of London came then thither to see there were no deceit therein. And
I among other was present there while he looked thereon and
examined the matter. And in good faith, it was to me a marvel to
behold the manner of it. I have forgotten much thereof, but I
remember a little piece of wood there was rudely shaped in cross
with thread wrapped about it. Writing had it none, and what it was
we could not tell, but it seemed as new cut as if it had been done
within one day before. And divers relics had old writings on
them and some had none; but among other were there certain
small kerchiefs which were named there our Lady's, and of her
own working. Coarse were they not, nor they were not large,
but served as it seemed to cast in a plain and simple manner upon her
head. But surely they were as clean seams to my seeming as ever I
saw in my life, and were therewith as white for all the long lying
as if they had been washed and laid up within one hour. And
how long that image had stood in that old tabernacle, that
could no man tell, but there had in all that church none, as they
thought, stood longer untouched. And they guessed that four or five hundred
year ago, the image was hidden when the abbey was burned by
infidels, and those relics hidden therein. And after, the image
found and set up many years after, when they were gone that had
hidden it. And so the relics remained unknown therein, till now
that God gave that chance that opened it. And thus, as I say, may
it peradventure happen some names to be forgotten, or haply to be

mistaken, and yet God well content that the relics be had in
reverence, since he specially favoreth their persons, and needeth
nothing their names to know them by. As he shall once so fully
restore again many a glorious body, that they shall not lose the
least hair of their head that may serve to their beauty, of whom
the names haply the whole world hath long ago forgotten. And the
name is not so very requisite but that we may mistake it
without peril, so that we nevertheless have the relics of holy
men in reverence, but as for pigs' bones for holy relics, or
damned wretches to be worshipped for saints, albeit that if it
happened, yet it nothing hurt the souls of them that mistake
it -- no more than if we worship a host in the Mass which percase
the negligence or malice of some lewd priest hath left unconsecrated;
yet is it never to be thought, though such a thing might
happen suddenly, that ever God will suffer such a thing to last
and endure in his church.
"For albeit that his church useth one means that might, as ye say,
beguile them, which is the record and witness of men; yet hath
it in such things, as Saint Thomas and other holy doctors write,
another means besides, which never can beguile them. And that is
the assistance of God and the Holy Ghost. For else might the church
be most easily beguiled in the receiving of the very scripture,
wherein they take outwardly but the testimonies of men from mouth
to mouth and hand to hand, without other examination. But that
secret means that inclineth their credulity to consent in the believing
all in one point which is the secret instinct of God, this is the
sure means that never can in any necessary point fail here in
Christ's church. For if it might, all were quite at large. And that
point once taken away, scripture and all walketh with it. And in this
mind, as it seemeth, was very sure and fastly confirmed the holy
apostle Saint Paul, which in his
first Epistle to the Corinthians, writeth
in this wise: "Obsecro vos fratres per nomen domini nostri Jesu
Christi, ut idipsum dicatis omnes et non sint in vobis scismata sed
sitis integrum corpus eadem mente et eadem sententia." (I beseech you
my brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you say all

one thing, and let there be no schisms or several sects
among you, but be ye one whole entire body of one mind and one
sentence.) Truth is it that he taught them
and other the right way so far forth that
he boldly forbade an angel of heaven to be believed if any would
come and preach another gospel. But yet in this place I note much
that he called upon them only for agreement, bidding them only
to agree all upon one thing, and maketh no mention of agreement
upon the best and upon the truth, but only to avoid all discord and
division and by common consent exhorteth them to agree all in one,
meaning thereby, as methinketh, that if
the church of Christ, intending well, do
all agree upon any one thing concerning God's honor or man's
soul, it cannot be but that thing must needs be true. For God's
Holy Spirit that animateth his church and giveth it life, will
never suffer it all consent and agree together upon any damnable
error. And therefore would he never suffer the church so fully to
consent in the worship of saints and reverence of relics if it
were a thing such as some men would have it seem, that is to wit,
a thing damnable, false, and feigned.
"Wherein as much as ye lay to diminish their credence, that it
might seem, as ye say, well enough that some of them were feigned,
yet wist I never proved that any such, so taken and by the church
approved, was ever yet hitherto reproved, either here in Christ's
church or among the Jews in their synagogue before Christ's days;
and yet saints they had in honor, as patriarchs and prophets, and
their bodies and relics in reverence. Now if of such as seemed
good men we never had found any for hypocrites, albeit it
might be that some were such, yet would we not, I think, suppose
that there were any so indeed, if we never had known it tried and
proved so. And why shall we then of saints or relics have doubt
and mistrust? Of whom being received by the church for true,
we never that I could wit, since God wrought the world, tried and
proved any of both sorts untrue -- neither, as say, in the church of
Christ nor synagogue of the Jews, which two sorts only were
God's chosen people. And yet had as well the Jews as we both,

saints, as I said, in honor, and their relics in great reverence,
as appeareth as well by the Gospel as by the Old Testament.
"Jacob, that holy patriarch, commanded his children in his deathbed
to carry his body to the burial out of
that country of Egypt, and so they did.
And Joseph also required his brethren,
that when they should after depart out of Egypt, they should carry
his bones with them. The dead bones of the prophet Eliseus, as the
Bible mentioneth, raised a dead body to life. And think you then
that those bones were not there honored for holy relics?
"Nor our Savior Christ blameth not the Jews in the Gospel for
that they garnished the sepulchres of the old prophets, with whose
honor he was well content; but for that they condemned
themselves in following the condition of them that slew them, intending
to kill Christ as their forefathers did his holy prophets.
For as for the dead bodies of the holy prophets, that God would have
them had in honor and reverence he declared well by that he raised
a dead body by the touch of the dead bones of the prophet Eliseus, as
I said to you before.
"Did not our Lord, in the finding of that holy relic, his holy cross,
declare by miracle and make his own cross known from the crosses
of the two thieves, by the raising of a dead man with the touch thereof?
Wherein is to be noted, by the way, that there was between his and theirs
no notable difference, but they nailed as he was, or else had it been no
doubt upon the first sight which of them was his. Was not the body
of Saint Stephen found out by miracle, and the head of Saint John
Baptist also? Yes, of surety, and many another holy martyr more,
that else had lain unknown. Whereby well appeared that God would
have not their souls only, but also their bodies, and in a manner the
very soles of their shoes, set by for their sakes, and themselves for
his. Was not the woman healed by the touch of our Lord's garments?
Hath there not, both among the Jews and
Christian people, also many men marvelously
been helped by the only touch of holy saints' vestures? And doubt
we then whether God would we should worship them, when he so well
and above nature rewardeth us for the worship we do them?"

The Tenth Chapter
The messenger objecteth many things against pilgrimages
and relics and worshipping of saints, because of
much superstitious manner used therein and unlawful petitions
asked of them, and harm growing thereupon.
"Sir," quoth he, "ye have in my mind very well touched the matter
concerning that it is not in vain to pray to saints nor to worship
them and to have their relics in some reverence. But, sir, all this is
far from the great sore; for though saints may hear us and help
us too, and are glad and willing so to do, and God also contented
that they and their relics and images also be had in honor, yet
can neither he nor they be content with the manner of the worship.
First, taking away his own worship, in that we do them the same
worship in every point that we do to God. And, secondly, taking
their worship from them then also, in that we do to their images
the same that we do to themselves, taking their images for themselves,
and so make not themselves only, but also their images, fellows
and matches to God, wherewith as I have said before, neither God
nor good saint can nor good man ought to be content and
"In faith," quoth I, "therein if it so be, ye say very true."
"What say we then," quoth he, "of the harm that goeth by going of
pilgrimages, roiling about in idleness with the riot, reveling
and ribaldry, gluttony, wantonness, waste, and lechery? Trow ye
that God and his holy saints had not liefer they sit still at home
than thus to come seek them with such worshipful service?"
"Yes, surely," quoth I.
"What say we then," quoth he, "to that I spoke not of yet, in which we
do them little worship while we set every saint to his office and
assign him a craft such as pleaseth us? Saint Loy we make a
horse-leech, and must let our horse rather run unshod and mar his
hoof, than to shoe him on his day, which we must for that point
more religiously keep high and holy than Easter Day. And because

one smith is too few at a forge, we set Saint Ipolitus to help him.
And on Saint Stephen's Day we must let all our horses blood with a
knife, because Saint Stephen was killed with stones. Saint Apollonia
we make a tooth-drawer, and may speak to her of nothing but of
sore teeth. Saint Sythe women set to seek their keys. Saint Roke
we set to see to the great sickness because he had a sore. And with him
they join Saint Sebastian, because he was martyred with arrows.
Some serve for the eye only. And some for a sore breast. Saint Germaine
only for children. And yet will he not once look at them,
but if the mothers bring with them a white loaf and a pot of good
ale. And yet is he wiser than Saint Wilgefort, for she, good soul, is
as they say served and content with oats.
Whereof I cannot perceive the reason,
but if it be because she should provide a
horse for an evil husband to ride to the devil upon. For that is
the thing that she is so sought for, as they say. In so much that women
hath therefore changed her name, and instead of Saint Wilgefort
call her Saint Uncumber, because they reckon that for a peck of oats
she will not fail to uncumber them of their husbands. Long
work were it to rehearse you the diverse manner of many pretty
pilgrimages, but one or two will I tell you -- the one Pontanus
speaketh of in his dialogues, how Saint Martin is worshipped. I have
forgot the town, but the manner I cannot forget, it is so strange. His
image is on his day borne in procession about all the streets. And if
it be a fair day then use they, as he cometh by, to cast rose water and
all things of pleasant savor upon his image. But and it happen to
rain, out pour they pisspots upon his head, at every door and
every window. Is not this a sweet service and a worshipful worship?
And this, as I say, Pontanus writeth and telleth where it is. But
this that I shall now tell you, I dare as boldly make you sure of
as if I had seen it myself. At Saint Waleries here in Picardy,
there is a fair abbey where Saint Walery was monk. And upon a
furlong of or two up in a wood is there a chapel in which
that saint is specially sought unto for the stone -- not only in those
parts, but also out of England. Now there was a young gentleman
which had married a merchant's wife. And having a little wanton

money, which him thought burned out the bottom of his purse,
in the first year of his wedding took his wife with him, and went
over the sea for none other errand but to see Flanders and France,
and ride out one summer in those countries. And having one in his
company that told by the way many strange things of that pilgrimage,
he thought he would go somewhat out of his way either to
see it, if it were true, or laugh at his man if he found it false, as
he verily thought he should have done indeed. But when they came
into the chapel they found it all true. And to behold they
found it fonder than he had told. For like as in other pilgrimages
ye see hanged up legs of wax or arms or such other parts, so was
in that chapel all their offerings that hung about the walls none
other thing but men's gear and women's gear made in wax. Then
was there besides these, two round rings of silver, the one
much larger than the other. Through which every man did put
his privy members at the altar's end. Not every man through
both, but some through the one and some through the other. For
they were not both of a bigness, but the one larger than the other.
Then was there yet a monk standing at the altar that hallowed
certain threads of Venice gold. And them he delivered to the
pilgrims, teaching then in what wise themselves or their
friends should use those threads against the stone. That they should
knit it about their gear and say I cannot tell you what prayers.
And when the monk had declared the manner, that gentleman had a
servant that was a married man and yet a merry fellow, and he,
thanking the monk for the thread, desired him to teach him
how he should knit it about his wife's gear. Which, except
the monk had some special craft in knitting, he thought would
be cumbrous because her gear was somewhat short. It need not to
tell you that every man laughed then, save the monk, that cast up
his rings and threads in a great anger and went his way. Was not
this -- Abide! by God, I had almost forgotten one thing, that would
not be left for a groat. As this gentleman and his wife were kneeling
in the chapel, there came a good, sad woman to him showing
him that one special point used in that pilgrimage and the

surest against the stone, she wist ne'er whether he were yet advertised
of. Which if it were done, she durst lay her life he should
never have the stone in his life. And that was she would have the
length of his gear and that should she make it a wax candle which
should burn up in the chapel and certain prayers should there be
said the while. And this was against the stone the very sheet-anchor.
When he had heard her -- and he was one that in earnest feared the
stone -- he went and asked his wife counsel. But she like a good, faithful
Christian woman loved no such superstitions. She could abide
the remnant well enough. But when she heard once of burning up
the candle, she knit the brows, and earnestly blessing her: "Beware in
the virtue of God what ye do," quoth she. "Burn up, quotha? Marry, God
forbid. It would waste up your gear upon pain of my life. I pray
you beware of such witchcraft." Is this kind of service and worship
acceptable and pleasant unto God and his saints? Now when people
worship saints in such wise that they make them fellows to God and
images in such wise that they take them for the saints selves, and then
again on the other side honor them with such superstitious ways
that the paynim gods were worshipped with no worse; finally, that
worst is of all, pray to them for unlawful things, as thieves pray to
the thief that hung on the right side of Christ to speed them well in their
robbery, and have found him a name also,
calling him Dismas, I ween, and his fellow,
Gismas, to rhyme withal -- think you not
that this gear is such among the people as rather were likely so to provoke
God and his saints to displeasure that the devil should have license and
liberty therefore to work his wonders in delusion of our superstitious
idolatry, than so to like and content our Lord that he should show
miracles for the comprobation of that manner of worshipping which
we may well perceive all reason, religion, and virtue reproveth?"
The Eleventh Chapter
The author answereth all the objections proponed by the
messenger in the tenth chapter. And some of them touched
by the messenger more at large in other parts before.

"Your whole tale in effect," quoth I, "containeth three things. One that the
people worship the saints and their images also with like honor as
they do God himself. Another, that they take the images for the things
selves, which points do sound to idolatry. The third is the superstitious
fashion of worship with desire of unlawful things. And since the worship
that the people do to the saints and the images be such, ye conclude
the thing displeasant to God and to all hallows; and that it may thereby well
appear that the miracles also be not the works of God but the delusion
of the devil. The first point, which ye have now twice touched, is at
once soon and shortly answered, for it is not true. For though men kneel
to saints and images and incense them also, yet it is not true that therefore
they worship them in every point like unto God."
"What point lack they?" quoth he.
"Marry, the chief of all," quoth I. "That is, that they worship God with the
mind that he is God, which mind in worship is the only thing that
maketh it latria, and no certain gesture nor bodily observance.
Not and we would wallow upon the ground unto Christ, having
therewith a mind that he were the best man that we could devise and
thinking him not God. For if the lowly manner of bodily observance
were the thing that would make latria, then were we much
in peril of idolatry in our courtesy used to princes, prelates and popes,
to whom we kneel as low as to God Almighty, and kiss some
their hands and some our own ere ever we presume to touch
them and, in the pope, his foot. And as for incensing, the poor
priests in every choir be as well incensed as the Sacrament. So that if
latria, that is the special honor due to God, stood in such things,
then were we great idolaters not in our worship done to saints
only and their images, but also to men, one to another among
ourselves. But albeit that God ought of duty to have with our body
the most humble and lowly reverence that we can possibly devise,
yet is not that bodily worship latria but if we so do it that in our
mind we consider and acknowledge him for God, and with that
consideration and intent do him that worship. And so doth, as I
think, no Christian man to image or saint either. And so is avoided
the peril of idolatry for that first point ye spoke of.

"Now as touching the second, that the people take the images for
the saints selves, I trust there be no man so mad nor woman neither,
but that they know quick men from dead stones, and tree from
flesh and bone. And when they prefer, as ye spoke of, our Lady at
one pilgrimage before our Lady at another, or one rood before
another, or make their invocations and vows some to the one and some
to the other, I ween it easy to perceive that they mean none other but
that our Lord and our Lady, or our Lord for our Lady, showeth more miracles
at the one than at the other. And that they intend it their pilgrimage
to visit some of them one place and some another as their devotion
leadeth them, or partly sometimes as the place lieth for them,
and yet not for the place but for that it liketh our Lord by manifest
miracles to provoke men to seek upon him or his blessed mother,
or some other holy saint of his, in those places more specially
than in some other.
"The thing self also showeth that they take not the images for our
Lady herself. For if they so did, how could they possible in any
manner wise have more mind to the one than to the other? For they
can have no more mind to our Lady than to our Lady. Moreover,
if they thought that the image at Walsingham were our Lady herself,
then must they needs think that our Lady herself were
that image. Then if in like wise they thought that the image at
Ipswich were our Lady herself, and (as they must therewith needs
think) that our Lady herself were that image at Ipswich, then
must they needs think therewithal that all those three were one
thing. And then every two of them were one thing. And so must
they by that reason suppose that the image of Ipswich were the
selfsame image that is at Walsingham. Which if ye ask any of
them whom ye take for the simplest, except a natural fool, I dare
hold you a wager she will tell you nay. Besides this take the
simplest fool that ye can chose, and she will tell you that our Lady
herself is in heaven. She will also call an image an image, and she

will tell you a difference between an image of a horse and
a horse indeed. And then appeareth it well, whatsoever her words
be of her pilgrimage by a common manner
of speech to call the image of our Lady, our
Lady -- as men say, go to the King's Head for wine, not meaning his
head indeed, but the sign -- so meaneth she none other in that image
but our Lady's image, howsoever she call it. And if ye will well
prove that she neither taketh our Lady for that image nor that image
for our Lady, as both must she take if she take the one, talk with
her of our Lady and she will tell you that our Lady was saluted with
Gabriel. And that our Lady fled into Egypt with Joseph. And yet
will she not in the telling say that our Lady of Walsingham or
of Ipswich was saluted of Gabriel or fled into Egypt. Nor if
ye would ask her whether it were our Lady of Ipswich or our Lady
of Walsingham that stood by the cross at Christ's Passion, she
will I warrant you make answer that neither of both. And if ye
demand her further which Lady, then, she will name you none
image but our Lady that is in heaven. And this have I proved often,
and ye may when ye will, and shall find it true, except it be in
one so very a fool that God will give her leave to believe what she
list. And surely for this point I think in my mind that all those
heretics that make as though they found so much peril of
idolatry among the people for mistaking of images, do but devise
that fear to have some cloak to cover their heresy wherein they
bark against the saints selves. And when they be marked, then
say they mean but the misbelief that women have in images. Now
as touching the third point, of superstitious manner of worshipping
or unlawful petitions desired of saints, as one example may
serve both, if women offer oats to Saint Wilgefort to have her
uncumber them of their husbands, somewhat is it indeed that ye
say, and yet not allthing to be blamed that ye seem to blame.
For as to pray to Saint Apollonia for the help of our teeth is no
witchcraft, considering that she had her teeth pulled out for
Christ's sake. Nor there is no superstition in such other things
like. And peradventure, since Saint Loy was a farrier, it is no great
fault to pray to him for the help of our horse."

"Well then," quoth he, "since Saint Crispin and Saint Crispynyan were
shoemakers, it were well done in like wise to pray them sit down
and mend our shoe. And pray to Saint Dorathe for some flowers
because she beareth always a basket full."
"Nay," quoth I, "the things be nothing like. For the one thing
pertaineth nothing to our necessity, the other we may do ourselves
or soon find who shall. But as for your horse is a thing
wherein, as well as in our own bodies, a right good leech may fail
of his craft, and is to many a man a greater loss than he may well
recover. And albeit that God commanded
that we should chiefly seek for
heaven and promiseth that if we so do,
all other things that we need shall be
cast unto us and would that we should in no wise live in anxiety
and trouble of mind for any fear of lack, considering that our
Father in heaven provideth meat for the very birds of the air, by
whom he setteth nothing so much as he doth by us, yet willed not
he the contrary but we should with our bodies labor therefor,
having our hearts all the while in heaven. And willed also that we
should ask it of him, without whose help our labor will not
serve. And therefore is our daily food one of the petitions of the
Pater Noster, the prayer that himself taught his disciples. And the
horse he set not so little by but that, rather than it should perish,
he reckoned it no breach of the Sabbath Day to pull him out of a pit.
And therefore indeed, meseemeth, the devotion to run somewhat
too far if the smiths will not for any necessity set on a shoe upon
Saint Loy's Day, and yet lawful enough to pray for the help of a
poor man's horse. But as for your teeth, I ween if they ached well
ye would yourself think it a thing worthy and not too simple to
ask help of Saint Apollonia, and of God too."
"Yea, marry," quoth he, "and of the devil too
rather than fail, as the Lombard did, for the gout. That when he
had long called upon God and our Lady and all the holy company of
heaven, and yet felt himself never the better, he began at last to call
as fast for help unto the devil. And when his wife and his friends,

sore abashed and astonished, rebuked him for calling on the
devil, which he wist well was naught, and if that he help him it
should be for no good, he cried out as loud as he could again,
"Ogni aiuto e bono" (All is good that helpeth).
"And so I ween would I," quoth he, "call on the devil and all, rather
than abide in pain."
"Nay," quoth I, "whatsoever ye say I cannot think ye would believe
in the devil as that Lombard did. Ye would rather fare like
another, that when the frere apposed him in confession whether
he meddled anything with witchcraft or necromancy, or had
any belief in the devil, he answered
him, "Credere en le diable, my sir, no.
Io graund fatige a credere in dio." ("Believe in the devil?" quoth he, "Nay,
nay, sir, I have work enough to believe in God, aye.") And so would
I ween that ye were far from all believing in the devil; ye have so
much work to believe in God himself that ye be loath, methink,
to meddle much with his saints."
When we had laughed awhile at our merry tales, "In good faith,"
quoth I, "as I was about to tell you, somewhat indeed it is that ye say.
For evil it is and evil it is suffered that superstitious manner of
worship. And as for that ye told of Saint Martin, if it be true
it hath none excuse; but that it nothing toucheth our matter. For it
is not of worshipping, but despiting and disworshipping of
saints. Touching the offering of bread and ale to Saint
Germaine, I see nothing much amiss therein; where ye have seen
it used I cannot tell. But I have myself seen it oftentimes, and
yet am I not remembered that ever I saw priest or clerk fare the
better therefor, or once drink thereof, but it is given to children or
poor folk to pray for the sick child. And I would ween it were
none offense in such fashion to offer up a whole ox and distribute
it among poor people. But now as for our merry matters of Saint
Valery, because the place is in France we shall leave the matter to
the University of Paris to defend. And we will come home here to

Paul's, and put one example of both; that is to say, the superstitious
manner and unlawful petitions, if women there offer oats unto
Saint Wilgefort, in trust that she shall uncumber them of their husbands.
Yet can neither the priests perceive till they find it there,
that the foolish women bring oats thither, nor it is not, I think, so
often done, nor so much brought at once, that the church may make
much money of it above the finding of the canon's horses."
"Nay," quoth he, "all the oats of a whole year's offerings will not find
three geese and a gander a week together."
"Well," quoth I, "then the priests maintain not the matter for any
great covetousness; and also what the peevish women pray they cannot
hear. Howbeit, if they pray but to be
uncumbered, meseemeth no great harm
nor unlawfulness therein. For that may they
by more ways than one. They may be uncumbered if their husbands
change their cumbrous conditions. Or if themselves peradventure
change their cumbrous tongues, which is haply the cause of all
their cumbrance. And finally if they cannot be uncumbered but
by death, yet it may be by their own, and so their husbands
safe enough."
"Nay, nay," quoth he, "ye find them not such fools, I warrant you. They
make their covenants in their bitter prayers as surely as they
were penned, and will not cast away their oats for naught."
"Well," quoth I, "to all these matters is one evident easy answer, that
they nothing touch the effect of our matter, which standeth in this:
whether the thing that we speak of, as praying to saints, going in pilgrimage
and worshipping relics and images, may be done well, not
whether it may be done evil. For if it may
be well done, then, though many would
misuse it, yet doth all that nothing
diminish the goodness of the thing self. For if we should, for the
misuse of a good thing and for the evils that grow sometimes in
the abuse thereof, not amend the misuse but utterly put the whole
use away, we should then make marvelous changes in the world.
In some countries they go on hunting commonly on Good Friday in
the morning for a common custom. Will ye break that evil custom, or
cast away Good Friday? There be cathedral churches into which the

country cometh with procession at Whitsuntide, and the women
following the cross with many an unwomanly song, and that such honest
wives as out of the procession ye could not hear to speak one such
foul ribaldry word as they there sing for God's sake whole
ribaldous songs as loud as their throats can cry. Will you mend
that lewd manner, or put away Whitsuntide? Ye speak of lewdness
used at pilgrimages. Is there, trow ye, none used on holy days?
And why do you not then advise us to put them clean away,
Sundays and all? Some wax drunk in Lent of wigs and craknels,
and yet ye would not, I trust, that Lent were fordone. Christmas, if we consider
how commonly men abuse it, we may think that they take it
for a time of liberty for all manner of lewdness. And yet is not Christmas
to be cast away among Christian men, but men rather monished to
amend their manners, and use themselves in Christmas more Christianly.
Go me to Christ's own coming and giving us our faith and his holy
Gospel and sacraments. Be there not ten the worse therefor against
one the better? Be not all the paynims, all the Jews, all the Turks,
all the Saracens, all the heretics, all the evil living people in
Christendom, the worse by their own fault, for the coming of Christ?
I trow they be. And yet would no wise man wish that Christ had not
come here. Nor it had been no right that God should have left the
occasion of merit and reward that good folk would with his help
deserve by his coming for the harm that wretches would take thereof
by their own sloth and malice. Nor in like wise right were it none that
all worship of saints and reverence of holy
relics and honor of saints images -- by
which good devout folk do much
merit -- we should abolish and put away because some folk do
abuse it. Now touching the evil petitions, though they that ask
them were, as I trust they be not, a great people, they be not yet so
many that ask evil petitions of saints as there be that ask the
same of God himself. For whatsoever they will ask of any good
saint they will ask of God also. And commonly in the wild Irish
and some in Wales too as men say, when they go forth in robbing,
they bless them and pray God send them good speed that they may
meet with a good purse, and do harm and take none. Shall we therefore

find a fault with every man's prayer because thieves pray for
speed in robbery? This hath, as I say, no reason, although they were a
great people that abused a good thing. And whereas the worst that ye
assign in our matter is that, as ye say, the people do idolatry in that ye
say they take the images for the saints selves or the rood for Christ himself,
which, as I said, I think none doth; for some rood hath no
crucifix thereon, and they believe not that the cross which they see was
ever at Jerusalem nor that it was the holy cross itself, and much less
think they then that the image that hangeth thereon is the body of
Christ himself; and although some were so mad so to think,
yet were it not, as ye call it, the people. For a few doting dames
make not the people. And over this, if it were as ye would have it
seem, a whole people indeed, yet were not a good thing to be put
away for the misuse of bad folk.
The Twelfth Chapter
The author confirmeth the truth of our faith and usage in
the worship of images by the consent of the old holy doctors
of the church approving the same, as appeareth well in their
writings, whom God hath by many miracles testified to be
saints. The messenger eftsoon doubteth whether we can be
sure that the miracles told by them were true or not, or
themselves saints or not. Whereupon the author proveth
that of any miracles told by any saints, we may be most
sure of theirs and consequently by their miracles most sure
of them that they be surely saints. And in this chapter
also proveth that the miracles and consent of those holy doctors
do prove that this must needs be the very true church, in
which they have written and miracles have been done.
Whereupon is finally concluded eftsoons the truth of the
principle question, and therewith finisheth the second
"And we be very sure that the thing is good, and our way good therein,
and our belief therein right, not only by reasons and authority by which

I have proved it you more that once already, but also by that all the
old holy saints and doctors of Christ's church, as Saint Jerome,
Saint Augustine, Saint Basil, Saint Chrysostom, Saint Gregory,
with all such other, as plainly we read in their books, did as we
do therein, and believed thereof as we believe. And since we see what they
believed, we need not to doubt what is best that we believe. For if
any sect believed better than other, we be sure of the best were they
that so well believed and lived therewith, that God hath accepted them
for saints, and by miracles openly declared that their faith and living
liked him. Whereas on the other side, of such as believed otherwise,
as were these manifold sects of obstinate heretics, we see not one a
saint among them, nor one miracle showed for them."
"I wot ne'er," quoth he, "whether this reason that ye make would
surely satisfy the other side or no. For men may peradventure
answer you that there is many a glorious saint in heaven of whom we
see no miracles in earth, nor haply never heard of their name."
"That may well be," quoth I, "and I suppose it very true."
"May it not also be," quoth he, "that though it were hard to think but
that of miracles some among so many must needs be true, yet since
some also may be feigned, may it not be that those be feigned which
be told to have been done by them whom ye rehearsed? Them, I mean,
that of old have written for your part; I mean those whom ye call the
old doctors of the church and whom the church taketh for saints."
"This," quoth I, "were worse than anything that we spoke of yet before.
The worst was, before, that we should pray to no saints. And now ye
would either that we should have none, or, at the least, that we should know
"Yes," quoth he, "ye may have saints and know for saints and
many one since the apostles' time, though those be none whose
writing ye would authorize by their sanctifying."
"Then fall you," quoth I, "to that point again, that ye think it may
be that the church may take for saints and worship as saints them
that be none."
"Surely," quoth he, "the proof that ye have laid unto me contrary, though
it be somewhat probable, yet seemeth me not very strong nor able

and sufficient to strain a man to consent thereto. For though the
assistance of God and his Holy Spirit will not suffer his whole church
to agree and consent together in any damnable error, yet may he
suffer them well to err in the knowledge and worship of a saint, and
mistake for a saint one that were a damnable wretch. For
therein were no more danger to man's soul nor no more honor
taken from God than when the people do worship a host unconsecrated,
mistaking it through the default of an evil priest for the
sacred Body of our Lord himself. And this ye doubt not but it is
sometimes done."
"Forget not now, by the way," quoth I, "that
ye still agree that God will not suffer his
whole church to agree in any damnable
error and fall in a false faith. And therewith
remember, that though it were no damnable error to take one
for a saint that were none or a bone for a relic that were none,
yet were it a damnable error to worship any if we should worship
none at all. And therefore, since the church believeth that we should
worship them, that kind of belief can be none error but must
needs be true. Nor that kind of worship can be none idolatry,
but must needs be good and acceptable to God. And so our principal
matter standing still sure and fast, we shall see somewhat further
whereto your words will weigh and amount. Ye deny not," quoth I, "but
there be some saints and some miracles."
"No," quoth he.
"To what purpose," quoth I, "were miracles
especially wrought by God? Was it not to
the intent to make his messengers known
and the truth of his message? As when he sent Moses to Pharaoh,
were not the miracles done by God to make Pharaoh to perceive thereby
the truth of his word?"
"Yes," quoth he.
"When Christ," quoth I, "sent his disciples to preach, the power that
he gave them to do miracles, was it not for the proof of the
doctrine that they taught, as is well witnessed in the Gospel?"
"Yes," quoth he.

"If this be thus," quoth I, "as indeed it is, ye have most cause to believe
of all miracles those that are told and reported as done for the
doctors of Christ's church, since miracles were specially devised
by God for a knowledge of his true messengers, and a proof of their
message. So that, where ye would we should not utterly be deceived
in saints and miracles, but yet we might be deceived in doctors
whom we take for saints and in their miracles, now it seemeth
on the other side that of all other we be of them and of theirs most
"This is well said," quoth he. "But yet always it runneth in men's
minds that miracles may be feigned."
"Be it so," quoth I, "so that it run again in men's minds that all
be not feigned. And then, if you think any true, this reason abideth
still, that since miracles were specially given by God for the
knowledge of his doctors and declaration of his doctrine, those
miracles be especially to be taken for true that be reported to be
done by his doctors. For they serve for the comprobation of his
holy doctrine. And for because ye say that miracles may be feigned,
that we spoke of Moses and Christ's disciples putteth me now in
mind. There were of old time also false doctors and miracles
falsely feigned, were there not?"
"Yes, marry," quoth he.
"By whom were those miracles feigned?" quoth I.
"Marry," quoth he, "some by men as there be now and some by the
devil, and haply so there be now too."
"Well, be it," quoth I, "both twain and ye will. But were there not in
the old time both twain found out and vanquished, by the
true doctors sent by God and true
miracles for them wrought by God? As
when the serpent of Moses devoured all the serpents made by the
witchcraft of the Egyptian jugglers.
And when the prophet Daniel did by
the steps of the false priests' feet find out the means whereby the
meat was eaten that they feigned to be eaten by the idol Bel. And

when the prophet Helias vanquished by miracle the false
prophets of Baal. And the holy apostles and disciples of Christ
did, at their word, all-to break in pieces the false idols in sight
of the paynim people. So that always God hath prepared his true
doctors, to destroy by plain miracle the false miracles
whereby men were and might be deceived. Is not this thus?" quoth I.
"Yes," quoth he.
"Well then," quoth I, "if our old holy doctors were false, and their
doctrine untrue, and their miracles feigned, it is not enough now to
say so. But if any of them that so say be sent by God to reprove it, then
must they prove that they be sent so. And that not in words only;
but let some of them come forth, and at their word break our
images, as Christ's doctors did the paynims'. And to prove our
miracles feigned let them do some very miracles themselves."
"As for miracles," quoth he, "be none articles in any man's creed. And
there is not so simple a sort of heretics but they might, if they
were set thereon, soon match you with miracles, whereof they might
feign fifteen in a forenoon. And then, as we said now, it would be
thought that though some were untrue, yet all were not lies."
"It were easy indeed," quoth I, "if men were mad among whom they
should report them, and would nothing do for the trial."
"Iwis yet if they did," quoth he, "yet might a few mean witted
men devise and feign a thing of such a fashion that it would be
believed and hard to try the truth out."
"Let it be so," quoth I. "But yet would it not long hold among good
Christian people. But God would either bring the falsehood to
light or soon cast it out of credence. What labor took Philostratus
to make a book full of lies, whereby he would have had Apollonius
Tyaneus in miracles match unto Christ? And when he had all done,
he never found one old wife so fond to believe him. But I pray
you tell me," quoth I, "be there not of heresies many sects?"
"Yes," quoth he.
"Is there," quoth I, "any more very churches of Christ than one?"
"No more," quoth he.

"Is not that it," quoth I, "that is true?"
"Yes," quoth he.
"Be not," quoth I, "then all the sects of heresies false?"
"Yes," quoth he.
"Who is likely," quoth I, "to feign and lie: that company that is the true
part, or some of them that be false?"
"It is," quoth he, "more likely that they should all lie that be false, than
that company that is the true part."
"Then false and feigned miracles," quoth I, "be they lies or not?"
"What else?" quoth he.
"Then," quoth I, "by your argument it seemeth that they were much
more likely to be among every sect of heretics than in the church."
"So seemeth it," quoth he.
"How happeth it then," quoth I, "if miracles be feigned ware, that among
all the false sects of heretics, where such false stuff should be by all
reason most rife, is none at all spoken of, but miracles told only
in the church of Christ, which is only, as ye agree, the true part?"
"There be," quoth he, "peradventure some done, either miracles or
marvels, but they dare not speak of them for fear of persecution."
"If they were," quoth I, "false marvels only done by the devil, it
would not help your matter. For then must you grant very miracles
of God only done in Christ's church. And if there had been very
miracles of God done for any sect whom we call heretics, that sect
had been no sect of heretics but the very church. Or else had God
by miracles testified the truth of a false faith; and that is impossible.
And thereof should have followed that, except there were of Christ
two churches of two contrary faiths and both true, which were
impossible; else not some, but all the miracles done, told, and
wrought in one church had been either feigned or done by the
devil, whereby should it follow that our church were not the very
church but a false sect of heretics, which were, as I have already
proved you divers wise as far impossible. But now for the more
clearness of our part therein, and for the further proof that ours is the sure
church, and only the doctors and the doctrine of our church approved
by miracles, never hath there been any done for the doctors of any
sects of heretics. For if there hath any true miracles been done by

God, and then that sect not a false sect but the true church, all the
persecution that could have been could never have quenched the fame
thereof, as well appeareth by the miracles done in our church in all
such time as both the Jews and the paynims pursued it. Now since
there be so many false sects and but one church true, and miracles not
spoken of in any but in one, it is a good token that the matter and substance
of them is true. For else they were as likely to be spoken of in
more, since of the false and lying sects be so many. And then also,
miracles being true, and being done but in one of all those many
companies each calling himself the church, it is a good proof
that the same one in which only they be done is only the very
true church of Christ, to which his Holy Spirit and marvelous
majesty giveth his special assistance. And surely of all miracles
that ever God hath wrought for his church, I see not in my
mind lightly a more marvelous, than that as many sects of
heretics as hath sprung and departed out of Christ's church, and
each of them laboring to be taken for the very church, yet hath
our Lord hitherto never suffered neither the devil to do any
wonder for them that might have the color and face of a miracle;
nor as false as they be themselves yet hath he not suffered them
hitherto not so much to do as feign a miracle for their part.
Which is to my mind not only great wonder, but also, their
confessed falsehood considered, a very clear proof that they could
never have been kept from it but by the special providence of
God and his tender cure upon his chosen church, by which it hath
liked him hitherto that miracles, among other things, have been
one good and sure mark between his church and all those erroneous
sects that been sprung out thereof, and be not his church but would
seem to be. For as for paynims, Turks, and Saracens, which by open
profession are of another flock and bear not the name of Christ nor
look for him, he suffereth the devil sometimes to delude with wonders
and marvels. But the Jews that still gape after him, their miracles
as far as I can hear be gone, to the intent they may know that he
hath left them and given them up, which was wont to work all those
wonders for them. Now as for heretics which falsely feign themselves
to be his own flock, and presume to bear and profess his name,

he keepeth them from the honor of any miracles doing, to the end
that the lack thereof among all their sects, and the doing thereof in his
only church, may be among many
other things, one good mark and sure
token whereby all these false sects of them
may be discerned and known from his very true church; that is to
say, from the whole congregation of true Christian people in this world,
which, without intermixtion of obstinate heresies, profess the right
Catholic faith.
"Now is it not only true that miracles be wrought only in the
church, and thereby do show which is the very true church, but also
they do show that those holy doctors for whom God hath showed them
were good men and of the right belief. For if it were, as ye would of
late have had it seem, that it might peradventure be so that the holy
doctors of our faith (whom we take for saints) were indeed no
saints nor saved souls, but haply those were saved souls and
saints in heaven (though it were unknown here in earth) which did
teach the doctrine here that we know call heresies; then were it a
wondrous change, that whereas God among the Jews provided that
in every age there were some good men, by their good living
and his high miracles, so notable and well-known to the people that
men had them always like bright, lively stars, whose doctrine
they might boldly believe and whose living they might surely
follow, he would now, in his special church of Christ, not only
do nothing like, but also do clean the contrary. For if he should
take that way that ye say, to leave, ever since the apostles' days, all
the true interpreters of his and their holy writing and doctors
of the very true faith, lie to the world unknown; and then on the other
side, set forth with miracles, or suffer so to be set forth with marvels,
that his church should take and accept for saints such evil persons
or hypocrites as construed the scriptures wrong, and ever since his
apostles' days have taught false errors and led his flock out of the
right way in a bypath to hellward with wicked heresies and
idolatry; then hath not God sent the Holy Ghost, and himself also
tarried still therein, to teach his church the truth, as he said he would.
But he then had helped to beguile them himself, which were

impossible for God to do, and more than blasphemy for any man
to think. For this were not like the sufferance of an unconsecrated
host, whereof ye put the example, wherein the people's invincible
ignorance, with their devout affection, may without harm to
their souls be suffered in the thing that seldom happeth and endureth
for so short a while. But if God would leave all good doctors
unknown, and suffer his church to be deceived with miracles and
marvels done by them that taught heresies and set forth idolatry,
then should himself, as I say, not only suffer his honor and
right faith and religion to be perpetually lost, but help also himself
to destroy it. Which, whoso could think possible, were worse
than Judas, and more mad than any man in Bedlam. And therefore
can it not in no wise be that the church can be deceived in that
they take for saints these holy doctors of the church. Nor they
so being, can it in any wise be that the doctrine wherein they
consent and agree can be false or untrue? Among which doctrine
since the things whereof we speak -- I mean the praying to saints,
the worship of images, reverencing of relics, and going in
pilgrimages -- is a part, as by their books plainly doth appear, we
may well and surely conclude that none of these things be damnable
or displeasant to God, but things highly to his contentation and
pleasure. And since we further perceive that their books be written
in diverse regions and sundry ages, we thereby well perceive that these
things be parcel of the rites, usages, and belief of Christ's church,
not only now and of late, but continually from the beginning
hitherto. And since it is plainly proved you that the church can in
no wise be suffered of God to fall into any damnable error thereby,
it is yet most surely concluded that these things be none such. And
consequently proved that no text of scripture seeming to sound
to the contrary can be so taken or understood. Nor that the
church cannot in prejudice of the faith misunderstand the
scripture. And that the substantial
points of the faith therefore learned of the
church, is one of the surest rules that can be found for the
right interpretation of holy scripture. And that no sect of heretics
can be the church of Christ, but that our church is the very

church. And it is also clearly proved that the matter of miracles therein
daily done is neither feigned by men nor done by the devil, but
only by the mighty hand of God. And such objections as ye laid
unto the contrary of any point aforesaid, be as far as I can see
sufficiently answered, except that ye have any further objection to
lay therein. Which if ye have, ye get no thanks to spare."
Whereunto he said and swore therewith that he so fully felt himself
answered and contented therein, that he thought himself
able therewith to content and satisfy any man that he should happen
to meet with that would hold the contrary. Whereupon for that
day we departed till another time, in which we appointed to
peruse the remnant of the things that he had in the beginning
The end of the second book.

The Third Book
The First Chapter
The messenger, having in the meanwhile been at the
university, showeth unto the author an objection which
he learned there against one point proved in the first
book -- that is to wit, that in the necessary points of the
faith, equal credence is to be given to the church and to the
scripture. Which objection the author answereth and
About fortnight after, your friend came again in a morning,
new come from the university, where he was, as ye wot, at learning
ere he came at you. And there had he now, as he said, visited some of
his old acquaintance. And upon occasion rising in communication,
had again repeated with some of them, very fresh learned
men, good part of our former disceptation and reasoning, had
between us before his departing. Which, as he said, they took great
pleasure in, and much wished to have been present thereat. But surely
he said that some of them seemed to take very sore to heart the hard
handling of the man that ye write of, and the burning of the New
Testament, and the forbidding of Luther's books to be read, which
were, as some of them thought, not allthing so bad as they were
made for. And finally, touching the burning of heretics, there
were some that thought the clergy therein far out of right order of
"I am," quoth I, "very glad that it hath been your hap to be there. Not
so much for anything that ye have showed them of our communication
had already, concerning the praying of saints,
worshipping of images and relics, and going in pilgrimage,
wherein I think ye told them no novelty; for I doubt not but they
could have told you more of the matters themselves than ye have

heard or could hear of me; as for that I think that among them
being, as ye say, so well-learned, ye have either heard somewhat
whereby ye be in some part of these matters that we shall speak of
already satisfied, whereby our business therein may be the shorter,
or else ye be the more strongly instructed for the other part, whereby
our disputation shall be the fuller, and the matters the more plainly
touched, for the more ample satisfaction of such as yourself or
your master shall hereafter happen to find in any doubt of these
things that we shall now touch and treat of."
"Indeed," quoth he, "somewhat have they showed me their minds
therein, as in some part of the matters ye shall hear when we hap to
come to them."
"That shall I gladly hear," quoth I, "and shape you such answer
as my poor wit will serve me. But yet I pray you be plain with me
in one thing. Were they satisfied and held themselves content in
those things that were at last with much work agreed between
"In good faith," quoth he, "to say the truth, all were save one
and he in allthing save one. And to your great praise and high
commendation they said that in these matters."
"Nay, quoth I, "let their praise pass, lest ye make me too proud. But
I pray you tell me not which one misliked one thing, but what
one thing it was and why he misliked it."
"Surely," quoth he, "for aught that I could bend upon him, he could
never agree that the faith of the church, out of scripture, should
be as sure and bind us to the belief thereof as the words of holy
"Why," quoth I, "if ye remembered well what we said, ye had enough
to prove him that."
"Truth is it," quoth he, "so had I, and so did I, and in such wise that
diverse ways I brought him to the bay, that he wist not how to void.
But then said he to me that he would not do with me as I had done
with you. Nor it was (he said) no wisdom for a man against his
adversary to use always the buckler hand. For so must all the peril
be his and his adversary stand in surety. But on the other side if he

use the sword therewith, and strike among and drive the other to
his defense, so may he hap to put him in half the peril. And likewise,
he said, that if I proved my part so clearly to him that he
could not say nay: yet if I would again answer him another
while, he might peradventure bring me to the same point on the
other side, and then should the matter stand yet at large. For of two
contraries, if both the parts be proved, then stand they both
unproved. "And therefore," quoth he, "I pray you answer me this a
little. When you believe the church, wherefore do you believe the
church? Do you not believe it because it saith truth?"
"Yes, marry," quoth I, "what else?"
"And how know you," quoth he, "that the church saith truth? Know
ye that any other wise than by scripture?"
"Nay, marry," quoth I. "But then by plain scripture I know it very
well. For the scripture telleth me that God hath fully taught and
teacheth his church and biddeth me believe his church."
"Lo," quoth he, "for all your process see whereto ye be brought
now. Ye would in any wise before, and ye seemed to prove it too, all
the while that ye argued and I answered, that the church was in all
necessary points of our faith as much to be believed as the
scripture; and that we should not have believed the scripture but
for the authority of the church, as ye say Saint Augustine saith. And
now when I argue and ye answer, I have driven you to the wall in
three words, and proved unto you that the church is not to be
believed, nor that yourself believeth it not but for the authority of
the scripture." And after that he had thus said, the remnant that
were present allowed it much, and I was therewith astonished and
said I would advise me further thereon. But he laughed and said he
would lend me this, and not to be hasty on me, for he would give
me respite of payment till I had spoken with you again."
"When your friend had told, forsooth," quoth I, "he dealt with you
like a courteous creditor. And since he hath given you so long
day, ye shall not need, I trust, to die in his debt. And to say the
truth, ye owe him not much. For ye may bear him his own

again and tell him his money is naught. But I have espied it is, as
he saith, a great advantage for him to oppose. For he hath such
craft in arguing that he will soon bring the answerer to a
perilous point if he happen on one that will answer him handsomely
as he would have him. But on the other side, if he had
happened on one that had answered him as frowardly as the boy
answered one Caius, a poet at Cambridge, then had he by his
opposing part won nothing at all.
For Caius for his pleasure playing with
the boy, being a young sophister, said that he would prove the
boy an ass. Which when the boy denied, "Well," quoth Caius,
"thou wilt grant me this first, that everything that hath two
ears is an ass."
"Nay marry, Master, will I not," quoth the boy.
"No, wilt thou?" quoth Caius. "Ah, wily boy, there thou went beyond
me. For and thou wouldst have granted me that, I would have
proved thee an ass anon."
"Marry, Master," quoth the boy, "ye might well, and so might every
fool do."
"Well," quoth Caius, "I will go now another way to work with thee.
Thou wilt grant me that every ass hath two ears."
"Nay, marry will I not, Master," quoth the boy.
"Why so, boy?" quoth he
"Marry, Master," quoth he, "for some ass may hap to have never one,
for they may be cut off both."
"Nay," quoth Caius, "I give thee over, for thou art too froward a boy
for me." And so if ye had not granted what he would, he had
nothing won at your hand."
"Why," quoth your friend, "what thing did I grant him that I
should not?"
"Forsooth," quoth I, "no more but all that ever ye granted. For first
when he asked you whether the cause why we believe the church be
not because it is true that the church telleth you, though your

answer which ye made therein was not the cause of your redargution,
nor the thing whereby ye were concluded, yet answered ye not well
thereto when ye granted it."
"Why," quoth he, "wherefore should I believe the church or any man
else but because they tell me true?"
"Sometimes," quoth I, "it happeth so, but sometimes it happeth otherwise.
For if a known liar tell you a known true tale, ye will
believe him because he telleth you truth. But now if a known
true man tell you an unknown truth, ye believe not him because
the thing is truth, but ye believe the thing to be truth because ye
believe the man to be true. And so believe you the church, not because
it is truth that the church telleth you; but ye believe the
truth of the thing because the church telleth it. But yet was not
that answer of his, as I say, the thing that confounded you. For now if
ye so should have answered him as I have showed you, though ye
should have somewhat blenched him therewith, yet he might and
would of likelihood have gone further with you, and have asked you
whereby ye know that ye should believe the church. And what answer
would ye then have made thereunto?"
"Marry," quoth he, "then might I have said that I believe the church
because that in such necessary points of faith the church cannot err."
"That had been very well said," quoth I. "But he would have asked how
ye know that."
"Then must I," quoth he, "have said the same that I did, that I know
it by plain and evident scripture that the church in such things
cannot say but true. And then would I have laid him the texts
that ye alleged unto me for the same purpose before."
"If ye so had said," quoth I, "ye had answered him truly, but yet not
with your most advantage."
"Why so?" quoth he.
"For," quoth I, "your next answer were to say, as truth is, that ye believe
that the church in such things cannot err, because ye believe that
God hath taught and told the same things to his church."
"Then would he have asked me further," quoth your friend, "what
thing maketh me believe that God hath taught and told the church
those things."
"So would he have asked you," quoth I, "and so might he well."

"Then were we come," quoth your friend, "unto the same point
again that he should have concluded me as he did before."
"Nay," quoth I, "not if ye answered thereto well."
"Why," quoth he, "what could I answer else, but clearly grant him
that I believe that thing for none other cause but only because the
scripture so showeth me?"
"No could ye?" quoth I. "What if never scripture had been written in
this world: should there never have been any church or congregation
of faithful and right believing people?"
"That wot I ne'er," quoth he.
"No, do ye?" quoth I. "Were there never any folk that believed in God and
had a true faith between Adam and Noe of such as never heard God
speak themselves?"
"Yes," quoth he, "I suppose there were some, but it should seem there
were very few. For there were few saved in Noe's ship."
"The world was at that time," quoth I, "waxen worse and worse, as it
waxeth now. But it is not unlikely that there were many right
believing people in the meantime."
"That is," quoth he, "likely enough."
"Now as for the days," quoth I, "of Noe himself, though there were
few saved alive, yet proveth not that the people to be all miscreants
and without faith. For it fared by them as it fareth now by us, that
there were many that believed the truth and had a faith, but they
followed the flesh and sank for their sin. For there appeareth no
further upon the story in Genesis, but
that the world was washed with the water
of the great flood for the filth of their fleshly living. And albeit
that in the first Epistle of Saint Peter it might seem some incredulity
in them, yet may it be that it stretched no further than to the
lack of fear in the credence of God's commination and overmuch
hope and boldness of God's further favor and sufferance.
Whereof they repented after, too late for this present life, and yet many
through God's mercy not too late for the final salvation of their
souls (as appeareth by the good and great
clerk Nicholas de Lyra upon the same
place) which could in no wise have been so if they had lacked faith.

Which faith what scripture had they to teach them, or all the men
in effect that any faith had from Adam thitherto? Was there also no
faithful folk at all from Noe to Moses, nor himself neither
till he had the law delivered to him in writing? Did Abraham never
believe more but those things that we find in scripture specially to
have been told him by God? Was his father and all his friends
infidels? Were there no people besides in all that long time that had a
right faith?"
"Yes," quoth your friend, "that I think verily there was."
"That may ye," quoth I, "be sure there was.
And why did any man then believe the
church -- that is to wit, the number and congregation of good and
right believing folk, of whose mouth and tradition he heard the
true belief, against the wrong and misbelief that was in all
the world among infidels and idolaters besides? Why did any man
this, but because they believed that God hath taught those things
to good men before, and that it was and would be still the good
lesson of God? And then what thing made them to believe that God
had taught them so? It was not the scripture that made them
believe that, as ye would that nothing can tell us that believe but the
scripture. I pray you tell me, what scripture hath taught the
church to know which books be the very scripture, and to reject
many other that were written of the same masters, and that in such
wise written, and in the names of such men as (saving for the
Spirit of God given to his church) a natural wise man had been
likely enough either to have taken both for holy scripture or to
have rejected both as none holy scripture? And surely in the receipt
of the one, and rejection of the other, there would have been at
the leastway such diverse opinions that the whole church had never
taken all the one sort and rejected all the other, had not that Holy
Spirit inspired that consent, "Qui fecit
unanimes in domo" (Which maketh the
church all of one mind and accord). And therefore, albeit that
against them that nothing will believe but scripture we prove
the authority of the church by scripture, and in such wise prove it
them by scripture that they shall be fain either further to grant
that they be bound to believe the church in things not specified

in scripture, and as fully as they believe the scripture's self, or
else they shall deny the scripture and all:
yet should we have believed the church if
never scripture had been written, as those good faithful folk did
that believed well before the scripture was written. And now the
scripture self maketh us not believe the scripture, but the church
maketh us to know the scripture. And God, without scripture, hath
taught his church the knowledge of his very scripture from all
counterfeit scripture. For it is not, as I say, the scripture that
maketh us to believe the word of God written in the scripture (for a
man might, as haply many doth, read
it altogether and believe thereof never a
whit) but it is the Spirit of God that,
with our own towardness and good endeavor, worketh in his
church, and in every good member thereof, the credulity and belief
whereby we believe as well the church concerning God's words
taught us by the church, and by God graved in men's hearts without
scripture, as his holy words written in his holy scripture. And
thus ye perceive that where ye granted him that so did oppose you
that we believe the church by none other way but by the scripture,
there did ye not answer him well. For we, besides the scripture, do
believe the church because that God himself by secret inspiration
of his Holy Spirit doth -- if we be willing to learn -- teach us to
believe his church; and also, if we will walk with him, leadeth us
into the belief thereof by the selfsame means by which he teacheth
us and leadeth us into the belief of his holy scripture. For likewise
as when we hear the scripture or read it -- if we be not rebellious
but endeavor ourselves to believe, and captive and subdue our understanding
to serve and follow faith, praying for his gracious aid
and help -- he then worketh with us, and inwardly doth incline our
heart into the assent of that we read, and after a little spark of our
faith, increaseth the credence in our incredulity: so doth his
goodness in like wise incline and move the mind of every like
toward and like well-willing body to the giving of fast and firm
credence to the faith that the church teacheth him in such things
as be not in the scripture, and to believe that God hath taught his
church those points by his holy word without writing. And now
if ye had answered him thus, I believe surely that ye had clearly
disarmed him and broken his gay sword in twain. Which in my

mind, I promise you, how gaily soever it glitter in one's eye for a
flourish, yet who fight therewith shall find it neither sharp nor
sure, if it fall on a good buckler and not on a naked man."
"By my troth," quoth your friend, "so seemeth me now too. And though
the brightness bleared mine eye at that time, yet I trust he shall
win no worship thereof when we meet again.
The Second Chapter
Incidently somewhat is there touched the superstitious
fear and scrupulosity that the person abjured did, as it is
said, begin with. The weariness whereof drove him to the
delight of such liberty as brought him to the contempt
of the good devout things used commonly in Christ's church.
And in this chapter is somewhat touched the good, mean
manner between scrupulous superstition and reckless
negligence that would be used in the singing or saying
of divine service.
"But surely, sir, concerning the man's abjuration that we spoke
of, they be marvelously persuaded that he had much wrong. Not in
that the opinions were catholic which were laid to his charge
(for therein have ye said enough) but in that he was wrong borne in
hand that he had preached them, where he did not so. And thus be they
very credibly informed both by word and writing of such as were
present thereat. And therefore long I sore and would be very glad, to
hear how those matters were proved."
"Now and I am," quoth I, "for my part very sorry, so help me God, to lose
time therein, as a thing in effect fruitless, saving that it may be
peradventure a fruitful example that no man be light to believe
such things hereafter as he shall hap to hear spoken against the
church, in the favor of any man condemned of heresy, while he
seeth as much said against the judgment of this man: wherein, so to
say, they can have no more hold than if they would say the crow
were white. And in good faith, to say the truth, there cannot in my

mind be a more meet example to match their words withal.
For likewise as he that would say the crow were white must, if he
will be believed, go tell the tale to a blind man; and may percase
with him be as well believed as one that will say the contrary,
till that he be either by more men, or men of more honesty, put after out
of credence; so must these folk that thus talk and write of him, seek,
as they do indeed, such hearers as be blind in the matter and know
nothing thereof, whom they persuade with false suggestions to
conceive an evil opinion of the judges, to incline their hearts first
for pity to the favor of the man, and after to the favor of the
matters that he was abjured for. I have myself seen a letter written out
of London by a priest reputed honest, howbeit indeed, as I saw it
proved after, a plain pestilent heretic. In which letter he wrote
that the man we now talk of did no more abjure any heresy than
he had done himself or the man that he wrote unto. And yet was
his writing as false as God is true. Wherewith he labored covertly
to make the man believe that the opinions were none heresies. And
that he which was pretended to have abjured them had not so done
indeed, but had well avowed them and stiffly abided by them. Lo,
thus do such as are of that sect set forth their matters with
lies. And reason is it that they so do. For since their sects be false,
lies be for them most meet. And yet is it a mad thing of them to
boast of him. For he forthwith forsook them, and ever before his
judges he confessed from the beginning that the matters were plain
false heresies, and the holders therewith heretics. Saying for himself
that he never preached them. And so had they no cause to be proud
of him which in open audience at the first word refused and condemned
them. But they, haply thinking that for all his denying
with his mouth he favored still indeed them and their
heresies in his mind, pardoned therefore those words which they
thought spoken but of infirmity, for fear and faint heart. And therefore
would they be glad yet, among men that knew not the matter,
to maintain and uphold his authority against a better time.
And surely this that I shall tell you have I heard reported, howbeit
I will not warrant it for truth. But yet have I, as I say, heard
it reported right credibly, that the man we speak of, which was

abjured, used among some of that sect to say, "Let us preach and
set forth our way. And if we be accused, let us say we said not so,
and yet some of them shall we win always the while." And albeit I
will not, as I say, warrant you that he thus said, yet I assure you, to
my mind his manner in his matter before his judges was as consonant
as could be to that intent and purpose. For surely the effect of his
defense was nothing else, but against a well and plainly proved
matter, an obstinate shameless nay."
"By my troth," quoth your friend, "I marvel me much thereof. For he
was called a good man and a very devout."
"I will not," quoth I, "as I told you in the beginning, go about to
reprove his living, since the question standeth not but in his teaching.
And yet may I be bold with you to tell you what I have heard.
He was (as it was said) after that he fell from the study of the law,
wherein he was a proctor and partly well-learned, unto the study
of scripture -- he was, as I say, very fearful and scrupulous; and began
at the first to fall into such a scrupulous holiness, that he reckoned
himself bound so straitly to keep and observe the words of
Christ after the very letter, that because our Lord biddeth us when
we will pray enter into our chamber and shut the door to us, he
thought it therefore sin to say his service abroad, and always would
be sure to have his chamber door shut unto him while he said his
matins. Which thing I indeed heard him once deny in an honorable
"But I heard again another man more credible than twain of
him -- and if I had said, than such ten, I think I lied not -- and one
of his best proved friends, avow it in his face for truth. Howbeit,
I tell you not this thing for any great hurt in the man. For it was
more peevish and painful than evil and sinful. But surely men
say that in conclusion with the weariness of that superstitious fear
and servile dread, he fell as far to the contrary. And under pretext
of love and liberty waxed so drunk of the new must of lewd
lightness of mind and vain gladness of heart, which he took for
spiritual consolation, that whatsoever himself listed to take for
good, that thought he forthwith approved by God. And so framed
himself a faith, framed himself a conscience, framed himself

a devotion wherein him list, and wherein him liked, he set
himself at liberty."
"And if it so were," quoth your friend, "then ye see, lo, what cometh
of this saying of service."
"Of saying service, quoth I, "this is
much like as at Beverley late, when much of the people being at a
bear-baiting, the church fell suddenly down at evensong time
and overwhelmed some that then were in it; a good fellow that
after heard the tale told: "Lo," quoth he, "now may you see what it is to
be at evensong when you should be at the bear-baiting." Howbeit
the hurt was not therein being at evensong, but in that the church
was falsely wrought. So was in him or any man else none harm,
but good, in saying of divine service; but the occasion of harm is
in the superstitious fashion that their own folly joineth thereunto --
as some think they say it not but if they say every psalm twice."
"In faith," quoth your friend, "then if I were as he, I would mumble
it up apace or else say none at all."
"That were as evil," quoth I, "on the other side. There is a mean
may serve between both."
"Yea," quoth he, "but wot ye what the wife said that complained to her
gossip of her husband's frowardness? She said her husband was so
wayward that he would never be pleased. For if his bread, quoth she, be
dough-baked, then is he angry. "Marry, no marvel," quoth her gossip.
"Marry, and wot ye what, gossip?" quoth she. "And if I bake it all to
hard coals, yet is he not content neither, by Saint James." "No," quoth her
gossip, "ye should bake it in a mean." "In a mean?" quoth she. "Marry, I
cannot happen on it." And so in a pair of matins it is much work
to happen on the mean. And then to say them too short is lack
of devotion. And to say them too seriously is somewhat superstitious.
And therefore the best way were in my mind, to say none
at all."
"Yea," quoth I, "but then is God as wayward a husband as ye spoke of,
that will neither be content with his bread burnt to coals, nor
dough-baked neither."
"By our Lady," quoth he, "but be he content or not, I ween he hath much
dough-baked bread among. For the matins, I tell you, be in some
places sung faster than I can say them."

"Peradventure," quoth I, "so were it need. For if they should sing
matins no faster than ye say them, they should, I ween, sing very
few matins in a year."
"In faith," quoth he, "and some that say them make me to doubt much
whether the bees in their hives use to say matins among them. For
even such another buzzing they make."
"Surely," quoth I, "that is as true as it is evil
done. For as it is a vice and some fault to
be in the service of God superstitious instead of religious, over
dreadful and scrupulous instead of devout and diligent; so is it a
much more fault to be therein reckless and negligent. For accursed
is he, as holy scripture saith, that doth the
work of God negligently. The peril thereof
appeareth by Uticus, the young stripling that is spoken of by Saint
Luke in the Acts of the Apostles. Who, falling
in sleep while the apostles and the disciples
were occupied in reading, preaching, and prayer, fell out of a high
window down unto the ground and there had died, God wot in what
case, if the merits of Saint Paul had not recovered him. And now if
he be of God accursed that negligently doth his work, how much
is he more accursed that casteth his work away and leaveth it quite
undone; such work, I say, as they be bound to do? But in this
matter we spend more time than needeth. For it is not much to our
present purpose, saving that if it be truth that the man whom we
talk of fell first in such superstition, it is the more likely that the
devil did cast him therein for none other intent but that he
might after, for very weariness thereof, bring him into a contempt
of all the things that he was waxen weary of, and set him in a delight
of liberty. Whereby, with leaning to his own wit, he might reckon
everything good or bad as himself would account it. Which was
the ready way to bring him to these heresies wherein he was now
The Third Chapter
The author showeth that men ought not to be light in
mistrusting of any judgment given in the court. And that
much less ought any man to be bold in the reproving of a

common law. And he showeth also the cause why that the law
admitteth more slight witness in heinous criminal
causes than in slighter matters of covenants or contracts.
"Fallen?" quoth your friend. "What abide, we be now gone over the
stile ere we come at it. We be yet in question whether it were
righteously judged that he was fallen in them or not. For I think
it no sin to doubt thereof yet till I hear how the matter was proved."
"Indeed," quoth I, "that is, as ye say, the matter whereof we first have to
talk. And yet if ye never heard further therein but that he was
judged faulty, although ye had ever accounted the man in your
own mind for very virtuous and of right belief, yet since he cannot
be good except more men than he be naught, whom ye ought no
more to misdeem than him, and especially his judges which are elect
and chosen for indifferent and which, without likelihood of lucre
or loss, be set to consider, examine, and by their judgment order
the cause of another man; whereas the parties may reasonably be
more mistrusted themselves, both the accuser, which may speak of
malice, and especially the party that is accused, which is well
likely to lie for his defense, in a matter of peril if he were proved
guilty; ye therefore ought not to mistrust the judgment except ye
knew the matter untruly judged indeed, or by very good and
substantial folk that were present and indifferent, had
plain and sure information thereof."
"Marry," quoth he, "men think that if any such information may
serve, they have had enough thereof by men of wisdom, learning, and
honesty, both by mouth and by writing that were present at all the
handling of the matter."
"Well," quoth I, "we shall let their wisdom and their learning alone.
But as for their honesty, it shall somewhat show itself upon the
truth or untruth of their report. Wherein first, I pray you, could
they say that he was not convicted by as many witnesses and as good
and as credible as the law requireth?"
"So many," quoth he, "and such as the law requireth? Would God," quoth
he, "that we could as easily find good men and true, as we may find

so many such. For the law doth, as I hear say, require but twain;
and yet, in cause of heresy careth not much how bad they be, not
though they be heretics themselves. And is not this a wondrous
case, that whereas in a matter of a little money no law receiveth any
witness but honest and credible, the law made by the church,
should in so great a matter, so highly touching the utter destruction
of a man in body and goods, with a death the most painful that can be
devised, admit and receive a person infamed, and give faith and
credence to an infidel, whom they have proved and reproved
false in his faith to God? Nor methinketh
the excuse but very slender that I have ere
this heard in this point alleged for the
church, that such simple witness are admitted in heresy
because the crime is so great and so odious, that therefore it is
worthy to be handled with the more rigor and the less favor.
And this thing will I well agree for good reason in the punishment
of crime when it is proved. But before God, not in hatred and
persecution of the person ere the crime be proved.
"But now whereas they receive the witness of so slight and false
fellows for a proof, they pursue the person and not the crime. Whereas
methinketh, on the other side, the more heinous, odious,
and abominable that the crime is, the more slow should we be to
believe it, and the more sure and plain proof should we have ere we
should judge any man for so evil to commit it."
"There is," quoth I, "no doubt but that the world is so bad, that there
be many so naughty that they will be ready enough to bear false
witness. And yet God forbid that it were so bad as ye say, that a
man might sooner find such than good men and true. And also,
though the witness were false and would lie, yet when they be wisely
and severally examined, they can seldom so well make their tale
before but that their untruth shall in some part appear. And
finally the law bindeth not the judge so precisely to the words of
the witness but that it leaveth many things to be pondered and
weighed by his wisdom. For it is in a judge as it is in a physician,
to whom there be many good books written able to give good light
and instruction. And yet, whoso would so precisely bind him to his

book that he should nothing use the discretion of his brain, he
should sometimes do full evil service.
"And yet is it, as Aristotle saith, well done indeed to make the
laws so sufficient that as few things as may shall remain and
be left to the discretion of the judge, since that the common laws be
commonly made by many more than are the particular judges, and also
many such as are as wise as judges. And over that, the laws be to the
judges a sure and substantial shield to defend and keep them
from the hatred and obloquy that else would follow their sentence on
the one side or the other, were their judgment never so just. For
men be so partial always to themselves, that our heart ever
thinketh the judgment wrong that wringeth us to the worse. For
be it never so right, all reckon we wrong whereof we feel harm.
"But yet of allthing especially, the law should best content us
for that it is furthest out of all cause of suspicion. For whereas a
judge meddleth with a matter present, and
persons whom he seeth and knoweth,
whereby there may percase favor, hatred,
hope, or dread, pity, cruelty, meed, request, or some other
affection incline him to misorder himself in the matter, the laws
always be made for the punishment of things only that are yet
to come, and who shall fall in peril the makers cannot tell. Haply
their foes, haply their friends and, as men's manners be mutable,
peradventure themselves; for which cause the makers of the law
made by the people in causes criminal can be but indifferent. And
therefore I marvel the more, since that fault ye find now is not in
the judges, but in the law's self, wherein ye think it evil
provided that, for the hatred of a heinous crime, the person,
peradventure innocent, should fall in peril of a painful death by the
taking of more slight witness than would be taken for sufficient in
a far slighter matter. Somewhat ye said indeed, if the hatred of
the crime were all the cause; but therein
ye go far wide. For the chief cause why
that in heinous criminal causes, as
theft, murder, treason, and heresy, the law taketh such for
witness as it will not accept in a matter of money or other contract

made between two parties, is for that else all such crimes should pass
forth unpunished, and thereby should the world swarm full of such
mischievous people for lack of proof and trial in the matter, by cause
that those which go about such a heinous deed as coming
once to knowledge would bring them to a shameful death, do not
use commonly to take a notary and honest witness with them to make
an instrument thereof, as many men do and all men may do in a contract
or covenant: but use to do it by stealth as covertly as they
can. By reason whereof, reason moveth and necessity compelleth
(except ye would have all go to naught) to receive such records
as they be wont to make of their counsel, which be, as ye wot
well, none but such as they be themselves. And yet sometimes which
may seem more strange, we be content (and reason would we so
were) with the witness of the parties themselves. For if that ten
thieves robbed four men at once in a wood, though all the good that
they take away were one common purse of all four, and would all ten
when they were taken well and stiffly say nay, yet were I their
judge (since all witness serveth but only to
induce a credence or credulity in the judges'
minds) I would not let (except some other circumstance withstood
it) to believe the four complainants in their own matter against
all ten defendants. And albeit that percase a judge might be, in a
contract made between two parties, induced in his own mind
without any doubt to the contrary to give credence in such a point
to the one part against the other for the well-known truth and
honesty of the one, and in the other part, the contrary; yet doth
the law through the world almost prohibit him so to proceed in a
civil cause, lest they should bring that form of judgment in
custom, wherein, for lucre ensuing to that party, there were occasion
to corrupt the judge; and also forasmuch as that fashion were in a
civil cause clean without necessity, since the parties may, if they
list, for the surety of their bargains have writing or good witness
thereat. Which if they list not for to do, either for folly, sloth,
or trust, good reason is that it rather turn themselves to loss
than, for the redressing of their oversight, to bring in place that

form and fashion of judgment that may be the cause of other
men's wrongful trouble; whereas in heinous criminal
causes, neither is there always such cause of corruption
especially toward the condemnation, upon which side only falleth
the fault and peril that ye speak of, and is also, as ye see, inevitable
necessity for lack of possibility of other record and witness,
till ye provide that thieves and murderers will be content to take
honest witness with them that may bear witness against them.
The Fourth Chapter
The author showeth upon what ground and cause the
man was convicted. And also divers other things not then
brought in judgment, whereby it may well appear that he
was greatly guilty. And so he showeth incidently wherefore
it were not reason, in a detection of heresy, to suffer (after the
witnesses published and the crime well-proved) any new
witnesses to be received for the party that is accused.
"Howbeit, though this serve for such matters in general, yet, for
this one matter that we now speak of, we stand far in another case.
For this man was not convicted by the words of one or twain,
but by the oaths of one or twain above twenty; not such men as
we now speak of, Lollards and heretics, but honest men and
almost of all sorts of religious folk, husbandmen and gentlemen."
"Indeed," quoth he, "to say the truth I heard say there were many witnesses.
But I heard again that he offered to bring twice as many,
and that of such as were present as well as they, and stood as near as
they, and understood as well as they, and slept no more at his
preaching than a person doth at his offering, and would depose
plainly for him."
"Whether he said so or not," quoth I, "that can I not tell you, but
this I wot well. Himself was well-learned in the law, and never could
say that he was denied any favor that the law would grant. And many a

witness was there to whom he laid none exception, nor could say
the contrary but that they were at his sermons and heard him. And
then when he was so clearly convicted by so many, so honest, and so
far from all suspicion of corruption, it were peradventure a thing
not convenient, after those witnesses published, to bring proofs afresh
upon the principal matter. For if it so should be, then should
either the new proofs depose the same that the other did before, or
else they should depose the contrary, or finally, say such thing as
neither could make nor mar. Now if they did the first, that
is to say, depose as the first did, then were we no further than we
were before, and that time lost and the matter delayed in vain. If
they did the third, deposing percase that themselves were not
present, or asleep, or not well understood, or not well remembered the
matter, yet were we still at one stay. Put now the second point
(which were in manner the only thing that might seem to have any
color for him), that the new proofs would depose that they
were at the same time present, and stood near him, marked him
well, and were also well remembered that he said not so -- yea, and
peradventure, that he said the contrary: this case were possible;
but surely it were so seldom likely, that it were not worth to
change a law therefor. But now, if it so should happen, here were a
great confusion. And how could any sentence be given, if they
should believe the second as well as the first?"
"That maketh," quoth he, "no matter. For if the matter appear upon
his side thereby, either clear or doubtful, then may the judges acquit
and assoil the defendant. And better were it the fault to be
acquitted, than the faultless to be punished."
"It were a strange thing," quoth I, "if the law should in such a matter
as this is, after the witnesses once published, and thereby the matter
well-proved, then examine other witness afresh upon the principal
point. This were in my mind perilous, not only for fear of
subornation and false instruction of witness (a thing easy to be
done upon the sight of that that is deposed already before) but
also for that if the affirmative be proved (especially in this case of
heresy being by so many sufficiently proved that one taught and
preached such things in his open sermons) if other that were present

at the same sermons would now depose the contrary, it may be that
the first heard the thing which the second marked not, as many
times it happeth. And more likely is it also that one may forget
the thing that he heard, than that another should remember that
thing that he heard not. And if they would peradventure add thereto
that he said the contrary of such things as was proved against
him, then can it at the best be no better taken than that he in one
sermon said, taught, and preached both twain, that is to wit, the
truth and the heresies. In which case, he well were worthy in judgment
to acknowledge his fault and be corrected therefor."
"By my troth," quoth he, "yet methinketh ever that it ought to be
heard all that any man will say; and take all to the best for him that
is accused, and especially in heresy pretended to be preached where so
many be present."
"Surely, quoth I, "what were best, God wotteth; for I cannot tell. But
this wot I well, that the wit of the whole world in effect agreeth
that in all such heinous crimes, reason is clear to the contrary
and quite against your mind. And where ye think your mind
worthy to take special place in the proof and examination of
heresies, surely, meseemeth that of all crimes, in heresy might it
least be suffered. For well ye wot that
heresies be false belief and factious ways
full of business. And such as give themselves thereto be sturdy and
studious about the furtherance of their seditious sect. And since
they be fallen from God and his true faith, they have no great care
of truth, nor be very scrupulous in the lending of an oath till
they need in like case to be paid again. So that if their
nay may stand against other good men's yea, and where the heresy
is proved to have been preached, there men may be heard and believed
in deposing the contrary, the false preacher may be bold
to say what him list. For he shall never fail to have his records
"Yea," quoth he, "but this way would not serve him. For men might
take exception to them if they were heretics."
"Nay," quoth I, "not if they be so; but if they be proved so. And that shall
they never be if your way were received. For each of their witness
shall always serve other."

"Forsooth," quoth he, "it seemeth somewhat perilous, as ye say, if men
should against the affirmative proved, lean to the contrary witness
for the negative, in any crime that is seditious and hath daily
folk of evil conscience fervently fall in thereto; but yet I much
marvel of one thing. For I have heard it credibly reported that there
were twain, and both beneficed men, both very cunning men,
both twain very virtuous men, which heard him preach as well as
they did that had deposed against him. And those twain affirmed
and offered to depose that he preached not the things which he was
accused of. And surely had I been judge, I would have believed those
twain above other twenty, except witness be taken only by
number and not by weight."
"Surely," quoth I, "my mind and yours be not far asunder. For since
all witness serve to induce the judge's mind to conceive a credence
and an opinion, or rather a certain persuasion on the one side,
I could not myself but believe some twain better than some
twenty. And would not fail to weigh them rather than take them by
tale. Howbeit," quoth I, "of those twain that ye speak of, the one
was indeed such as ye say. But as for the other, was neither then
held very clear, and since that time proved clearly naught. But
though the one was, as he was indeed a very good man; yet for the
man's excuse he was no very good witness, nor the other neither,
although he had been as good a man as he, nor if they had been
forty men more as good as the better of them both, saying as they
"Why," quoth he, "said they not well for him?"
"Yes," quoth I, "for as far as they went, but they went not far
"Ah," quoth he, "their words were of likelihood narrowly taken."
"They were," quoth I, "taken as large as they were spoken; which
was that he preached not such heresies in a place where they heard
him in London. But then was his detection and the proof made
thereupon of those heresies preached at sundry places out of
London, whereby their words went as wide for his excuse, as if
one that were arraigned for a felony done at Salisbury on Shrove
Tuesday, brought in good witness to the bar that would depose and

swear for him that he did no such felony at Shrewsbury on Sheer
Thursday, for they were with him there all that day themselves. But for
conclusion, he was convicted by more than twenty, and excused
by never one. And therefore, if his judges wronged him, there was
never man had right. And yet were there, besides the witness, some
letters written of his own hand unto one of his judges; which
letters I have since seen, sounding in mine ears to as evil heresies
as those were that he was detected of. Which letters were never
laid into the court till that, after the proofs published and read,
he appeared obstinate, standing still in the denial and proudly
refusing to submit himself to his abjuration. For then said
his judge to whom they were written, that since he refused to be
reconciled to the church, he would keep no counsel of his. And
therewith brought in those letters and filed them among the
records of the court.
"This man had also been before that accused unto the greatest prelate
in this realm, who for his tender favor borne to the university,
did not proceed far in the matter against him. But accepting his
denial with a corporal oath that he should from that time forth be no
setter-forth of heresies, but in his preachings and readings impugn
them, dismissed him very benignly; and of his liberal bounty
gave him also money for his costs. And yet was none of all these
matters laid unto his charge. Which if they had been, would peradventure
have put him to peril.
"I was also myself, since his abjuration, present (as it happed)
with a honorable prelate at such time as one that was an ancient
heretic had been examined; and there had confessed that he had
held, taught, and in divers countries spread about almost all
the heresies that any lewd heretic holdeth."
"May ye not tell his name?" quoth he.
"Which of them? quoth I. "For he had more names than half a leaf
can hold."
"Where dwelled he?" quoth your friend.
"Everywhere and nowhere," quoth I. "For
he walked about as an apostle of the devil from shire to shire and
town to town through the realm, and had in every diocese a

diverse name. By reason whereof he did many years much harm ere
he could be found out. This heretic, touching all his other
heresies, he acknowledged them in conclusion to be naught, and
offered to abjure them. But as for despising of images, relics,
and pilgrimages, those things he said were none heresies but
very good and true points, for he heard them preached, he said, of
the great doctor, naming the man we speak of, and told where,
confessing also that he liked so well his sermons that he letted
not to go twenty miles to hear him. And yet was there since that
another heretic that confessed for his own part the like. So that
ye may see that good Christian folk were offended with his preaching,
and heretics liked his preaching and grounded their heresies
upon his preaching. And then look you what manner of preaching it
was likely to be.
"I told you also right now that one of those two that ye took for
so good and cunning men was after found worse than many
men would have weened. Sir, so it was indeed that he was detected for
being of many books of Luther, Lambert, and Zwingli, with other
of that sort, and well-proved and by himself also confessed, that
he had bought of those books very many, which he brought forth at
last, where he had laid them up no less suspiciously than secretly,
and so secretly that all the town should have sought them long ere they
should have found them out.
"He had also set a priest of his and a secular servant of his besides to
buy many of the same suit, and double and treble of one sort, which
were by them uttered to divers young scholars such as they found
properly witted, featly learned, and newfangly minded. And thus
labored to corrupt the realm. Another parish priest had he before
that kept his cure also as this other did, which was after proved
a very pernicious heretic."
"But what was," quoth he, "done to the master?"
"Forsooth," quoth I, "great favor had he, and as some men said great
wrong, too, that he was not openly declared. Howbeit because he
was in good estimation, there was of pity much regard had to the
conservation of his honesty. And nothing was there in effect
exacted of him, but his amendment with the acknowledging of his
fault. For surely that man was of such a poor spirit in Christ, that

for any oath that could be given him, long it was ere pride would
for shame suffer him to say the truth. After which once confessed
with his handwriting, then as far as I have heard without any
other abjuration, there was secretly his solemn oath taken in
judgment that he should do no such thing anymore upon pain
of a relapse, and so with certain secret penance dismissed. But the
thing that I tell you my tale for is this. This man besides that all
the books in effect which he had bought of this Lutheran sect
were diligently read over and studied, and with such manner of
notes marked in the margin and words written of his own hand
where the worst matters were, that he left no man in doubt that read
them what fervent affection he bore unto them; he had, I say,
besides all this, divers epistles I wot ne'er whose, but written were
they with his own hand, wherein were plenty of pestilent
heresies. And a sermon also worse than they all written with his
own hand also, ready to be preached, as it seemed, if the world would
so change that the time would serve it. And when he was in his
examination sore pressed upon to tell for what intent he made
such a sermon ready and laid it up so secretly, destitute at last of
all excuses that might bear any color of any good cause: "Well," quoth
he, "I see well I must tell all; I am loath to hurt anybody." And thereupon
he told how it was made the most part by the man that was abjured of
whom we specially speak. So that now setting all this gear together,
this man's confession, his secret friend and companion in such
matters, his old accusations of like matters, the heretics'
confessions that founded their heresies in the same matters upon the
authority of his sermon, and besides all this more than twenty witnesses
plainly proving the matter against him, I would fain wit
who had right if he had wrong, although there had been used
to him more rigor a great deal than there was."
The Fifth Chapter
The author proveth that the spiritual judges did the
man marvelous favor, and almost more than lawful, in
that they admitted him to such an abjuration as they did,
and that they did not rather leave him to the secular hands.

"Why," quoth he, "what devil rigor could they more have showed
for the first time, than make him abjure and bear a faggot?"
"Yes," quoth I, "some man had liefer bear twain cold in his neck,
than have one bear him hot on a fire at his feet."
"In faith," quoth he, "they could not have done that to him at the
first time."
"No," quoth I, "not if he willingly returned to the church, acknowledging
his fault and ready to abjure all heresies, and penitently submitted
himself to penance. And else if he prove himself obstinate
and impenitent, the church neither is bound nor ought to receive
him, but utterly may forsake him and leave him to the secular
hands. But now was he so obstinate that he would not abjure of long
time. And divers days were his judges fain of their favor to
give him, with sufferance of some his best friends and whom he
most trusted, to resort unto him. And yet scantly could all this
make him submit himself to make his abjuration. And finally
were they fain for saving of his life to devise a form of abjuration
whereof I never saw the like, nor in so plain a case never
would, were I the judge, suffer the like hereafter."
"What manner of abjuration was that?" quoth he.
"Marry," quoth I, "his abjuration was such that he therein abjured and
forswore all heresies, acknowledging himself lawfully convicted. But
whereas they be wont to confess in their own abjuration that they
have held such heresies and be guilty thereof, that would he do in no wise,
but as clearly as his fault was proved, and by as many, yet
would he not to die therefor confess himself faulty, but always
stood still upon it in virtue of his oath that all they believed him."
"It might happen," quoth he, "that he had forgotten that he so had
"That were," quoth I, "great wonder. For I am sure when he had
preached so in so many places, he had not done it of a sudden
adventure, but of a deliberate purpose, which except he fell mad
it were not well possible for him in so great a matter to forget. And
besides this it was also deposed, that in a place where he preached, he

was after the sermon reasoned withal forthwith. And by an
honest layman had it laid unto his charge that he had perilously
preached, showing him wherein. Whereunto he made answer not that
he had not said so, nor that he had not meant so, or that they had
mistaken and wrong understood his words, but that he would
preach there again soon after and prove his preaching true by the
old doctors of the church. And this happed him not long before that
he was accused. Was it now possible by your faith that he could
have forgotten this?"
"It was," quoth he, "possible enough that all together was false, and
that they lied all. For so might they do by possibility, being but
men, and though they had been more than they were. And then he
peradventure, knowing that they so did, why should he falsely confess
a fault in himself for the falsehood of other folk?"
"That is," quoth I, "true if he so knew it. But how could that be so,
against so many proofs sworn and deposing the matter upon
their oaths, being though they were but men, yet men of wit and
honesty and some well-learned also, and men that bore him no displeasure
for any other matter than his evil preaching, men almost
all such as could have none other matter to him, folk that never
had other matter with him, and many of them of little acquaintance
or none the one with the other, so that there was no fear of
conspiring together in one tale."
"Yet," quoth he, "were it possible that they might lie all."
"And what," quoth I, "that he had been accused in other places before,
as he was indeed not only to the most honorable prelate that I
told you, but besides him unto two other bishops, too?"
"Well," quoth he, "and yet they that so accused him might happen to
lie, too."
"And what," quoth I, "that his own secret acquaintance confessed
that he made the first draft of that ungracious sermon that I told
"Heard you that yourself?" quoth he.
"Myself?" quoth I. "Nay, but such as I heard it of were men of more
worship and truth thereto than that any man I ween would
mistrust their tale."

"As worshipful as they were," quoth he, "and as trusty too, I could
mistrust their tale well enough sometimes for lack of indifference
peradventure as they stood unsworn. And yet though I mistrusted
not them all, it might be that they said true, and that the
other lied, which for his own excuse laid the first making of
that sermon to the other man."
"The laying thereof to him," quoth I, "could not excuse himself.
For he confessed that himself liked it and allowed it. And therefore
wrote it out and added also many things more thereto."
"Well," quoth he, "and yet all this might be."
"And what," quoth I, "of the heretics that grounded their opinions
upon his sermons?"
"May it not be," quoth he, "that they lied?"
"And what," quoth I, "of them that accused him to other prelates
"By God," quoth he, "even as I told you before it might be that they lied
well enough."
"And what then," quoth I, "of all those twenty that deposed against
him now?"
"Marry," quoth he, "as I told you now: it might be that they did even
the same."
"That is," quoth I, "a strange thing to me."
"Why," quoth he, "should this be strange to you? Methinketh it
should be strange to no man but very plain to every man that it
might be so. For I pray you, might it not be so? Were it not possible
that they might all lie, and though they were as many more?"
"Possible?" quoth I. "That I say not nay but that it were possible though
they were a thousand times as many."
"Well," quoth he, "since it might be so, then put case it was so. Did not
he right then, in that he still said so? And if he had died therein
had he not died for the truth? For knowing in himself that all
they belied him, he was not bound to belie himself with them
and confess against himself an untruth, but had been in great
sin if he so should have done. What say ye to this?"
"I say," quoth I, "to this that all the force and effect of your conclusion
hangeth upon the case which ye put, that all that ever aught said

or deposed against him lied all the meinie. Which case ye would
needs have granted because it was possible. And then that case
once granted, ye deduce your conclusion very surely. And in good
faith ye bring me therewith so to my wit's end, that I wot not
well which way to answer you admitting your case. But ever my
mind giveth me that your case, though it be possible, were rather
to be granted at a school in argument than at a court in judgment.
And I pray you, for the proof thereof, let me put you another case,
which in good faith I am half ashamed to put you, saving that ye
drive me to seek a shift. And yet shall not my case in my mind
be much unlike to yours. If it so were that Wilkin had laid a wager
with Simkin, that in a certain way named between them, usual
enough for men and horse both, there had gone of late a horse or two,
and that he would so clearly prove it that it could not be the contrary.
If Simkin said and laid his wager the contrary, and then
they both should choose us for judges, and we coming all four into
the way, Wilkin would show us on the ground, part in the clay
and part peradventure in the snow, the print of horse feet and of
men's feet also by a long way ten mile together and ye will, till
they come at a water where as went away by ship no man can
tell who nor whither it forceth not for our wise case; but now if
Wilkin would say that he had won his wager, for lo here ye see
the print of the horse feet all this way shod and all with the very
nails in them, so that it may be none otherwise but horse hath
gone here. If Simkin after all this would say the wager were his,
for it is not proved that any horse had gone there, for it might be
that they were geldings or mares, here were we fallen in a great
question of the law, whether the gray mare may be the better horse
or not, or whether he have a wise face or not that looketh as
like a fool as a ewe looketh like a sheep. And in this question, if the
parties demurred in our judgment, we might ask advice further of
learned men and judges."
"We might," quoth he, "by suit to be sure of the matter, make it a
chequer-chamber case. Or saving the premunire, we might have it
tried in the Rota at Rome."

"Very well," quoth I, "so that I see well by your wit and mine together,
one shift or other we should find for a final end therein, if the
doubt were in that point. But now if Simkin stuck not thereto,
but would say thus: "Lo, here ye see the men have gone this way, and
how can ye then be sure that any horse went here? For I put case,
saith he, that these men which went here had horseshoes in their
hands made fast upon long steels and always as they went pricked
them down hard in the ground."
"Tut," quoth he, "this were a wise invention."
"Verily," quoth I, "to me it would not seem very gay. But now if
Simkin were contentious and would say the wager were his except
it be so proved that it can be none otherwise but that horse have of
late gone there, and then will say to us: "Lo, sirs, as ye see it, it may be
otherwise. For men might make with their hands all the prints of
horseshoes in the ground." And then if we would say that was never
so, he would ask us how can we be sure thereof, while we cannot
say nay but it might be so, and then would still press upon us with
this question, "May it not be so?"
"It may," quoth he, "by possibility be so."
"Then," quoth I, "when we grant him once that it may be so, then
will he by and by put case that it were so. And then if we grant
him his case once for the possibility, then will he shortly conclude
that the other part is not so surely proved as it must be if Wilkin
should win the wager. What should we say to him now; to whom
should we give the wager?"
"In faith," quoth he, "I wot ne'er what to say to him. And the matter is
so mad that as for the wager, what I would give Wilkin I wot ne'er;
but as for Simkin, except he better impugned the proof, if the
wager were but a butterfly, I would never award him one wing."
"Surely," quoth I, "and you shall rule the matter for me. For if ye give
him naught, he getteth as little of me. But now, what if he wax
angry that his proper invention were no more set by, nor his wit no
more regarded, and would thereupon help forth is part with his
oath and swear upon a book that himself saw when the men made

those prints in the ground with horseshoes held in their
hands; what would ye then say?"
"Marry," quoth he, "then would I say and swear too, that besides the loss
of his wager he had, like a false foolish knave, lost his honesty and
his soul, too."
"In good faith," quoth I, "and for aught I see yet, I durst be bold to swear
with you. And then letting Wilkin alone with Simkin disputing
their sophism themselves, let us return home again to our
own matter. In which, while there were so many so clear and open
proofs against the man of whom we speak all this while, though it
were possible that all they might be false, yet could there none
indifferent judge so think except it were so proved, and that by
other means than the only oath of the party that is accused, swearing
alone against them all."
"Yet," quoth he, "for all that, if he know indeed that he did it not, he
doth but well to abide by the truth."
"Very sooth ye say," quoth I. "Nor Simkin neither if he saw the men
print the horseshoes in the highway, though it seemed us never so
unlikely, yet had he done well enough to say it and swear it too and
stiffly to stick thereby. And yet ye remember, pardie, that if he so
would have sworn, ye and I both durst right now right boldly
have believed that he lied. And might we not well believe the same
in our case too?"
"Yes," quoth he, "that will I well. And therefore the judges did him but
right to reckon him as convicted and therefore to compel him to
abjure. But yet they showed him therein no such favor as ye speak
of, in that they admitted him to his abjuration without confessing
of the fault. For if they had forced him thereto, they had
in my mind done him plain and open wrong, because it might
be that he said and swore true. And then should they have forced him
against his conscience to say of himself untrue. And that should
they do not only clean against right, but also without necessity,
considering that they might, as in conclusion they did, abjure
him otherwise. And therefore they took the best way both for him
and for themselves also. But since they did therein none otherwise
than as they were of duty bound, it well appeareth he had therein
no such favor as ye would make it seem that they showed him."

"Well," quoth I, "since yourself agreeth that he had no wrong, albeit no
favor had been showed him, yet were your errand answered as
far as toucheth his abjuration. And now if I should prove you that
his judges showed him such favor, I fear me lest I should therewith
somewhat seem to charge them that they had done, though
not wrong, yet very near wrong, the favor appearing to be showed,
if not against the law, yet at the least way the law for favor so
far stretched forth that the leather could scant hold. But yet choose
they for me. For since I have said it, I will tell you why, and so
much the more boldly between us twain, for that I perceive not in
you any such manner of mind toward them that ye would blow
abroad any fault of unlawful favor found in them."
"Ah, well said," quoth he, and laughed. "Ye ween I were more ready to
report their rigor than any point of their favor."
"Well taken of you," quoth I. "I see well a man cannot have a good
opinion of you but your conscience construeth it to the contrary.
But now for the matter; I trow we be agreed both that all
were it so that the man had been faultless indeed, yet were the proofs
against him so many, so good, so clear and evident, and so much
more than sufficient, that neither his judges nor ourselves neither,
nor I think his own father neither if he had heard them, could
have thought him other than very greatly guilty."
"Surely," quoth he, "that is true."
"Now," quoth I, "that being true that they could none otherwise reckon
in him though he still swore the contrary, must it not needs be that
in his denying in virtue of his oath the things which they could
not but believe true, they must needs therewith believe him all that
while to lie and be perjured?"
"That followeth," quoth he.
"Now," quoth I, "when one is accused and convicted of heresy, what
thing will the law that the church shall receive him to?"
"What thing?" quoth he. "Marry, to mercy."
"Nay," quoth I, "mercy is the thing as it seemeth that they receive him
by, not the thing that they receive him to."
"Then it is," quoth he, "to penance."
"That seemeth well said," quoth I. "For the church by mercy receiveth
him to penance.

"But now," quoth I, "doth the church openly receive to penance any
person appearing and proving himself still impenitent?"
"Nay," quoth he.
"Appeareth not he still impenitent," quoth I, "that still appeareth
perjured, and still standing in perjury?
And where the first part of penance is
confession and humble acknowledging of the
fault, can the church reckon him penitent that still refuseth to
confess his fault, that lieth falsely still, and falsely forsweareth himself?"
"The church," quoth he, "cannot surely know whether he swore true
or false, and therefore they cannot surely judge him forsworn. For it
may be by possibility that all the witness lied."
"It may be too," quoth I, "by possibility, if we go this way to work,
that all the men lied that ever have said they came from Rome, and
that all the briefs and bulls were feigned that ever were supposed to be
brought from thence, for aught that he can tell that never came
there himself. For some one man might lie and some one bull or
brief might be feigned, and so some other, and one by one, and so
forth of all the remnant. For like possibility is there in everyone
as is in anyone. And peradventure as for your own self have never
yet talked with twenty that have told you they have been at Rome."
"No, no," quoth he, "nor I ween with ten neither."
"And how many bulls," quoth I, "and briefs have ye seen that came
"By our Lady," quoth he, "bulls very few, and briefs never none, for I
never ask after them."
"Then," quoth I, "might you by your own reason as well doubt
whether there were any Rome or no, as whether that man lied and
were forsworn or no. But in this point I will not long stick with
you. For surely standing the matter in such case that his judges
could not otherwise think of him but that he was faulty of things
which he still in virtue of his oath denied, all were it so that they
might think therewith that by possibility they might be in
that mind deceived, yet while they could not think nor they

could have none other mind but that he (though it might by
possibility be true that he swore) yet was forsworn indeed, and
in very deed persevered in perjury. Now the matter, I say, standing
in such case, since he that with so plain appearing perjury
standeth in denial of his fault and false defense of himself cannot
be reckoned of his fault penitent, and unto penance ought none
impenitent person to be admitted; I will not say that his judges
did wrong. But surely methinketh I may well say that they showed
him great favor in that they received him to penance without the
confession of his fault. And I think
verily it was a favorable fashion of abjuration,
and so strange that the like hath
been very seldom seen if ever it were seen before. And that did
they in hope that God shall send him more grace in time to come,
and so I beseech him to do. For I promise you for my part I never
can conceive good hope of his amendment all the while that I see
that pride abide still in his heart, that cannot suffer him for shame
to confess his fault."
The Sixth Chapter
The author showeth that the person abjured for his own
worldly honesty, and for the more fruit of his preaching, if
he be suffered to preach in time to come, it were much
better for him openly and willingly to confess the truth.
And that now by the standing still in the denial, he both
shameth himself, and should if he preached slander the
word of God.
"It is," quoth he, "peradventure better thus. For then should he slander
himself and the word of God also, if he should hereafter preach
"Nay, marry," quoth I, "then should he rather deliver himself from
slander, and the word of God also. For then should every man see
the devil cast clean out of his heart, and hope that he should

be from thenceforth a very good man. Where now thinking him
to persevere in a proud perjury, we can none other think but that he
must needs be very naught still, though we should hereafter hear
him preach never so well. And that were a sore slander to the
word of God, that men should see him whom they hear preach well,
so proud a hypocrite, and therewith so foolish, too, that for a false
hope of his own estimation preserved, he laboreth as much as
in him is to make the world ween that twenty true men were
forsworn against him. Wherein, while there is no man so mad
to believe him, he loseth (if he preach in this plight) all his whole
purpose, and winneth nothing but the contrary, that is, double
shame of his proud perjury and high malicious mind, instead of
the praise that he looketh and preacheth for."
The Seventh Chapter
The messenger moveth a question: if a man be sworn by
a judge to say the truth of himself in a crime whereof he
is had suspect, whether he may not lawfully on his oath
swear untruth, where he thinketh the truth cannot be
proved against him. Whereunto the author answereth that he
is bound upon peril of perjury to say and confess truth.
And the much more sin and folly both was it then for the
man that thus was abjured to forswear himself in the thing
that he wist well would be proved, and a shameless folly to stand
still by his perjury when he saw the matter so clearly
proved indeed. And with this finisheth he the matter of
his abjuration.
"In good faith," quoth he, "I begin in this matter to be of your mind.
For the matter being so plain and clearly proved, it was and is both
sin and folly to stand in the denying. But there cometh a thing
in my mind, though it be somewhat out of our matter, wherein
I would be glad to hear what ye think."
"What thing is that?" quoth I.
"Marry," quoth he, "I have heard some well-learned men say, if a man

were accused of a fault that were true indeed, yet if it be secret and cannot
be proved, in an oath put unto him he may and ought to swear
nay, because that of secret and unknown things no man can be
his judge. For only God is judge of man's
heart. And if he should confess it where
he needeth not before no competent judge,
that is to wit, his secret fault openly before men whereof only God is
judge, then should he defame himself, and that were great sin.
For holy scripture saith, "Curam habe de
bono nominae" (Take heed of thy good
name). "Et melior est nomen bonum quam
divitie multe" (Better is a good name than much richesse). And it
saith also, "Maledictus homo qui neglegit famam suam" (Accursed is
that man that careth not what men say of him). And therefore I have
heard some well-learned men say that in this case a man may boldly
deny the matter upon his oath, be it never so true, so that it be so
secret as it be not able to be proved by witness."
"Forsooth," quoth I, "it is a large and a long matter to speak of perjury.
But as for this point, I hold it in my mind little question. For I
hold this once for a sure and an infallible conclusion, that a man may
never lawfully be forsworn. Marry, truth it is that a man's oath receiveth
interpretation and is not always bound precisely to the words.
As if a judge would swear me generally in
a court to make true answer to such
things as should be asked of me, and after
mine oath given, he would ask me certain questions of matters nothing
belonging to him, I were not by mine oath bound to make
him answer, forasmuch as no such thing
was in mine oath intended. And therefore
if a priest that had heard a man's confession
were called before a judge and sworn for
a witness, he might boldly swear he knew nothing of the
matter. Not for the common gloss that the confession was not made to him
as to himself but as to God's minister, but for that the law
dischargeth him of showing any such thing, no less than if his
oath were given him in this manner: "What know ye of this matter out

of confession?" For else if there were a tyrant that would compel him
by express words to swear what he knew by the man's confession,
the confessor had in my mind no remedy but to tell him plainly,
"Sir, I will not swear for you nor in such matter make you any answer
to die therefor, not for anything that I know in the man for this
matter though I told you all his whole confession anon, but for the
evil that should grow by such a precedent. For if I should now excuse
an innocent, swearing truly that I heard no such things in his
confession, I should in some other cause either be forsworn, or by
my refusing to swear I should make the man the more suspect, in that I
refuse to swear as much for him as I did for another. And therefore
will I not make any answer in this for the peril that may fall in other";
and with this answer or such other must he plainly refuse to swear,
what pain soever he should endure therefore. And in like wise, if any
judge would give an oath to any person to tell him the truth of any
crime which were so secret as that judge had never heard anything
thereof, but would for his only pleasure know by the man's oath
whether there were peradventure any such thing or not, the party
may deny to swear or to make him answer therein. But on the other
side, if he be denounced or detected unto him, either by common
fame or other information, with such conjectures and likelihoods
as the law giveth the judge authority to give the party an oath
for the further search of the matter, there is he plainly bound
upon pain of eternal damnation without covering or cautel
to show and disclose the plain truth, and to have more respect
to his soul than to his shame. For as for those texts which ye alleged,
be far from this point. For they none other mean but
that a man should in his living avoid not only sin, but also
all occasions whereby men might have reasonable cause falsely to
defame him. And it was never meant of the shame that a man taketh
of his own confession for his sin committed indeed. For by that
he loseth not his good name, but getteth his good name among
good folk. And as for of evil men's words there is no reckoning.
But surely, as I say, if a man had been all ill as a devil, and
after repenting his sin would for part of his penance willingly

offer himself to the sufferance of open shame, there were no
good Christian man that would after that like the man the worse,
but a great deal the better. And if all such open confession were
sin, there was much sin used among good folk many day in
Christ's church, when it was much better than it is now.
"Lo, Achan, that had committed sacrilege, whereof is written in
Joshua, was exhorted by Joshua to confess his fault openly and
give glory to God that had detected him by lots. And so did he,
and meekly suffered for his sin as well the shame and wonder of the
world as the pain and bitterness of death. And therefore I no more
doubt of that thief but that he is a glorious saint in heaven, than I
doubt of that thief that Christ promised paradise, hanging on the
cross. And surely if men's old faults were still their infamy
after their amendment, then was Saint Peter little beholden to
Saint Matthew and other of his fellows that have slandered him
in their Gospels, telling how shamefully after all his crakes he
forsook his master and forswore him both. If a good man wax
naught, the better he was the more sin it is and the more shame
also. And is it not then in reason on the other side, if a naughty man
wax good, the worse he was the better is for him and the more worship
also? Our Lord saith himself that for one sinner coming
again to grace, there is more joy in heaven than upon almost a
hundred good folk that never sinned. And reckon we then that
man shamed by the knowledge of his sin here among sinful men,
whose humble confession and meek amendment winneth him so
much worship in heaven? Trust me truly, when a man hath done
evil, if he be duly sworn, it is a worshipful shame and a joyful
sorrow to confess the truth. And good folk, though they abhor
the sin, yet love they and commend the man, as one that was
naught and is good. And the shame that he conceiveth in his heart before
the world getteth him great honor before God, and the short
glowing heat in his cheeks speedily burneth up and wasteth the
never wasting fire of hell, standing him
further in stead of great part of his purgatory.
And therefore to the point that we
speak of, without long process, I tell you plainly my mind, that

no man can be excused from the peril of endless damnation, that
would upon boldness of any doctor's opinion hide or cover his fault
by any cautel, after a lawful oath given him to tell the plain
truth therein. And whoso will say the contrary, he must needs hold
plain against the law and say that no judge may lawfully give
an oath to the party. For whereof should the oath serve if the party
might lawfully forswear himself? And also, if the judge may not
lawfully give him the oath, then may he refuse to swear, and may
not first swear and then say false, which every man must upon
damnation eschew, though he follily take an oath where he
lawfully might refuse it."
"Forsooth," quoth he, "methinketh ye take the sure way."
"Well," quoth I, "if this be so in one that is sworn where the matter
as he thinketh cannot be well-proved, how far wrong went the
man that we spoke of, to forswear himself in a matter of preaching
that he wist well was so open that it would be plainly proved what
sin was therein; and what sin and folly thereto was there to
stick still in his perjury, when he saw the matter already proved so
clearly and by so many, so good, so honest, and so indifferent, that
he could nothing now win by the denying, but evil opinion
and almost a despair of his amendment in all that ever heard him?"
"In good faith," quoth he, "all this is very truth, and therefore we shall
let him alone till God send him better mind.
The Eighth Chapter
The author showeth why the New Testament of Tyndale's
translation was burnt. And showeth for a sample certain
words evil and of evil purpose changed.
"But now I pray you, let me know your mind concerning the
burning of the New Testament in English which Tyndale lately
translated, and (as men say) right well, which maketh men much
marvel of the burning."

"It is," quoth I, "to me great marvel, that any good Christian man
having any drop of wit in his head would anything marvel or
complain of the burning of that book if he knew the matter.
Which whoso calleth the New Testament, calleth it by a wrong
name, except they will call it Tyndale's testament or Luther's testament.
For so had Tyndale, after Luther's counsel, corrupted and
changed it from the good and wholesome doctrine of Christ to the
devilish heresies of their own, that it was clean a contrary thing."
"That were marvel," quoth your friend, "that it should be so clean
contrary. For to some that read it, it seemed very like."
"It is," quoth I, "nevertheless contrary, and yet the more perilous.
For like as to a true silver groat a false copper groat is nevertheless
contrary though it be quicksilvered over, but so much the more
false in how much it is counterfeited the more like to the truth,
so was the translation so much the more contrary in how much
it was craftily devised like, and so much the more perilous in
how much it was to folk unlearned more hard to be discerned."
"Why," quoth your friend, "what faults were there in it?"
"To tell you all that," quoth I, "were in a manner to rehearse you all the
whole book, wherein there were found and noted wrong and falsely
translated above a thousand texts by tale."
"I would," quoth he, "fain hear some one."
"He that should," quoth I, "study for that, should study where to
find water in the sea. But I will show you for example two or three
such as every one of the three is more than thrice three in one."
"That were," quoth he, "very strange except ye mean more in weight.
For one can be but one in number."
"Surely," quoth I, "as weighty be they as any lightly can be. But I mean
that every one of them is more than thrice three in number."
"That were," quoth he, "somewhat like a riddle."
"This riddle," quoth I, "will soon be read. For he hath mistranslated
three words of great weight, and every one of them is, as I suppose,
more than thrice three times repeated and rehearsed in the book."
"Ah, that may well be," quoth he, "but that was not well done. But I
pray you what words be they?"
"The one is," quoth I, "this word "priests."

The other, "the church." The third, "charity." For priests, wheresoever
he speaketh of the priests of Christ's church, he never calleth them
"priests" but always "seniors"; the "church" he calleth always the "congregation";
and "charity" he calleth always "love." Now do these names in
our English tongue neither express the things that be meant by
them, and also there appeareth (the circumstances well considered)
that he had a mischievous mind in the change. For first, as for
priests and priesthood, though that of old they used commonly to choose
well elderly men to be priests, and therefore in the Greek tongue
priests were called "presbyteroi," as we might say elder men, yet
neither were all priests chosen old, as appeareth by Saint Paul
writing to Timothy, "Nemo iuventutem
tuam contemnat" (Let no man contemn
thy youth), nor every elder man is not a priest. And in our English
tongue, this word "senior" signifieth nothing at all, but is a French
word used in English more than half in mockage, when one will
call another "my lord" in scorn. And if he means to take the Latin word
"senior," that word in the Latin tongue never signified a priest but only
an elder man. By which name of elder men, if he would call the
priests Englishly, then should he rather signify their age than
their office. And yet the name doth in English plainly signify the
aldermen of the cities, and nothing the priests of the church. And
thus may we perceive that rather than he would call a priest by the
name of a priest, he would seek a new word, he neither wist nor
cared what.
"Now, where he calleth the church always the "congregation,"
what reason had he therein? For every man well seeth that though
the church be indeed a congregation, yet is not every congregation
the church, but a congregation of Christian people, which congregation
of Christian people hath been in England always called and
known by the name of the church, which name what good cause
or color could he find to turn into the name of congregation,
which word is common to a company of Christian men or a company of
"Like wisdom was there in the change of this word "charity" into

"love." For though charity be always love, yet is not, ye wot well,
love always charity."
"The more pity, by my faith," quoth your friend, "that ever love was
sin. And yet it would not be so much so taken if the world were
no more suspicious than they say that good Saint Francis was,
which when he saw a young man kiss a girl once in way of good
company, kneeled down and held up his hands into heaven,
highly thanking God that charity was not yet gone out of this
wretched world."
"He had," quoth I, "a good mind and did like a good man, that
deemed allthing to the best."
"So say I too," quoth he. "But how far be folk fallen from the good
mind now. Men be nowadays waxen so full of mistrust that
some man would in faith ween his wife were naught, if he should
but find her in bed with a poor frere."
"Forsooth, ye be a wanton," quoth I. "But yet in earnest, how like you
the change of these words?"
"Surely," quoth he, "very naught. And that it was not well nor wisely
done, there will, I trow, no good wise man deny. But yet whether
Hichins had in the translation thereof any malicious purpose or not,
therein will I, till I see further, play Saint Francis' part, and judge
the man no worse than the matter requireth."
"First," quoth I, "would ye that the book should go forth and be read still
in that fashion?"
"Nay, in good faith," quoth he, "that would I not if he use it so very
"With that word," quoth I, "ye hit the nail on the head. For surely
if he changed the common known word into the better, I would well
allow it. If he changed it into as good I would suffer it. If somewhat
into worse, so he did it seldom, I would wink at it. But now when he
changeth the known usual names of so great things into so far
the worse, and that not repeateth seldom, but so often and so continually
inculcateth that almost in the whole book his lewd change
he never changeth, in this manner could no man deem other but
that the man meant mischievously; scant such a good silly soul as

would ween all were well when he found his wife where ye said
right now. If he called charity sometimes by the bare name of love, I
would not stick thereat. But now, whereas
charity signifieth in English men's
ears not every common love, but a good, virtuous, and well ordered
love, he that will studiously flee from that name of good love, and
always speak of love, and always leave out good, I would surely say
that he meaneth naught."
"In good faith," quoth he, "so is it not unlikely."
"Then," quoth I, "when ye see more ye shall say it is much more than
"For now it is to be considered that at the time of this translation,
Hichins was with Luther in Wittenberg, and set certain glosses in
the margin framed for the setting forth of the ungracious sect."
"By Saint John," quoth your friend, "if that be true that Hichins
were at that time with Luther, it is a plain token that he wrought
somewhat after his counsel, and was willing to help his matters
forward here. But whether Luther's matters be so mad as they be
made for, that shall we see hereafter."
"Very true," quoth I. "But as touching the confederacy between
Luther and him, is a thing well-known and plainly confessed
by such as have been taken and convicted here of heresy
coming from thence, and some of them sent hither to sow that
seed about here and to send word thither from time to time
how it sprang.
"But now the cause why he changed the name of charity and
of the church and of priesthood is no very great difficulty to
perceive. For since Luther and his fellows
among other their damnable heresies
have one, that all our salvation standeth in faith alone, and
toward our salvation nothing force of good works; therefore it
seemeth that he laboreth of purpose to diminish the reverent mind
that men bear to charity, and therefore he changeth that name of
holy virtuous affection into the bare name of love, common to the

virtuous love that men beareth to God and to the lewd love that is
between fleck and his make. And for because that Luther utterly
denieth the very Catholic Church in earth and saith that the
church of Christ is but an unknown congregation of some folk,
here two and there three, no man wot where, having the right faith,
which he calleth only his own new forged faith; therefore
Hichins in the New Testament cannot abide the name of the church,
but turneth it into the name of congregation, willing that it should
seem to Englishmen either that Christ in the Gospel had never
spoken of the church, or else that the church were but such a
congregation as they might have occasion to say that a congregation
of some such heretics were the church that God spoke of.
"Now as touching the cause why he changed the name of "priest"
into "senior," ye must understand that Luther and his adherents
hold this heresy, that all holy order is nothing. And that a priest is
nothing else but a man chosen among the people to preach; and
that by that choice to that office, he is priest by and by without any
more ado, and no priest again whensoever the people choose another
in his place; and that a priest's office is nothing but to
preach. For as for saying Mass, and hearing of confession, and
absolution thereupon to be given, all this, he saith, that every man,
woman, and child may do as well as any priest. Now doth Hichins,
therefore, to set forth this opinion withal, after his master's heresy
put away the name of priest in his translation, as though priesthood
were nothing. Wheresoever the scripture speaketh of the
priests that were among the Jews, there doth he in his translation
call them still by the name of priests. But wheresoever the
scripture speaketh of the priests of Christ's church, there doth he
put away the name of priest in his translation, because he would
make it seem that the scripture did never speak of any priests
different from laymen among Christian people. And he saith plainly
in his book of obedience that priesthood and all holy orders among
Christian people be but feigned inventions, and that priests be
nothing but officers chosen to preach, and that all the consecration

whereby they be consecrated is nothing worth. And for this
cause, in all his translation wheresoever he speaketh of them, the
name of priest which to us in our own tongue hath always signified
an anointed parson, and with holy
orders consecrated unto God, he hath
changed into the name of "senior," no word of our language, but
either used half in mockage when we speak French in sport, "die
vous garde senior," or at the furthest, nothing betokening but elder.
So that it is easy to see what he meant in the turning of these names."
"In good faith," quoth your friend, "it seemeth verily that he meant not
"Surely," quoth I, "ye would well say so if ye saw all the places which
I shall cause you to see when ye will, and ye shall soon judge them
yourself. For it were too long to rehearse them all now. Nor these
have I not rehearsed you as for the chief, but for that they came
first to mind. For else I might shortly rehearse you many things
more, as far out of tune as these be. For he changeth commonly
the name "grace" into this word "favor"; whereas every favor is
not grace in English for in some favor is there little grace. "Confession"
he translateth into "knowledge." "Penance" into "repentance."
"A contrite heart" he changeth into "a troubled heart." And many more
things like, and many texts untruly translated for the maintenance
of heresy, as I shall show you some when we look in the
book. Which things we shall not now reason upon, for they be not
worthy to be brought in question. But I tell you this much only
for this cause, that ye may perceive that he hath thus used himself
in his translation to the intent that he would set forth Luther's
heresies and his own thereby. For first he would make the people
believe that we should believe nothing but plain scripture, in
which point he teacheth a plain, pestilent heresy. And then would
he with his false translation make the people ween further that
such articles of our faith as he laboreth to destroy, and which be
well-proved by holy scripture, were in holy scripture nothing
spoken of, but that the preachers have all this fifteen hundred year misreported
the Gospel and Englished the scripture wrong, to lead the
people purposely out of the right way.

The Ninth Chapter
The author showeth another great token that the
translation was perilous and made for an evil purpose.
"But to the intent ye shall yet the less doubt what good fruit
was intended by this translation, and easily judge yourself
whether it was well worthy to be burned or not, ye shall understand
that there hath been, since that time, another book made in English and
imprinted, as it saith, in Almaine; a foolish, railing book against
the clergy, and much part made in rhyme, but the effect thereof was
all against the Mass and the holy sacraments. In this book, the maker
raileth upon all them that caused Tyndale's translation of the New
Testament to be burned, saying that they burned it because that it
destroyed the Mass. Whereby ye may see that he reckoned that translation
very good for their purpose, toward the destruction of the Mass."
"By Saint Mary mass," quoth your friend, "the book is a shrewd gloss
for the other. For it showed a cause for which it was well worthy to
be burned, and the maker with it, if it were made to destroy the
Mass. But who made that second book?"
"Forsooth," quoth I, "it appeareth not in the book. For the book is put forth
nameless, and was in the beginning reckoned to be made by Tyndale.
And whether it so were or not, we be not yet very sure. Howbeit since
that time Tyndale hath put out in his own name another book
entitled Mammona, which book is very "mammona iniquitatis,"
a very treasury and wellspring of wickedness. And yet hath he
since put forth a worse also named The Obedience of a Christian Man,
a book able to make a Christian man that would believe it, leave off all
good Christian virtues, and lose the merit of his Christendom. In the
preface of his first book called Mammona, he saith that one Frere
Jerome made the other book that we talk of, which Frere Jerome
giving up his order of the Frere Observants came to him where
he was, showing him that he would cast off his habit, and leave his
religion, and assay now to serve God; and that afterward he left
him and went unto Roy, which is as I think ye know, another

apostate, by whose counsel Tyndale saith the Frere Jerome
made the book; wherein Tyndale saith he misliketh his rhymes and
his overmuch railing. And saith also that he feareth lest Frere Jerome
shall not well prove all that he promiseth in that book."
"Why," quoth your friend, "is that all the fear that he findeth in himself, and
all the fault that he findeth in the frere and his book?"
"Yea, in good faith," quoth I, "every whit."
"Then findeth he," quoth your friend, "no fault in his apostasy?"
"No more," quoth I, "than I show you."
"Nor findeth he," quoth your friend, "no fault in that the frere's book
saith that the New Testament of Tyndale was burned because it
destroyed the Mass?"
"Never a whit," quoth I, "more than you hear."
"And feareth he," quoth your friend, "nothing else but lest the frere should
fail of performing of somewhat that his book promiseth?"
"That is all," quoth I, "and what he promiseth therein, in faith I
remember not. But it seemeth whatsoever it be, Tyndale would
it were well performed."
"He had," quoth your friend, "much more cause as methinketh to fear
lest men should reckon high default in his translation, in that he
nothing answereth to those words of the frere's book, wherein he saith
that the New Testament that was burned did destroy the Mass."
"Ye say," quoth I, "very truth in my mind, and so would he of likelihood
if himself had not meant as the frere said. But surely for the translation
I shall show you so many texts in such wise corrupted, that
ye shall not, I suppose, greatly doubt what he meant in his doing." And
therewithal I showed your friend a book with the places ready noted,
which book I had by license a little before lent unto me for the
nonce. Wherein he saw so many corruptions, and of such manner
sort, that albeit upon some we somewhat reasoned in the way, yet at the
last himself said ho, and verily confessed that the book in such wise
translated was very naught and nothing meetly to be read.
The Tenth Chapter
The author showeth that the translation of Tyndale was
too bad to be mended.

But yet he said that the faults might be by some good men
amended, and then the book printed again if nothing letted but
"Surely," quoth I, "if we go thereto, the faults be, as ye see, so many and
so spread through the whole book, that likewise as it were as soon done
to weave a new web of cloth as to sow up every hole in a net, so were
it almost as little labor and less to translate the whole book all new,
as to make in his translation so many changes as needs must be, ere it
were made good; besides this, that there would no wise man, I trow, take
the bread which he well wist was of his enemy's hand once poisoned,
though he saw his friend after scrape it never so clean."
The Eleventh Chapter
The messenger findeth fault with the clergy in that he saith
they have made a constitution provincial that no Bible in
English should be suffered. And in this chapter incidently,
the messenger much reproveth the living of the clergy.
Whereunto the author somewhat showeth his mind,
deferring for the while his answer to the objection made
against the constitution.
"Sir," quoth your friend, "I will not greatly stick with you in that
point. But surely the thing that maketh in this matter the clergy
most suspect, and wherein, as it seemeth, it would be full hard to excuse
them, is this, that they not only damn Tyndale's translation
(wherein there is good cause) but over that do damn all other, and
as though a layman were no Christian man, will suffer no layman
have any at all. But when they find any in his keeping, they lay
heresy to him therefor. And thereupon they burn up the book, and
sometimes the good man withal, alleging for the defense of
their doing a law of their own making, a constitution provincial,
whereby they have prohibited that any man shall have any
upon pain of heresy. And this is a law very provincial, for it

holdeth but here. For in all other countries of Christendom the people
have the scripture translated into their own tongue, and the
clergy there findeth no such fault therein. Wherefore either our
people be worst of all people, or else our clergy is worst of all clergies.
But by my troth, for aught that I can see here, or perceive by them
that have been elsewhere, our lay people be as good and as honest
as be anywhere. And if any be otherwise, the occasion and example
cometh of the clergy, among whom we see much more vice than
among ourselves.
"Whereas they should give us example of virtue and the light of
learning, now their examples, what they be, we see. And as for
learning, they neither will teach us but seldom, and that shall be but
such things as pleaseth them, some glosses of their own making,
nor suffer us to learn by ourselves, but by their constitution pull
Christ's Gospel out of Christian people's hands. I cannot well see why,
but lest we should see the truth. The Jews be not letted to read their
law, both learned and lewd. And yet are there in the Old Testament
things for unlearned folk far more strange and perilous than in
the New. And why should then our laymen be forbidden the Gospel
but if they will make us worse than Jews? Wherein I can, in good
faith, see no excuse they can find. For the
scripture is to good folk the nourisher
of virtue, and to them that be naught it is the means of amendment.
And therefore, while the clergy doth withdraw it us, if our
souls be in good health, they take away our food; if our souls be
sick they take away the medicine. And therefore, as I said, the fault
is not in the damning of Tyndale's translation, but in that they
have by an express law forbidden that we should have any at all."
"Your words," quoth I, "be somewhat pugnant and sharp. But
surely they prick somewhat more the men than the matter. For
where ye touch in effect two things -- one, the constitution
provincial by which ye think the clergy of this realm have evil
prohibited all translations of scripture into our tongue; another,
the vice of the clergy in general -- the first point, which indeed
toucheth our matter, I can and will with few words answer you.

But as for the other, which toucheth the men, as where ye accuse the
clergy in their persons of very vicious living, as men much worse
than ye say that we be; and yet as though their own faults were
too few, charge them with ours too, whereof ye call them the cause;
in this point will I keep no schools with you, nor enter into dispicions
thereof, nor gladly meddle with the matter. For as I told
you in the beginning, since we talk but of men's learning, I will
not meddle of men's living, nor in that treating of this matter
either praise or dispraise any man's manner, except some such
as are for their heresies and evil doctrine cast out of Christ's
church and through all Christendom damned and defamed already
by their own obstinate malice. But yet where ye speak of other
countries, making an argument that our clergy is the worst of all
other, I wot well the whole world is so wretched that spiritual and
temporal everywhere all be bad enough, God make us all better. But
yet for that, I have myself seen and by credible folk have heard,
like as ye say by our temporalty, that we be as good and as honest
as anywhere else; so dare I boldly say that the spiritualty of
England, and especially that part in which ye find most fault,
that is to wit, that part which we commonly call the secular clergy,
is in learning and honest living well able to match and (saving
the comparisons be odious, I would say
further) far able to overmatch number
for number the spiritualty of any nation Christian. I wot well there
be therein many very lewd and naught. And surely wheresoever
there is a multitude it is not without miracle well possible to be
otherwise. But now if the bishops would once take unto priesthood
better laymen and fewer (for of us be they made) all the matter
were more than half amended. Now where ye say that ye see more
vice in them than in ourselves, truth it is that everything in them
is greater because they be more bound to be better. But else, the
things that they misdo be the selfsame that we sin in ourselves,
which vices that as ye say we see more in them than in ourselves, the
cause is I suppose, for we look more upon
theirs than on our own, and fare as

Aesop saith in a fable, that every man carrieth a double wallet on
his shoulder, and into the one that hangeth at his breast he putteth
other folks' faults, and therein he tooteth and purreth often. In the
other he layeth up all his own and swingeth it at his back, which
himself never listeth to look in, but other that come after him
cast an eye into it among. Would God we were all of the mind
that every man thought no man so bad as himself. For that
were the way to mend both them and
us. Now they blame us, and we blame
them, and both blameworthy; and either part more ready to
find others' faults than to mend their own. For in reproach of
them we be so studious, that neither good nor bad passeth
unreproved. If they be familiar, we call them light. If they be
solitary, we call them fantastic. If they be sad, we call them
solemn. If they be merry, we call them mad. If they be companionable
we call them vicious. If they be holy we call them hypocrites.
If they keep few servants we call them niggards.
If they keep many we call them pompous. If a lewd priest do a
lewd deed, then we say, "Lo, see what example the clergy giveth us,"
as though that priest were the clergy. But then forget we to look
what good men be therein, and what good counsel they give us,
and what good example they show us. But we fare as do the ravens
and the carrion crows, that never meddle with any quick flesh. But
where they may find a dead dog in a ditch, thereto they flee and
thereon they feed apace. So where we see a good man and hear or see
a good thing, there we take little heed. But when we see once an
evil deed, thereon we gape, thereof we talk and feed ourselves all
day with the filthy delight of evil communication. Let a good man
preach, a short tale shall serve us thereof, and we shall neither
much regard his exhortation nor his good example. But let a lewd
frere be taken with a wench, we will jest and rail upon the whole
order all the year after, and say, "Lo, what example they give us." And
yet, when we have said, we will follow the same and then say we
learned it of them, forgetting that we list not to hear and follow

some other, whose word and deed would give us light to do better,
if we listed as well to learn the better as to follow the worse."
"Indeed," quoth he, "because ye speak of light, they say that if a
woman be fair, then is she young, and if a priest be good, then he is
old. But yet have I seen a priest giving light to the people that was
but very young."
"Marry," quoth I, "God forbid else, ye may see that often and ye will."
"Truly," quoth he, "it is pity that we see such light so seldom, being
this wretched world in such darkness as it is. For I never saw it
but once. Nor as it seemed few of the people neither. For in faith,
they wondered as fast thereon as though they had never seen it before."
"How happed that?" quoth I.
"Marry," quoth he, "it happed that a young priest very devoutly in a
procession bore a candle before the cross for lying with a
wench, and bore it light all the long way. Wherein the people
took such spiritual pleasure and inward solace that they laughed
apace. And one merry merchant said unto the priests that followed
him, "Sic luceat lux vestra coram hominibus" (Thus let your light
shine before the people)."
"Forsooth," quoth I, "it were pity but that an evil priest were punished.
But yet it is as much pity that we take such a wretched pleasure
in the hearing of their sin and in the sight of their shame. Good is
it for them to look on their faults, but for us were it better to look
less to theirs and more unto our own. But surely many of us have
such delight to hear of their harm, that it seemeth we be glad when
one of them doth any such thing, as
we may have occasion to see them punished
or had in derision. Which wretched appetite and sinful
affection yet is much worse and much more worthy the curse of God
than the lewd mind of Cam which fell into the curse of his
father Noe for that he made a gaud and showed forth in scorn the
secret members of his father, that of
adventure lay and slept uncovered,
which parts Sem and Japhet, the blessed children, reverently
covered, going backward to him because they would not see him. And
surely we have little cause to laugh at their lewdness. For undoubtedly,

if the clergy be naught we must needs be
worse, as I heard once Master Colet the
good dean of Paul's preach. For he said that it can be none other,
but that we must ever be one degree under them. For surely, as he
said, it can be no lie that our Savior
saith himself, which saith of them that
they be the salt of the earth. And if the salt once appal, the world
must needs wax unsavory. And he saith that they be the light of
the world. And then if the light, saith he, be darked, how dark
will then the darkness be; that is to wit, all the world besides,
whereof he called the clergy only the light. Howbeit though there
be both among us and them very many naught, whose faults be
neither the faults of the temporalty nor of the spiritualty but of
those lewd persons themselves; yet are, I trust, neither their part
nor ours come to that point but that there be many good men
among us; and as for among them I wot ne'er whether I may say
many more or not; but surely, I think, many better."
"I fear me," quoth your friend, "that those many be very few in comparison
of the multitude."
"I cannot," quoth I, "look into their hearts to see who is good and who
is bad, nor have the leisure if they were all known to go about
and tell them by the polls to see which side were the more. And
therefore in the meanwhile I trust in God the better part is the
greater. Howbeit, if there were indeed among them very few,
yet think I verily that for those few all the world fareth the better,
and is in their virtue and prayer, by God's great mercy, maintained
and upheld; as we find in scripture places more than one declaring
plainly the profit that a whole sinful city, or sometimes
a whole region, taketh by the prayer of a few godly men. And no
doubt is there but likewise as he that is in the clergy naught is far
the worse because he is therein, so he that therein is good, is for his
clergy very far the better, and his prayer to God for himself and
all other far the more available.

The Twelfth Chapter
The author toucheth one special prerogative that we
have by a priest, be he never so bad, in that his naughtiness
cannot take from us the profit of his Mass. Whereupon
is by the messenger moved a doubt, whether it were
better to have fewer priests and better, with fewer Masses; or
more and worse, for to have the more Masses. Whereunto the
author answereth.
"And be a priest never so naught, albeit that he do some way
much harm both to himself and
other, yet this advantage take we by the
privilege and prerogative of his priesthood,
besides the ministration of the sacraments unto us, the goodness
whereof his naughtiness cannot appair: that he be never so vicious,
and therewith so impenitent and so far from all purpose of amendment
that his prayers were before the face of God rejected and abhorred,
yet that sacred sacrifice and
sweet oblation of Christ's Holy Body offered
up by his office, can take none impairing
by the filth of his sin, but highly helpeth to the upholding
of this wretched world from the vengeance of the wrath of God,
and is to God acceptable and to us as available for the thing itself,
as though it were offered by a better man, though percase his
prayers joined therewith neither much profit other, nor the
oblation himself, as with whom God is the more greatly grieved
in that, being so bad, he durst presume to touch it."
"Marry," quoth your friend, "if this be thus, I marvel then why ye
said right now that it were good to make fewer priests, that they
might be taken only of the better, and the worse refused. For if
their Masses be so good for us, be themselves never so naught, then
seemeth it better for us to make yet more, though they were yet worse,
that we might have more Masses."

"That reason," quoth I, "will not hold. For though God of his goodness,
how bad soever the priest be, well accepteth the oblation of Christ's
Holy Body for other folk, yet is he with that priest's presumption
highly discontented. And we never ought to seek our own commodity
with our neighbor's harm. And also, we should of our duty
to God, rather forbear the profit that ourselves might attain by a
Mass, than to see his majesty disreverenced by the bold presumption
of such an odious minister as he hath forbidden to come
about him. Like as if ye sent a present unto a prince which were
very pleasant unto him, though the messenger much misliked
him so far that he had been forbidden the court; yet if ye were not
aware thereof, your gift could not lose his thanks, but his malapert
boldness might peradventure be punished, and well were worthy
to be. But on the other side, if ye knew the messenger for such as the
prince would not have come at him, ye would rather keep your present
at home and forbear the thanks, than wittingly to send it by
such a messenger; or else, though your present were very great,
your thanks would be very little. And surely in like manner wise,
whoso surely knoweth a priest to be naught, vicious, and in
deadly displeasure of God, should get, I think, little thanks if he made
him say Mass. And therefore well shall the prelates do as much as
they may to provide that God shall rather be more seldom
presented with the pleasant present of the Mass, than more often
offended with a displeasant messenger. And verily were all the
bishops of my mind (as I know some that be), ye should not of
priests have the plenty that ye have. The time hath been when
there were very few in a great city; and in a monastery of five
hundred in one house, scantly would there four monks be bold
to be priests. Then was all holy orders in high honor. Then find
we that the degree of a deacon was a great thing, and of such
dignity that when one of them went sometimes in pilgrimage, he
would not be acknown of his order, because he would not that folk
should do him worship in the way. But as for nowadays if he be
deacon and priest too, he shall need to fear no such pride, but
rather rebuke and villainy. Which though it have happened by the
lack of virtue among them, and decay of devotion among us,

yet hath much of all this gear grown up by the means of so great a number
of priests and so familiar among us. Which thing needs must
diminish on our part reverence and estimation toward them,
which we never have but in things rare and scarce. Gold would
we not set by if it were as common as chalk or clay. And whereof is
there now such plenty as of priests?"
"In faith," quoth he, "there is more plenty of priests than of good men,
and there be too many but if they were better chosen."
"Doubtless," quoth I, "there would be more diligence used in the choice,
not of their learning only, but much more specially of their
living. For without virtue, the better they be learned the worse they
be, saving that learning is good store against God send them
grace to mend. Which else it would be then haply too late to look
for, especially if the proverb were true that ye spoke of, that if a
priest be good then he is old. But this is a very surety that it is not
well possible to be without many very naught of that company
whereof there is such a main multitude. The time was, I say,
when few men durst presume to take upon them the high office
of a priest, not even when they were chosen and called thereunto.
Now runneth every rascal and boldly offereth himself for able.
And where the dignity passeth all princes,
and they that lewd be desireth it
for worldly winning, yet cometh that sort thereto with such a
mad mind, that they reckon almost God much bounden to them
that they vouchsafe to take it. But were I pope . . ."
"By my soul," quoth he, "I would ye were, and my lady your wife
popess too."
"Well," quoth I, "then should she devise for nuns. And as for me,
touching the choice of priests, I could not well devise better
provisions than are by the laws of the church provided already,
if they were as well kept as they be well made. But for the number,
I would surely see such a way therein that we should not have
such a rabble that every mean man must have a priest in his house
to wait upon his wife, which no man almost lacketh now, to
the contempt of priesthood, in as vile office as his horse-keeper."

"That is," quoth he, "truth indeed, and in worse too, for they keep hawks
and dogs. And yet, meseemeth, surely a more honest service to wait
on a horse than on a dog."
"And yet I suppose," quoth I, "if the laws of the church, which Luther
and Tyndale would have all broken, were all well observed and kept,
this gear should not be thus; but the number of priests would be
much diminished, and the remnant much the better. For it is
by the laws of the church provided, to the intent no priest
should unto the slander of priesthood be driven to live in such
lewd manner or worse, there should none be admitted unto the priesthood
until he have a title of a sufficient
yearly living, either of his own patrimony
or other wise. Nor at this day they
be none otherwise accepted."
"Why," quoth he, "wherefore go there then so many of them a begging?"
"Marry," quoth I, "for they delude the law and themselves also. For they
never have grant of a living that may serve them in sight for that
purpose but they secretly discharge it ere they have it; or else they
could not get it. And thus the bishop is blinded by the sight of the
writing; and the priest goeth a begging for all his grant of a good
living; and the law is deluded; and the order is rebuked by the
priest's begging and lewd living, which either is fain to walk
at rovers and live upon trentals, or worse; or else to serve in a secular
man's house, which should not need if this gap were
stopped. For ye should have priests few enough if the law were
truly observed that none were made but he that were, without collusion,
sure of a living already."
"Then might it hap," quoth he, "that ye might have too few to serve
the rooms and livings that be provided for them, except the prelates
would provide that orders were not so commonly given, but always
receive into orders as rooms and livings fall void to bestow them
in, and no faster."
"Surely," quoth I, "for aught I see suddenly, that would not be much
amiss. For so should they need no such titles at all, nor should need
neither run at rovers nor live in laymen's houses, by reason

whereof there groweth among no little corruption in the priest's
manners by the conversation of lay people and company of women in
their houses."
"Nay, by our Lady," quoth he, "I will not agree with you therein. For I
think they cannot lightly meet with much worse company than
themselves, and that they rather corrupt us than we them.
The Thirteenth Chapter
The messenger moveth that it would do well that priests
should have wives. Thereunto the author maketh answer.
"But I would ween it would amend much part of this matter, if
they might have wives of their own."
"Marry," quoth I, "so saith Luther and Tyndale also, saving that they
go somewhat further forth. For Tyndale
-- whose books be nothing else in effect
but the worst heresies picked out of
Luther's works, and Luther's worst words translated by Tyndale
and put forth in Tyndale's own name -- doth in his frantic book of
obedience (wherein he raileth at large against all popes, against
all kings, against all prelates, all priests, all religious, all the
laws, all the saints, against the sacraments of Christ's church,
against all virtuous works, against all divine service, and
finally, against allthing in effect that good is); in that book, I say,
Tyndale holdeth that priests must have wives. And that he groundeth
wisely upon the words of Saint Paul, where
he writeth to Timothy, "Oportet
episcopum esse irreprehensibilem unius uxoris virum" (That a bishop
must be a man unreprovable and the husband of one wife). And
that it must be considered whether he have well brought up his
children and well governed his household. By these words doth
Tyndale, after Luther, conclude for a plain matter that priests
must needs have wives, and that Saint Paul would there should in

no wise be none other priests but married folk. Is it not now a
wonder with what spectacles Luther and Tyndale have spied this
thing now in these words of Saint Paul? In which, of so many
great cunning fathers and holy saints as have often read and
deeply considered those words before, there was never none that
had either the wit or the grace to perceive that great special
commandment this fifteen hundred year, till now that God hath at last
by revelation showed this high secret mystery to these two goodly
creatures Luther and Tyndale -- lest that holy frere should have lost
his marriage of that holy nun, and Tyndale some good marriage
that I think him toward. Tyndale nothing answereth in his book
to that point, but runneth and raileth over without reason, and
saith that the scripture is plain therein for him. And ever he passeth
over as though he heard it not, that all the holy doctors that ever were in
Christ's church say that the scripture, which he allegeth to
be very plain for him, is very plain against him, as it is indeed.
For Saint Paul in that place, forasmuch as yet at that time except
none but young men should have been priests, which he thought
not commonly convenient, else could they make no priests then, but
such as either were or had been married; therefore the Apostle having
in the choice of priests a special respect to chastity, and willing
to go as near to no wife as might be, did ordain, as God had
instructed him, that whosoever should be admitted to priesthood,
should be the husband of one wife. Meaning such as then
had, or before had had, no more but one, and
that never had had twain. He meant
not, as mad Luther and Tyndale would
now make the world so mad to believe, that a priest must needs
have one, nor that he may never lack one, nor that he may have
one after another, nor the only forbidding of twain at once:
but he meant only that none should be admitted to priesthood but only
such a man as never had had nor should have but only one.
Which is the thing that ever was and hath been by those words
understood. And not only where Saint Paul taught but also
through Christendom, where the other apostles planted the faith,
hath it ever been so observed. Which is a plain proof that concerning
the prohibition of any more wives than one, and the forbidding

of bigamy by the wedding of one wife after another, was
the special ordinance of God, and not of Saint Paul, whose
epistles wherein he writeth anything of this matter, was peradventure
not common to the hands of other apostles when they took yet the
same order by the same Spirit that
taught it him. For this is certain, that
ever and everywhere in Christendom the
bigamy of two wives, each after other, hath been a let and impediment
against the taking of holy orders; and hath of long time
been a let, though the one wife had been married and buried before the
man's baptism. And now these two wise men against the old
holy fathers and cunning doctors and against the continual
custom of Christ's church, so many hundred years bygone and
continued by the Spirit of God, have spied at last that Saint Paul
saith and meaneth that a priest may marry twice and have one wife
after another, and that he must so have. For by Tyndale, a priest must
ever have one wife at the least. And surely if we leave the true understanding
of Saint Paul's words and believe Tyndale that it is
there meant and commanded, because of this word "oportet," that a
priest must have one: then may Tyndale as for that place tell us that a
priest is at liberty to have twenty at once or twain, and he will, because
Saint Paul saith no more but that the bishop must be the
husband of one wife. Which words Tyndale may tell us be verified
if he be the husband of ten wives. For the husband of ten wives
were the husband of one, as the father of ten children is the father of
one, if the wives were as compatible as the children be, as it is no
doubt but Luther and Tyndale would soon make them by scripture, if
their own interpretation may be taken for authority against the
perceiving that God hath given to all good Christian people this fifteen
hundred year. Now, as I say, upon Tyndale's taking, Saint Paul should
mean not that a priest should have but one wife (for that but is not in
Saint Paul's words) but he should mean that a priest must have one
at the least, as though Saint Paul had liefer that the priest had
twenty, save for overcharging. Yet it seemeth that Tyndale so

take it indeed, and that a priest might have divers wives at once,
specially for the great reason that he setteth thereto. For whereas Saint
Paul, since there was at that time little choice to make priests of
but married men, willed therefore that in the choice of the bishop
there should be considered how he had governed his own household;
because he that had mistetched his wife and his children were
unmeet for a great cure; therefore, saith Tyndale, that never should
there any priest be made, but such as hath a wife and children
and by the governance of them showed that he is meet to bear
a rule, as though we never saw any man that never had wife,
govern a household better than many that have had wife. And
if the having and good ruling of a wife be so special a proof of a
man meet to be a priest, as Tyndale taketh it, then since Saint Paul,
after Tyndale's interpretation, cannot appear to forbid the having
of divers together, best were it, after Tyndale, especially to make that
man a priest that had many wives and all at once, and many
children by each of them, if he guide them all well. For more
proof is it of a wise governor to rule well five wives than one,
and forty children than four. But now that every child may see
the wisdom of Tyndale and his master Luther in the construction of
holy scripture, whereof he speaketh so much and understandeth so
little, I beseech you consider like words of Saint Paul in a much
like matter. Saint Paul, as he writeth to Timothy that a bishop
must be the husband of one wife, so writeth he also to him that
no widow should be specially chosen and taken in to be found of
the goods of the church that were younger than sixty years, and that
she should be one that had been the wife of one husband. Now
set these two texts together of the bishop and the widow, and
consider the words of one wife in the one, and one husband in
the other; if we shall, after Tyndale, take the one words for the
bishop, that Saint Paul should mean not that he have or have
had but one wife, but that he must needs have one wife, then
must we likewise take the words spoken by Saint Paul of the
widow, as though Saint Paul should mean not a widow which

had never had more than one husband, but a widow that had had
one husband, as though Saint Paul had nothing feared nor
forbade but lest Timothy should take in such a widow as
never had no husband at all. Were not this wisely construed?
Now if Tyndale will agree, as he needs must but if he be mad,
that Saint Paul in giving commandment that the widow
should be such as had had one husband, meant thereby such
one as never had had more than one, then must he needs grant,
and his master Luther too, that Saint Paul in like wise where he
said that a bishop must be a good man and the husband of one
wife, meant that he must never have, nor have had, any more
than one. And not that he must needs have one, or that he must
have one at the least, and might have many more than one, either
each after other or all together and he list. And in this matter hath
Tyndale no shift. For since this word "one," in "one wife" and "one
husband," was not by Saint Paul set in for naught. It must needs
signify, either that there should be no more but one, or that there
should be one at the least. If he should mean that a bishop should have
one wife at the least, and that the widow should have had one husband
at the least, then would he rather that they should have more
than so few, which every man seeth how foolish that construction
is. Now if Tyndale will say that by this word "one," Saint Paul
meant there should be but one wife at once, and one husband at once,
then did Saint Paul so speak of the bishop as though he had
said, "A bishop must be a good man and have but one wife at once."
In which words, Tyndale had lost his purpose. For so were only a
prohibition for any more than one, and no commandment but a
bare permission for one. And yet were it little to purpose, for in
Saint Paul's days, a layman had but one wife at once. And the folly
of this construction appeareth in the words spoken of Saint Paul
in the choice of the widow, wherein Tyndale would by this way
make Saint Paul to say thus: "Take and choose in but such a
widow as hath had but one husband at once" -- as though the
guise were in his days that wives might have two husbands at
"In faith," quoth your friend, "I think Saint Paul meant not so. For
then had wives been in his time little better than grass widows be

now. For they be yet as several as a barber's chair, and never take
but one at once."
"In faith," quoth I, "the folly of such folk doth well appear that seek in
the scripture of God such new constructions against the very
sense that God hath this fifteen hundred year so taught his whole church, that
never was there pope so covetous yet that durst dispense in this
point, seeing that consent of Christ's church so full and whole
therein, and the mind of Saint Paul so clear to suffer only one, with
utter exclusion of any more than one, that whosoever would construe
him otherwise must needs fall into such open follies as Tyndale
and Luther do. And thus ye see how substantially Tyndale and
his master construe the scripture; and with what authority they
confirm this noble new doctrine of theirs, by which they would
condemn all Christendom as breakers of the law of God as long
as they suffer not any priest take a wife, or rather as long as they
suffer him to be without a wife. For wives they must needs have, by
Tyndale's tale, whether they will or no.
"By my troth," quoth your friend, "if Tyndale and Luther have none
other hold than that place of Saint Paul, they be likely to take a
fall. But I think they say more than that."
"Surely," quoth I, "Tyndale hath another reason indeed. He saith
that chastity is an exceeding seldom gift, and unchastity exceeding
perilous for that estate. And thereon he concludeth that priests
must needs have wives. But now what if a man would deny him,
though chastity be a great gift, that yet it is a seldom gift? For
though it be rare and seldom in respect
of the remnant of the people that have it
not, yet is it not seldom indeed, for
many men have it. And Christ saith that
all men take it not, but he saith not that no man taketh it, nor
that few men take it. And highly he commendeth them that for his
sake do take it. What inconvenience is it then to take into his special
service men of that sort that he most especially commendeth? Or
if we granted to Tyndale that few men can live chaste -- which is
plain false, for many have done and doth -- but now if we did, I
say, grant him that thing, though he might peradventure thereupon

conclude that there should not be so many priests made and
bound to chastity as could not live chaste, yet could he not
conclude, as he now concludeth, that no priest should be suffered to
live chaste, but that every priest must needs have a wife. For
this is his argument: "Few men can live chaste; ergo every priest
must take a wife." If we should impugn the form of this argument,
Tyndale would rail and say we meddle with sophistry; and wise men
would say we were idly occupied to labor to show that folly that
so evidently showeth itself. And therefore we shall let his wise
argument alone, since it sufficeth us that every man that any wit
hath, may well see that upon his unreasonable reason, one of two
things must needs follow, either that Christ in commending
perpetual chastity did commend a thing not commendable;
or else, if every priest must needs have a wife, then were it not
lawful to make a priest of that sort that is of God's own mouth
"Surely," quoth your friend, "methink they go far therein to say that
priests must needs have wives. But methink that this they might
well say, and I too, that it is not well done to bind them with a
law that they shall have none; but it may be well done to suffer
them have wives that would, as they have
in Wales. And I hear say that in Almaine
they find great ease therein. For like as
here the good wife keepeth her husband from her maids, so there
the parson's wife keepeth her husband from all the wives in the
"As for Wales," quoth I, "ye be wrong informed; for wives have they
not. But truth it is that incontinence is there in some place little
looked unto, whereof much harm groweth in the country. And as for
Almaine, such part thereof as that is used in, which is only where
Luther's sect is received, whoso consider well what commodity
hath come to them by such ungodly ways, I think shall have no
great fantasy to follow them."
"Well," quoth he, "let Wales and Almaygne go, yet priests had wives
of old when they were better than they be now. And yet have in
Greece, where they be better than they be here."

"As for the priests of Greece, I will not
dispraise them," quoth I, "for I know them
not. But somewhat was not well there, that God hath suffered all that
empire to fall into heathen men's hands. And yet be they there not
so loose as ye reckon them. For though a wedded man taken there into
the clergy be not nor cannot be put from his wife, but is there
suffered to minister in the office of a priest, notwithstanding his
marriage; yet, if he be unmarried at the time that he taketh priesthood,
he then professeth perpetual continence, and never marrieth after,
as I have learned by such as have come from thence.
"Now where ye speak of old time, surely ye shall understand
that there married not so many as ye would haply ween."
"Peradventure," quoth he, "no more there would now. Some of them
would have no wives though that law were set at large. For as a
good fellow said once to his friends that marveled why he married
not, and thought him unnatural if he cared not for the company
of a woman, he said unto them that he had liefer lose a finger
than lack a woman. But he had liefer
lack the whole hand than have a wife.
So if the priests were at liberty, some of the worst sort would yet, I
ween, rather have women than wives. But other that would be more
honest would, I suppose, be married. And yet would some peradventure
live in perpetual continence, as few do now."
"God forbid," quoth I.
"Well," quoth he, "they that would, were not restrained. But if I shall
be bold to say what I think, it seemeth me surely a very hard
thing that the church should make a law to bind a man to
chastity maugre his teeth, to which God would never bind any
"The church," quoth I, "bindeth no man to chastity."
"That is truth," quoth he, "except a priest be a man."
"Ye mistake the matter," quoth I, "as I shall show you after."
"There would," quoth he, "many harms be avoided, and much good
would there grow thereof, if they might have wives that would."
"What good or harm," quoth I, "would come thereof, the proof would

show; wherein we might be the more bold to trust well, were it not
that we now find it naught in Saxony, where we newly see it assayed.
And as for that ye spoke of old time when the priests were better,
surely -- as I would, if ye had not stopped me, have said further before --
we perceive well by writers of old time, that of those good men
very few were married. And none in effect after that office taken.
And many such as had wives before, willingly with the
assent of their wives, forbore the carnal use of them. And since the
good or harm growing of the matter best appeareth by the
proof, besides the experience that we have now in Saxony, where this
change is begun with an infinite heap of heresies, it is easy to
see that the good fathers which gave their advice to the making of
that law, with the thing almost received in general custom
before, and with the consent of all Christendom in effect that ratified
and received it after, had a good proof thereof, and found this
the best way before the law made, and therefore I will not dispute
with you thereupon. But forasmuch as ye lay unreasonableness
to their charge that made it because they bind men, as ye reckon,
against their will to chastity, somewhat were it that ye say, if the
church compelled any man to be priest.
But now when every man is at his
liberty not to be priest but at his pleasure,
how can any man say that the church layeth a bond of chastity in
any man's neck against his will? The church doth in effect no
further but provide, that whereas men will, of their own minds,
some live chaste and some will not, the ministers of the Sacrament
shall be taken of that sort only that will be content to profess
chastity. Wherewith whoso findeth fault, blamed not only the
clergy but also the temporality, which be and have been all this
while partners in the authority of the making and conservation of
this law. Whereof there can no man blame the provision, but if
he be either in that heresy that he think that the cleanness of
chastity is no more pleasant to God than the carnal use of matrimony,
or else that he think it evil done to provide that the
priests which shall serve God in his holy sacraments should be

taken of the purest and most pleasant sort. Whereunto the very
paynims had such respect, that their
priests durst not presume to the sacrifice
of their mammets but after certain time of corporal cleanness,
kept from their wives, and some of them bound to perpetual
chastity with the loss of that part of their body wherewith they
might do the contrary."
"Yea, marry," quoth he, "that was a good sure way."
"It was," quoth I, "sure, indeed, but not so good as this. For therein
would be lost the merit that good men have in resisting of the
devil and the refraining of their fleshly motion. But as I would
and was about to say, in the Old Law given to Moses, the
priests of the Temple for the time of their
ministration forbore their own house
and the company of their wives. And therefore they served the
Temple by course, as it well appeareth in
the beginning of Saint Luke's Gospel.
So that chastity was thought both to God
and man a thing meet and convenient
for priests among them which most magnified carnal generation.
And then how much more specially now to the priests of Christ,
which was both born a virgin, and lived and died a virgin
himself, and exhorted all his to the
same. Whose counsel in that point, since
some be content to follow, and some to live otherwise, what
way were, I say, more meetly than to take into Christ's temple to
serve about the Sacrament only such as be of that sort that are
content and minded to live after the cleanness of Christ's holy
"Truth, if they so would," quoth he.
"They say," quoth I, "that they will when they come thereto being already
warned of the law. And to the intent that fewer should break
it, therefore would I, as I said, have the better respect taken to the
choosing. And since it is hard to have so many so good, I would
have the fewer made. But to say that the
church bindeth men to chastity against
their will, because they take not a priest

but if he first professed chastity, is as far against reason as if he
would say that they bind men to chastity against their will,
because they will make no monks but such as will promise to
live chaste. Which promise every man well wotteth they make of
their own minds, though the church will neither make monks
nor priests but such as so will. And as touching whether the order
of the church therein be better than the contrary, good men and wise
men both had the proof of both before the law made, and it well
allowed through Christendom long time since. Which ere I would
assent to change, I would see a better author thereof than such a
heretic as Luther, and Tyndale, and a better example than the seditious
and schismatic priests of Saxony."
"Surely," quoth he, "ye have well declared the church touching that
law. But whatsoever the cause be, by my troth, naught they be,
and as far worse than we as they be bound to be better; and
yet be we the worse for them."
"There be," quoth I, "many right good among them, and else were it
wrong with us. And many be there bad also; and some the worse
for us. But whether part is the better or the worse, will I not dispute.
But this will I say, that it were best that they thought themselves the
worse, and we ourselves, and every man himself worst.
"I would that we were all in case with our own faults, as my father
saith that we be with our wives. For when he heareth folk blame
wives, and say that there be so many of them shrews, he saith
that they defame them falsely. For he
saith plainly that there is but one shrewd
wife in the world; but he saith indeed
that every man weeneth he hath her, and that that one is his own. So
would I fain that every man would ween there were but one man
naught in all the whole world, and that that one were himself. And
that he would thereupon go about to mend that one, and thus would
all wax well. Which thing we should shortly do, if we would
once turn our wallet that I told you of, and the bag with other
folks faults cast at our back, and cast the bag that beareth our
own faults, cast it once before us at our breast. It would be a goodly
brooch for us to look on our own faults another while. And I

dare boldly say, both they and we should much the better amend
if we were so ready each to pray for other as we be ready to seek each
other's reproach and rebuke."
"In faith," quoth he, "I trow that be true, and pray God we so may.
The Fourteenth Chapter
The author answereth the doubt moved before in the eleventh
chapter, concerning the constitution provincial, and
that the clergy is therein far from the fault that is imputed to
them in that point, showing also that the clergy hath not
forbidden the Bible to be made and read in English.
"But now to the matter we were in hand with. Ye said ye would
make answer for the law whereby the clergy of this realm hath
forbidden all the people to have any scripture translated into our
tongue: which is, as I said, in my mind, an evil made law."
"Marry," quoth I, "that is soon answered. Lay the charge to them that
made it."
"Marry," quoth he, "so I do. For who made the constitution but they?"
"Surely," quoth I, "nobody else, nor they neither."
"No?" quoth he. "What! Every man knoweth it."
"Verily," quoth I, "many men talk of it, but no man knoweth it. For
there is none such indeed. There is of truth a constitution that
speaketh of such matter, but nothing of such fashion. For ye shall
understand that the great arch-heretic Wycliffe, whereas the
whole Bible was long before his days by virtuous and well-learned men
translated into the English tongue, and by good and godly people with
devotion and soberness well and reverently read, took upon him of a
malicious purpose to translate it of new.
In which translation, he purposely corrupted
that holy text, maliciously planting
therein such words as might in the readers' ears serve to the proof
of such heresies as he went about to sow; which he not only set
forth with his own translation of the Bible, but also with certain

prologues and glosses which he made thereupon. And these things he so
handled (which was no great mastery) with reasons probable and
likely to lay people and unlearned, that he corrupted in his time many
folk in this realm. And by other ill books which he made in
Latin, being after borne into Boheme, and there taught by Iohan Husse
and other, he was the occasion of the utter subversion of that whole realm,
both in faith and good living, with the loss also of many a thousand
lives. And as he began again the old heresies of those ancient
heretics -- whom and whose errors the church of Christ had condemned
and subdued many divers ages before -- so doth Luther again begin to
set up his. For all that he hath, in effect, he hath of him. Saving
that lest he should seem to say nothing of his own, he added
some things of himself of such manner sort as there was never
heretic before his days, neither so wicked that he would for
sin, nor so foolish that he durst for shame, write, say, or, I
trow, think the like."
"I long," quoth he, "to hear some of them; for the man is taken for
wiser than to mean so madly as men bear him in hand."
"Well," quoth I, "that shall we see soon when we come thereto. But for our
present purpose, after that it was perceived what harm the people
took by the translation, prologues, and glosses of Wycliffe; and also of
some other that after him helped to set forth his sect, then for that
cause -- and forasmuch as it is dangerous
to translate the text of scripture out of
one tongue into another, as holy Saint
Jerome testifieth, forasmuch as in translation it is hard always
to keep the same sentence whole -- it was, I say, for these causes at a
council held at Oxford provided, upon great pain, that
no man should from thenceforth translate into the English tongue
or any other language, of his own authority, by way of book,
libel, or treatise; nor no man openly or secretly any such book,
libel, or treatise read, newly made in the time of the said John
Wycliffe or since (or that should be made any time after) till the
same translation were by the diocesan, or, if need should require,
by a provincial council, approved. And this is a law that so many
so long have spoken of, and so few have in all this while recked to

seek whether they say truth or no. For I trow that in this law ye see
nothing unreasonable. For it neither forbiddeth the translations to
be read that were already well done of old before Wycliffe's days,
nor damneth his because it was new, but because it was naught;
nor prohibiteth new to be made, but provideth that they shall not
be read if they be mismade, till they be by good examination
amended, except they be such translations as Wycliffe made and
Tyndale, that the malicious mind of the translator had in such
wise handled it, as it were labor lost to go about to mend them."
"I long, by my troth," quoth he, "and even sit on thorns, till I see
that constitution. For not myself only, but every man else, hath
ever taken it far otherwise that ever I have heard spoken thereof
till now. But surely I will see it myself ere I sleep."
"Ye shall be sooner eased," quoth I. "For I cannot suffer to see you sit
so long on thorns. And therefore ye shall see it by and by."
And therewith I set him forth the constitutions provincial, with
Linwood thereupon, and turned him to the place in the title De
magistris. Which when himself had read, he said he marveled
much how it happened that in so plain a matter men be so far
abused to report it so far wrong.
"This groweth," quoth I, "partly by malice, partly by sloth and
negligence, in that folk be more glad to believe and tell forth a
thing that may sound to the dispraise of the clergy than to
search and be sure whether they say true or no."
The Fifteenth Chapter
The messenger moveth against the clergy that, though
they have made no law thereof, yet they will indeed
suffer none English Bible in no man's hand; but use to
burn them where they find them, and sometimes to burn
the man too. And for example he layeth one Richard Hunne,
showing that the chancellor of London murdered him in
prison and after hanged him, feigning that he hanged himself,
and after condemned him of heresy, because he had

an English Bible, and so burned the Bible and him together;
whereunto the author answereth.
"I suppose," quoth he, "that this opinion is rather grown another way;
that is to wit, by the reason that the clergy, though the law serve
them not therefor, do yet indeed take all translations out of every
layman's hand. And sometimes, with those that be burned or
convicted of heresy, they burn the English Bible without
respect, be the translation old or new, bad or good."
"Forsooth," quoth I, "if this were so, then were it in my mind not well
done. But I believe ye mistake it. Howbeit, what ye have seen I cannot
say. But myself have seen and can show you Bibles fair and old
written in English, which have been known and seen by the bishop of
the diocese, and left in laymen's hands and women's too, such as he
knew for good and Catholic folk that used it with devotion and soberness.
But of truth, all such as are found in the hands of the heretics
they use to take away. But they do cause none to be burned,
as far as ever I could wit, but only such as be found faulty.
Whereof many be set forth with evil prologues or glosses, maliciously
made by Wycliffe and other heretics. For no good man would, I
ween, be so mad to burn up the Bible wherein they found no fault
nor any law that letted it to be looked on and read."
"Marry," quoth he, "but I have heard good men say, that even here in
London not many years ago, in the days of the bishop that last
died, they burned up as fair Bibles in English as any man hath
lightly seen, and thereto as faultless for aught that any man could
find as any Bible is in Latin. And yet besides this they burned up
the dead body of the man himself, whom themselves had hanged
in the bishop's prison before, making as though the man had hanged
himself. And of the burning of his body had they no color but
only because they found English Bibles in his house. Wherein
they never found other fault but because they were English."
"Who told you this tale?" quoth I.

"Forsooth, divers honest men," quoth he, "that saw it, and especially
one that saw the man hanging in the bishop's prison ere he was cut
down. And he told me that it was well and clearly proved that
the chancellor and his keepers had killed the man first, and
then hanged him after. And that they had laid heresy to him
only for hatred that he sued a premunire against divers persons
for a suit taken about a mortuary in the audience of the archbishop
of Canterbury. And then they proved the heresy by nothing
else but by the possession of a good English Bible. And
upon heresy so proved against him whom they had hanged,
lest he should say for himself, they burned up the holy scripture
of God, and the body of a good man therewith. For I have heard him
called a very honest person and of a good substance."
"Forsooth," quoth I, "of good substance he was, I think, well worth a
thousand marks. And of his worldly conversation among the
people I have heard none harm. But surely as touching his faith
toward Christ, methinketh I may be bold to say that he was not
honest. And as touching truth in words, he that hath told you
this tale was not so honest indeed as methinketh ye take him for."
"Why," quoth he, "do ye know the matter well?"
"Forsooth," quoth I, "so well I know it from top to toe that I
suppose there be not very many men that knoweth it much better.
For I have not only been divers times present myself at certain
examinations thereof, but have also divers and many times sunderly
talked with almost all such except the dead man himself
as most knew of the matter. Which matter was many times in
sundry places examined. But specially at Baynard's Castle one day
was it examined at great length, and by a long time every man
being sent for before, and ready there, all that could be found
that anything could tell, or that had said they could anything
tell in the matter. And this examination was had before
divers great lords spiritual and temporal, and other of the king's
honorable Council, sent thither by His Highness for the nonce of
his blessed zeal and princely desire borne to the searching of the
truth. Whereunto his gracious mind was much inclined, and

had been by a right honorable man informed, that there was one
had showed a friend of his that he could go take him by the sleeve
that killed Hunne, for Richard Hunne
was his name whom ye speak of. I was
also myself present at the judgment given in Paul's, whereupon
his books and his body were burned. And by all these things I very
well know that he of whom ye have heard this matter hath told
you tales far from the truth."
"In good faith," quoth your friend, "he told me one thing that
ye speak of now: that there was one that said he could go take
him by the sleeve that killed Richard Hunne, and that he did so
indeed before the lords, and came even there to the chancellor
and said, "My lords, this is he." But when he was asked how he
knew it, he confessed that it was by such an unlawful craft as was
not taken for a proof. For it was, they say, by necromancy. And the
bishops that were there would have had that man burned too for
witchcraft. And told me also that there was another which had
seen many men that had hanged themselves,
a man that had been long in
office under divers of the king's almoners,
to whom the goods of such men as
kill themselves be appointed by the law, and his office, as deodands,
to be given in alms. This man, as I have heard say, showed unto
the lords by such experience as he had good and plain tokens
by which they perceived well that Hunne did never hang himself.
I have heard also that a spiritual man and one that loved well
the chancellor, and was a laborer for that part, yet could not
deny before all the lords but that he had told a temporal man
and a friend of his, that Hunne had never been accused of
heresy if he had never sued the premunire. And by Saint Mary,
that was a shrewd word. Howbeit indeed it went not so near
the matter as the other two things did."
"Yes, in good faith," quoth I, "all three like near when they were all heard.
But of truth, many other things were there laid that, upon the
hearing, seemed much more suspicious than these. Which yet
when they were answered, always lost more than half their strength.

But as for these three matters, I promise you, proved very trifles, and
such, as if ye had heard them, ye would have laughed at them seven
year after."
"I beseech you," quoth he, "let me hear how they proved."
"I am loath," quoth I, "to let you, and lose your time in such trifles.
Howbeit since you long so sore therefor, rather than ye should
lose your child for them, ye shall have them all three as
shortly as I can. First, ye must understand, that because the coming
together of the lords from Greenwich to Baynard's Castle
for the trying out of the matter should not be frustrate, there was
such diligence done before, that every man that aught had
said therein was ready there against their coming. Where
they began with the first point that ye spoke of, as the special
motion whereupon the King's Highness had sent them thither.
Wherefore, after the rehearsal made of the cause of their coming,
the greatest temporal lord there present said unto a certain
servant of his own standing there beside, "Sir, ye told me that
one showed you that he could go take him by the sleeve that
killed Hunne. Have ye brought him hither?"
"Sir," quoth he, "if it like Your Lordship, this man it was that told me
so," pointing to one that he had caused to come thither. Then
my lord asked that man, "How say ye sir, can ye do as ye said ye
"Forsooth my lord," quoth he, "and it like Your Lordship, I said
not so much; this gentleman did somewhat mistake me.
But indeed I told him that I had a neighbor that told me that
he could do it."
"Where is that neighbor?" quoth my lord.
"This man, sir," quoth he, bringeth forth one which had also been
warned to be there. Then was he asked whether he had said that he
could do it.
"Nay, forsooth," quoth he, "my lord, I said not that I could do it myself;
but I said that one told me that he could do it."
"Well," quoth my lord, "who told you so?"
"Forsooth, my lord," quoth he, "my neighbor here."

"Then was that man asked, "Sir know you one that can tell who
killed Richard Hunne?"
"Forsooth," quoth he, "and it like Your Lordship, I said not that I
knew one surely that could tell who had killed him; but I said
indeed that I know one which I thought verily could tell who
killed him."
"Well," quoth the lords at the last, "yet with much work we come
to somewhat. But whereby think you that he can tell?"
"Nay, forsooth, my lord," quoth he, "it is a woman; I would she were
here with Your Lordships now."
"Well," quoth my lord, "woman or man, all is one; she shall be had
wheresoever she be."
"By my faith my lords," quoth he, "and she were with you, she would
tell you wonders. For by God, I have wist her to tell many marvelous
things ere now."
"Why," quoth the lords, "what have you heard her tell?"
"Forsooth, my lords," quoth he, "if a thing had been stolen, she
would have told who had it. And therefore I think she could as
well tell who killed Hunne, as who stole a horse."
"Surely," said the lords, "so think all we too, I trow. But how could
she tell it -- by the devil?"
"Nay, by my troth, I trow," quoth he, "for I could never see her
use any worse way than looking in one's hand."
"Therewith the lords laughed and asked, "What is she?"
"Forsooth, my lords," quoth he, "an Egyptian, and she was lodged
here at Lambeth, but she is gone over sea now. Howbeit, I trow,
she be not in her own country yet: for they say it is a great way
hence, and she went over little more than a month ago."
"Now, forsooth," quoth your friend, "this process came to a wise purpose;
here was a great post well thwited to a pudding prick. But I
pray you, to what point came the second matter of him that
had been in office under so many of the king's almoners that
he knew by his own experience and proved that Richard
Hunne had not hanged himself?"

"Forsooth," quoth I, "he was called in next. And then was he asked
whereby he knew it. But would God ye had seen his countenance.
The man had of likelihood said somewhat too far, and was
much amazed and looked as though his eyes would have fallen
out of his head into the lords' laps. But to the question he answered
and said that he saw that very well; for he saw him both ere he
was taken down and after.
"What then?" quoth the lords, "so did there many more which yet
upon the sight could not tell that."
"No, my lords," quoth he, "but I have another insight in such things
than other men have."
"What insight?" quoth they.
"Forsooth," quoth he, "it is not unknown that I have occupied a great
while under divers of the king"s almoners, and have seen and
considered many that have hanged themselves, and thereby if I see
one hang, I can tell anon whether he hanged himself or not."
"By what token can you tell?" quoth the lords.
"Forsooth," quoth he, "I cannot tell the tokens, but I perceive it
well enough by mine own sight."
"But when they heard him speak of his own sight and therewith
saw what sight he had, looking as though his eyes would have
fallen in their laps, there could few forbear laughing, and
said, "We see well surely that ye have a sight by yourself." And
then said one lord merrily, "Peradventure as some man is so
cunning by experience of jewels that he can perceive by his own
eye whether a stone be right or counterfeit, though he cannot
well make another man to perceive the tokens, so this good fellow,
though he cannot tell us the marks, yet he hath such an experience
in hanging that himself perceiveth upon the sight whether
the man hanged himself or no."
"Yea, forsooth, my lord," quoth he, "even as Your Lordship saith. For
I know it well enough myself; I have seen so many by reason of
mine office."
"Why," quoth another lord merrily, "your office hath no more

experience in hanging than hath a hangman. And yet he
cannot tell."
"Nay, sir," quoth he, "and it like Your Lordship, he meddleth not with
them that hang themselves as I do."
"Well," quoth one of the lords, "how many of them have ye meddled
with in your days?"
"With many, my lord," quoth he, "for I have been officer under two
almoners, and therefore I have seen many."
"How many?" quoth one of the lords.
"I cannot tell," quoth he, "how many, but I wot well I have seen
"Have ye seen," quoth one, "a hundred?"
"Nay," quoth he, "not a hundred."
"Have ye seen four score and ten?" Thereat a little he studied as
one standing in a doubt, and that were loath to lie; and at last he
said that he thought nay, not fully four score and ten. Then was he
asked whether he had seen twenty. And thereto without any sticking,
he answered, "Nay, not twenty." Thereat the lords laughed well to
see that he was so sure that he had not seen twenty, and was in
doubt whether he had seen four score and ten. Then was he
asked whether he had seen fifteen. And thereto he said
shortly, "nay"; and in like wise of ten. At the last they came to five,
and from five to four. And there he began to study again. Then
came they to three, and then, for shame, he was fain to say that he
had seen so many and more too. But when he was asked when, whom,
and in what place, necessity drove him at last unto the truth,
whereby it appeared that he never had seen but one in all his life.
And that was an Irish fellow called Crookshanke, whom he had
seen hanging in an old barn. And when all his cunning was
come to this, he was bid walk like himself. And one said unto
him that because he was not yet cunning enough in the craft of
hanging, it was pity that he had no more experience thereof by one
"Forsooth," quoth your friend, "this was a mad fellow. Came
the third tale to as wise a point?"
"Ye shall hear," quoth I. "The temporal man that had reported it, upon

the mouth of the spiritual man, was a good worshipful man; and for
his truth and worship was in great credit. And surely the
spiritual man was a man of worship also, and well-known both
for cunning and virtuous. And therefore the lords much marveled,
knowing them both for such as they were, that they should
be like to find either the one or the other either make an
untrue report or untruly deny the truth. And first the
temporal man before the lords in the hearing of the spiritual person
standing by, said:
"My lords all, as help me God and halidom, Master Doctor
here said unto me, his own mouth, that if Hunne had not sued the
premunire he should never have been accused of heresy."
"How say you, Master Doctor?" quoth the lords; "was that
true, or else why said you so?"
"Surely, my lords," quoth he, "I said not allthing so; but marry,
this I said indeed, that if Hunne had not been accused of heresy
he would never have sued the premunire."
"Lo, my lords," quoth the other, "I am glad ye find me a true man.
Will ye command me any more service?"
"Nay, by my troth," quoth one of the lords, "not in this matter; by
my will, ye may go when ye will. For I have espied, good man,
so the words be all one it maketh no matter to you which way
they stand; but all is one to you, a horse mill and a mill horse,
drink ere ye go, and go ere ye drink."
"Nay my lords," quoth he, "I will not drink, God yield you." And
therewith he made courtesy and went his way, leaving some of the
lords laughing to see the good plain old honest man, how
that as contrary as their two tales were, yet when he heard them
both again, he marked no difference between them, but took
them both for one because the words were one."
"By my troth," quoth your friend, "these three things came merrily
to pass, and I would not for a good thing but I had heard
them. For here may a man see, that misunderstanding
maketh misreporting.
And a tale that fleeth through many mouths catcheth many new
feathers; which, when they be pulled away again, leave him as

pilled as a coot, and sometimes as bare as a bird's arse. But I think
verily for all this there was great evidence given against the
chancellor, for he was at length indicted of Hunne's death, and was a
great while in prison; and in conclusion, never durst abide the
trial of twelve men for his acquittal but was fain by friendship to
get a pardon. But I beseech you for my mind's sake, show me
what thought yourself therein."
"Of truth," quoth I, "there were divers suspicious things laid
against him, and all those well and substantially answered again
for him. Howbeit, upon the telling of a tale, oftentimes happeth
that when all is heard that can be said therein, yet shall the hearers
some think one way and some another. And therefore, though I
cannot think but that the jury, which were right honest men,
found the verdict as themselves thought in their own conscience
to be truth: yet, in mine own mind, for aught that ever I heard
thereof in my life, as help me God, I could never think it."
"If he had not been guilty," quoth your friend, "he would never have
sued his pardon."
"Yes," quoth I, "right wise men have I heard say, ere this, that they
will never refuse neither God's pardon nor the king's. It were no
wisdom in a matter of many suspicious tales, be they never so
false, to stand on twelve men's mouths where one may find a
surer way. But I think verily, that if he had been guilty, he
should never have gotten his pardon. For
albeit that there was never, I trow, brought
in this world a prince of more benign nature, nor of more
merciful mind, than is our sovereign lord that now reigneth,
and long mote reign upon us, whereby never king could
find in his heart more freely to forgive and forget offenses done and
committed unto himself, yet hath His Highness such a fervent
affection to right and justice in other men's causes, and such a
tender zeal to the conservation of his subjects -- of whose lives his
high wisdom considereth many to stand in peril by the
giving of pardon to a few willful murderers -- that never was there

king, I believe, that ever wore the crown in this realm which
hath in so many years given unto such folk so few. And therefore
I make myself sure that in such a willful, purpensed, heinous,
cruel deed as this had been if it had been true, all the friends that
could have been found for the chancellor in this world could
never have gotten his pardon to pass in such wise, had
it not been that, upon the report of all the circumstances, the
king's high prudence, which, without flattery, pierceth as deep into
the bottom of a doubtful matter as ever I saw man in my life,
had well perceived his innocence. And since I verily believe that if
he had been guilty he never could have gotten in such a heinous
murder any pardon of the King's Highness, I dare make myself
much more bold of his innocence now. For ye shall understand
that he never sued pardon therefor. But after long examination of
the matter, as well the chancellor as the other, being indicted of
the deed and arraigned upon the indictment in the King's Bench,
pleaded that they were not guilty. And thereupon the King's Grace
being well and sufficiently informed of the truth, and of his
blessed disposition not willing that there should in his name any
false matter be maintained, gave in commandment to his
attorney to confess their pleas to be true without any further
trouble. Which thing, in so faithful a prince, is a clear declaration
that the matter laid to the chancellor was untrue.
"And as for myself, in good faith, as I told you before, I never
heard in my life (and yet have I heard all, I ween, that well could be
said) therein anything that moved me, after both the parties
heard, to think that he should be guilty.
"And besides all this, considering that Hunne was (as they that
well know him say he was indeed), though he were a fair
dealer among his neighbors, yet a man high-minded and set on
the glory of a victory which he hoped to have in the premunire,
whereof he much boasted, as they said, among his familiar friends,
that he trusted to be spoken of long after his days and have his
matter in the years and terms called Hunne's case. Which when he
perceived would go against his purpose, and that in the temporal

law he should not win his spurs, and over that in the spiritual
law perceived so much of his secret sores unwrapped and discovered
that he began to fall in fear of worldly shame: it is to me
much more likely that for weariness of his life, he rid himself
out thereof, which manner of affection we see not seldom happen,
especially since the devil might peradventure join therewith a
marvelous hope of that which after happed, that the suspicion of
his death might be laid to the charge and peril of the chancellor;
this is, I say, much more likely to me than the thing
whereof I never heard the like before, that the bishop's chancellor
should kill in the Lollard's Tower a man so sore suspected and convicted
of heresy, whereby he might bring himself in business; whereas
if he hated the man (for kill him he would not, ye wot well, if he
loved him) he might easily bring him to shame, and peradventure
to shameful death also."
"In good faith," quoth your friend, "wist I that it were true that he
was a heretic indeed and in peril to be so proved, I would
well think that in malice and despair he hanged himself."
"God," quoth I, "knoweth of allthing the truth. But what I have
heard therein, that shall I show you."
"Myself was present in Paul's when the bishop, in the presence
of the mayor and the aldermen of the city, condemned him for
a heretic after his death. And then
were there read openly the depositions
by which it was well-proved that he was convicted as well of divers
other heresies as of misbelief toward the Holy Sacrament of the
Altar. And thereupon was the judgment given that his body
should be burned, and so was it.
"Now this is," quoth I, "to me a full proof. For I assure you the bishop
was a very wise man, a virtuous and a cunning."
"By Saint Mary," quoth he, "the proof is the better by so much."
"I shall tell you," quoth I, "another thing, which when ye hear, ye
shall peradventure believe it yet the better."
"That would I gladly know," quoth he. "For as far as I can hear,
never man had him suspect of any such thing before."

"Forsooth," quoth I, "that can I not tell. But so it happed that, as I remember,
six or seven years after that Hunne was thus hanged and
his body burned for a heretic, there was one in Essex, a carpenter
that used to make pumps, which had intended with other
such as he was himself to do great robbery; and thereupon was
he brought unto the court. Where, by the commandment of the
King's Grace, a great honorable estate of this realm and myself
had him in examination. Wherein, among other things he
confessed that he had long held divers heresies, which he
said that his brother, being a clerk of a church, had taught both
his father and him. And I promise you those heresies were of a
height. Then he showed us what other cunning masters of that
school he had heard read, and especially in a place which he named
us in London, where he said that such heretics were wont to
resort to their readings in a chamber at midnight. And when
he asked him the names of them that were wont to haunt those
midnight lectures, he rehearsed us divers, and among other he
named Richard Hunne. Whereof we somewhat marveled in our
minds, but nothing said we thereto, but let him rehearse on all
such as he could call to mind. And when he stopped and could
remember no more, then asked we of them that he had named
what they were and where they dwelled. And he told us of some
of them that were convicted, and some that were fled, and some
that were yet at that time dwelling still in the town. And in the
way, when we asked him what man was that Hunne that he spoke of,
he told us his person and his house. "And where is he now?" said we.
"Marry," quoth he, "I went to Tournai; and when I came thence again,
then heard I say that he was hanged in the Lollard"s Tower, and his
body burned for a heretic." And thus there learned we long after
that Hunne had haunted heretics" lectures by night long before,
which we declared unto the King's Highness as he had confessed.
And His Highness, though he was sorry that any man should
be so lewd, yet highly did rejoice that the goodness of God brought
such hid mischief more and more to light. So after had we, by
the king's commandment, that man's brother in examination;
which did indeed confess nothing, neither of the felonies nor
of the heresies. But yet his brother did abide by them, and avowed

them in his face, with such marks and tokens as it might well
appear that he said truth. And surely marvel were it if he would
falsely have feigned such heinous things against his own brother,
his own father, and himself, being thereto nothing compelled
nor put either in pain or fear. Now was the father dead, and other
could we not come by, whom we might further examine of that
night school, saving that he which as I told you confessed this
matter, showed us also at the first time of one man in London
taken for good and honest, which was, as he said, a scholar also of
his brother in those heresies; which man for his honesty we
forbore to meddle with till we should have the other brother. Whom
as soon as we had in hands, and that he was committed to the
Marshalsea, this other man which was, as I told you, detected unto
us for a heretic and a scholar of his, came to me to labor and sue
for him, pretending that he did it for charity. And forasmuch
as we thought we could not fail of him when we would have
him, we forbore therefore to examine him till we should have
examined the other whom he labored for. But then were we not
aware in what wise we should be disappointed of him. For so mishapped
it indeed that after his being at me to labor for him
whose scholar in heresy he was detected to be, he was in his own
house suddenly stricken and slain. And that wretched end had
he. What conscience he died with, God knoweth, for I can tell you
no further."
"By Saint John," quoth your friend, "but upon the whole tale it
seemeth to me very clear that Hunne was himself not clear of the
"Surely," quoth I, "so seemed it, as far as I could wit, unto as
many as ever heard it; and would yet I ween have seemed so more
clearly if they had been present at the examinations and seen
under what manner the man came forth therewith."
"But yet," quoth your friend, "as for his English Bible, though Hunne
were himself a heretic, yet might the book be good enough.

And no good reason is there why a good book should be burned with
an evil man."
"Ye call me well home," quoth I, "and put me well in mind. For that
was the thing whereby ye took occasion to talk of Hunne, of whom
we talked so long, that at last I had forgotten wherefore and whereupon
we entered into that communication. And yet make those
books not a little to the matter that we had in hand; I mean,
toward the perceiving what opinion that Hunne was of. For
surely at such time as he was denounced for a heretic, there lay
his English Bible open and some other English books of his,
that every man might see the places noted with his own hand,
such words and in such wise that there would no wise man that
good were have any great doubt, after the sight thereof, what
naughty minds the men had, both he that so noted them and
he that so made them. I remember not now the specialties of the
matter, nor the formal words as they were written. But this I
remember well, that besides other things framed for the favor of
divers other heresies, there were in the prologue of that Bible such
words touching the Blessed Sacrament as good Christian men did
much abhor to hear, and which gave the readers undoubted
occasion to think that book was written after Wycliffe's copy, and
by him translated into our tongue. And yet whether the book be
burned or secretly kept I cannot surely say. But truly, were the
clergy of my mind, it should be somewhere reserved for the
perpetual proof of the matter, there hath gone so much suspicious
rumor thereof. Which, as I believe, were all well answered, and
the mind fully satisfied of any man that were wise and good
therewith, that once had overlooked, read, and advisedly considered
that book."
The Sixteenth Chapter
The messenger rehearseth some causes which he hath heard
laid by some of the clergy, wherefore the scripture should
not be suffered in English. And the author showeth his
mind that it were convenient to have the Bible in English.
And therewith endeth the third book.

"Sir," quoth your friend, "yet for all this can I see no cause why the
clergy should keep the Bible out of laymen's hands, that con no
more but their mother tongue."
"I had weened," quoth I, "that I had proved you plainly that they keep it
not from them. For I have showed you that they keep none from
them but such translation as be either
not yet approved for good or such as
be already reproved for naught, as
Wycliffe's was, and Tyndale's. For as for other old ones, that were
before Wycliffe's days, remain lawful, and be in some folks' hands
had and read."
"Ye say well," quoth he. "But yet, as women say, somewhat it was
always that the cat winked when her eye was out. Surely so is it not
for naught that the English Bible is in so few men's hands
when so many would so fain have it."
"That is very truth," quoth I, "for I think that though the favorers of
a sect of heretics be so fervent in the setting forth of their sect
that they let not to lay their money together and make a purse among
them for the printing of an evil made or evil translated book --
which though it hap to be forbidden and burned, yet some be
sold ere they be spied, and each of them lose but their part -- yet
I think there will no printer lightly be so hot to put any Bible
in print at his own charge, whereof the loss should lie whole in his
own neck, and then hang upon a doubtful trial whether the
first copy of his translation was made before Wycliffe's days or
since. For if it were made since, it must be approved before the
printing. And surely how it hath happed that in all this while
God hath either not suffered or not provided that any good, virtuous
man hath had the mind in faithful wise to translate it, and
thereupon either the clergy, or at the leastwise some one bishop, to
approve it, this can I nothing tell. But howsoever it be, I have
heard and hear so much spoken in the matter, and so much doubt
made therein, that peradventure it would let and withdraw any one
bishop from the admitting thereof without the assent of the
remnant. And whereas many things be laid against it, yet is

there in my mind not one thing that more
putteth good men of the clergy in doubt
to suffer it than this: that they see sometimes
much of the worse sort more fervent in
the calling for it than them whom we find far better. Which
maketh them to fear lest such men desire it for no good, and lest, if
it were had in every man's hand, there would great peril arise,
and that seditious people should do more harm therewith than good
and honest folk should take fruit thereby. Which fear, I promise
you, nothing feareth me; but that whosoever would of their malice or
folly take harm of that thing that is of itself ordained to do all men
good, I would never, for the avoiding of their harm, take from
other the profit which they might take and nothing
deserve to lose. For else if the abuse of a good thing should cause the
taking away thereof from other that would use it well, Christ should
himself never have been born, nor brought his faith into the
world; nor God should never have made it neither, if he should,
for the loss of those that would be damned wretches, have kept
away the occasion of reward from them that would with help of
his grace endeavor them to deserve it."
"I am sure," quoth your friend, "ye doubt not but that I am full and whole
of your mind in this matter that the Bible should be in our English
tongue. But yet that the clergy is of the contrary, and would not have
it so, that appeareth well, in that they suffer it not to be so. And over
that I hear in every place almost, where I find any learned man of
them, their minds all set thereon to keep the scripture from us.
And they seek out for that part every rotten reason that they can
find, and set them forth solemnly to the show, though five of
those reasons be not worth a fig. For
they begin as far as our first father
Adam, and show us that his wife and he fell out of paradise
with desire of knowledge and cunning. Now if this would
serve, it must from the knowledge and study of scripture drive
every man, priest and other, lest it drive all out of paradise.
Then say they that God taught his disciples many things apart,
because the people should not hear it. And therefore they
would the people should not now be suffered to read all. Yet they

say further that it is hard to translate the scripture out of one tongue
into another, and especially, they say, into ours. Which they call a
tongue vulgar and barbarous. But of allthing especially they say
that scripture is the food of the soul. And that the common people be as
infants that must be fed but with milk and pap. And if we
have any stronger meat, it must be chammed before by the nurse, and
so put into the babe's mouth. But methink though they make us all
infants, they shall find many a shrewd brain among us that
can perceive chalk from cheese well enough and if they would once
take us our meat in our own hand. We be not so evil toothed but
that within a while they shall see us cham it ourselves as well as they.
For let them call us young babes and they will, yet, by God, they shall
for all that well find in some of us that an old knave is no child."
"Surely," quoth I, "such things as ye speak is the thing that, as I
somewhat said before, putteth good folk in fear to suffer the
scripture in our English tongue. Not for
the reading and receiving, but for the
busy chamming thereof and for much
meddling with such parts thereof as least will agree with their
capacities. For undoubtedly, as ye spoke of our mother Eve, inordinate
appetite of knowledge is a means to drive any man out of paradise.
And inordinate is the appetite when men unlearned, though they
read it in their language, will be busy to ensearch and dispute
the great secret mysteries of scripture, which, though they hear,
they be not able to perceive. This thing is plainly forbidden us
that be not appointed nor instructed thereto. And therefore holy
Saint Gregory Nazianzenus, that great solemn doctor, sore toucheth
and reproveth all such bold, busy meddlers in the scripture, and
showeth that it is in Exodus, by Moses
ascending up upon the hill where he
spoke with God and the people tarrying beneath, signified that the
people be forbidden to presume to meddle with the high mysteries of
holy scripture, but ought to be content to tarry beneath and meddle
none higher than is meet for them, but receiving from the height

of the hill by Moses that that is delivered them -- that is to wit, the
laws and precepts that they must keep, and the points they
must believe -- look well thereupon, and often, and meddle well therewith.
Not to dispute it, but to fulfill it. And as for the high, secret
mysteries of God and hard texts of his holy scripture, let us know
that we be so unable to ascend up so high on that hill, that it shall
become us to say to the preachers appointed thereto, as the people
said unto Moses, "Hear you God, and let us hear you." And surely the
blessed holy doctor Saint Jerome greatly complaineth and
rebuketh that lewd homely manner that the common lay people, men
and women, were in his days so bold in the meddling, disputing,
and expounding of holy scripture. And
showeth plainly that they shall have evil
proof therein, that will reckon themselves to
understand it by themselves without a reader. For it is a thing that
requireth good help, and long time, and a whole mind given
greatly thereto. And surely since, as the holy apostle Saint Paul in
divers of his epistles saith, God hath by
his Holy Spirit so instituted and ordained
his church that he will have some readers and some hearers, some
teachers, and some learners -- we do plainly pervert and turn upside down
the right order of Christ's church when the one part meddleth with
the other's office. Plato the great philosopher
specially forbiddeth such as be not
admitted thereunto nor men meet therefor, to meddle much and
embusy themselves in reasoning and disputing upon the
temporal laws of the city, which would not be reasoned upon but
by folk meet therefor, and in place convenient. For else they that
cannot very well attain to perceive them, begin to mislike,
dispraise, and contemn them. Whereof followeth the breach of
the laws and disorder of the people. For till a law be changed by
authority, it rather ought to be observed than contemned. Or
else the example of one law boldly broken and set at naught
waxeth a precedent for the remnant to
be used like. And commonly, the best
laws shall worst like much of the common

people, which most long -- if they might be heard and
followed -- to live all at liberty under none at all. Now if Plato, so
wise a man, so thought good in temporal laws, things of men's
making, how much is it less meet for every man boldly to
meddle with the exposition of holy scripture, so devised and
indited by the high wisdom of God that it far exceedeth in many
places the capacity and perceiving of man. It was also provided by
the emperor, in the law civil, that the common people should never
be so bold to keep dispicions upon the faith or holy scripture,
nor that any such thing should be used among them or before them.
And therefore, as I said before, the special fear in this matter is
lest we would be so busy in chamming of the scripture ourselves,
which ye say we were able enough to do. Which undoubtedly, the wisest
and the best-learned and he that therein hath by many years
bestowed his whole mind, is yet unable to do. And then far more
unable must he needs be that boldly will upon the first reading,
because he knoweth the words, take upon him therefore to teach
other men the sentence, with peril of his own soul and other
men's too, by the bringing men into mad ways, sects, and
heresies, such as heretics have of old brought up, and the
church hath condemned. And thus in these matters, if the common
people might be bold to cham it, as ye say, and to dispute it; then
should ye have the more blind the more
bold, the more ignorant the more busy,
the less wit the more inquisitive, the more fool the more talkative
of great doubts and high questions of holy scripture and of God's
great and secret mysteries -- and this, not soberly of any good
affection, but presumptuously and irreverently at meat and at
meal. And there, when the wine were in and the wit out, would
they take upon them with foolish words and blasphemy to handle
holy scripture in more homely manner than a song of Robin Hood.
And some would, as I said, solemnly take upon them like as they were
ordinary readers to interpret the text at their pleasure, and therewith
fall themselves, and draw down other with them, into seditious
sects and heresies, whereby the scripture of God should lose his
honor and reverence and be, by such irreverent and unsitting
demeanor among much people quite and clean abused, unto the
contrary of that holy purpose that God ordained it for. Whereas, if

we would no further meddle therewith, but
well and devoutly read it and, in that
that is plain and evident as God's commandments
and his holy counsels, endeavor ourselves to follow
with help of his grace, asked thereunto; and in his great and
marvelous miracles consider his godhead; and in his lowly birth,
his godly life, and his bitter Passion exercise ourselves in such
meditations, prayer, and virtues as the matter shall minister
us occasion, acknowledging our own ignorance where we find a
doubt and, therein leaning to the faith of the church, wrestle
with no such text as might bring us in a doubt and worry of
any of those articles wherein every good Christian man is clear -- by
this manner of reading can no man nor woman take hurt in holy
scripture. Now then, the things on the
other side that unlearned people can never
by themselves attain, as in the psalms
and the prophets and divers parts of the Gospel, where the words
be sometimes spoken as in the person of the Prophet himself,
sometimes as in the person of God, sometimes of some other, as
angels, devils, or men, and sometimes of our Savior Christ
(not always of one fashion; but sometimes as God, sometimes as
man, sometimes as head of this mystical body, his church militant
here in earth, sometimes as head of his church triumphant in
heaven, sometimes as in the person of his sensual parts of his own
body, otherwhile in the person of some particular part of his
body mystical) and these things with many other oftentimes
interchanged and suddenly sundry things of diverse matters
diversely mingled together -- all these things, which is not possible
for unlearned men to attain unto, it were more than madness for
them to meddle withal; but leave all these things to them whose
whole study is beset thereupon; and to the preachers appointed
thereunto, which may show them such things in time and place
convenient with reverence and authority,
the sermon so tempered as may be meet
and convenient always for the present

audience. Whereunto it appeareth that our Savior himself, and his
apostles after him, had ever special respect. And therefore, as I
say forsooth, I can in no wise agree with you that it were meet for
men unlearned to be busy with the chamming of holy scripture, but
to have it chammed unto them. For that is the preacher's part, and
theirs that after long study are admitted to read and expound it.
And to this intent weigh all the words, as far as I perceive, of all
holy doctors that anything have written in this matter. But
never meant they, as I suppose, the forbidding
of the Bible to be read in any
vulgar tongue. Nor I never yet heard any
reason laid why it were not convenient
to have the Bible translated into the English tongue, but all those
reasons, seemed they never so gay and glorious at the first sight, yet
when they were well examined they might in effect, for aught that
I can see, as well be laid against the holy writers that wrote the
scripture in the Hebrew tongue, and against the blessed evangelists
that wrote the scripture in Greek, and against all those in like wise
that translated it out of every of those tongues into Latin, as to their
charge that would well and faithfully translate it out of Latin into
our English tongue. For as for that our tongue is called barbarous,
is but a fantasy. For so is, as every learned man knoweth, every
strange language to other. And if they would call it barren of
words, there is no doubt but it is plenteous enough to express
our minds in anything whereof one man hath used to speak with
another. Now as touching the difficulty which a translator
findeth in expressing well and lively the sentence of his author
(which is hard always to do so surely but that he shall sometimes diminish
either of the sentence or of the grace that it beareth in the former
tongue) that point hath lain in their light that have translated
the scripture already either out of Greek into Latin, or out of Hebrew
into any of them both, as by many translations which we read
already, to them that be learned, appeareth. Now as touching the
harm that may grow by such blind bayards as will, when they
read the Bible in English be more busy than will become them.
They that touch that point harp upon the right string, and

touch truly the great harm that were likely to grow to some
folk; howbeit, not by the occasion yet of the English translation,
but by the occasion of their own lewdness and folly, which yet were
not in my mind a sufficient cause to exclude the translation and
to put other folk from the benefit thereof; but rather to make provision
against such abuse, and let a good thing go forth. No wise
man were there that would put all weapons
away because manquellers misuse them.
Nor this letted not, as I said, the scripture
to be first written in a vulgar tongue. For
the scripture, as I said before, was not written but in a vulgar tongue
such as the whole people understood, nor in no secret ciphers but such
common letters as almost every man could read. For neither was the
Hebrew, nor the Greek tongue, nor the Latin neither, any other speech
than such as all the people spoke. And therefore if we should lay
that it were evil done to translate the scripture into our tongue
because it is vulgar and common to every English man, then had it
been as evil done to translate it into Greek or into Latin, or to write
the New Testament first in Greek, or the Old Testament in Hebrew,
because both those tongues were as very vulgar as ours. And yet should
there by this reason also not only the scripture be kept out of our
tongue, but over that should the reading thereof be forbidden both all
such lay people and all such priests too as con no more than their
grammar, and very scantly that. All which company, though they
can understand the words, be yet as far from the perceiving
of the sentence in hard and doubtful texts as were our women
if the scripture were translated to our own language. Howbeit, of
truth, seldom hath it been seen that any sect of heretics hath
begun of such unlearned folk as nothing conned else but the
language wherein they read the scripture; but there hath always
commonly these sects sprung of the pride of such folk as had,
with the knowledge of the tongue, some high persuasion in themselves
of their own learning besides. To whose authority some other
folk have soon after, part of malice, part of simpleness, and
much part of pleasure and delight in newfangleness, fallen in and

increased the faction. But the head hath ever commonly been either some
proud, learned man, or at the least, besides the language, some proud
smatterer in learning. So that if we should for fear of heretics that
might hap to grow thereby keep the scripture out of any tongue, or
out of unlearned men's hands, we should, for like fear, be fain to
keep it out of all tongues and out of learned men's hands too; and
wot not whom we might trust therewith. Wherefore there is, as methinketh,
no remedy, but if any good thing shall go forward
somewhat must needs be adventured. And some folk will not fail
to be naught. Against which things
provision must be made that as much
good may grow, and as little harm
come, as can be devised; and not to keep
the whole commodity from any whole people because of harm that, by
their own folly and fault, may come to some part. As though a
lewd surgeon would cut off the leg by the knee to keep the toe
from the gout, or cut off a man's head by the shoulders to keep him
from the toothache. There is no treatise of scripture so hard but that a
good virtuous man, or woman either, shall somewhat find therein
that shall delight and increase their devotion; besides this that
every preaching shall be the more pleasant and fruitful unto
them when they have in their mind the place of scripture that
they shall there hear expounded. For
though it be, as it is indeed, great
wisdom for a preacher to use discretion
in his preaching and to have a respect unto the qualities and
capacities of his audience, yet letteth that nothing but that the
whole audience may without harm have read and have ready the
scripture in mind that he shall in his preaching declare and
expound. For no doubt is there but that God and his Holy Spirit
hath so prudently tempered their speech through the whole corps of
scripture that every man may take good thereby, and no man harm
but he that will in the study thereof lean proudly to the folly of his own
wit. For albeit that Christ did speak to the people in parables and
expounded them secretly to his special disciples, and sometimes
forbore to tell some things to them also, because they were not as

yet able to bear them, and the apostles in like wise did sometimes
spare to speak to some people the things that they did not let
plainly to speak to some other, yet letteth all this nothing the translation
of the scripture into our own tongue, no more than in the
Latin. Nor it is no cause to keep the corps of scripture out of the
hands of any Christian people, so many years fastly confirmed in faith,
because Christ and his apostles used such provision in their
utterance of so strange and unheard mysteries, either unto Jews,
paynims, or newly christened folk, except we would say that all the
expositions which Christ made himself upon his own
parables unto his secret servants and disciples withdrawn from
the people, should now at this day be kept in like wise from the
commons, and no man suffered to read or hear them but those that
in his church represent the state and office of his apostles. Which
there will (I wot well) no wise man say, considering that those
things which were then commonly most kept from the people, be
now most necessary for the people to know. As it well appeareth by
all such things in effect as our Savior at the time taught his
apostles apart. Whereof, I would not for my mind withhold the
profit that one good, devout, unlearned layman might take by the
reading, not for the harm that a hundred heretics would fall in by
their own willful abusion, no more than our Savior letted, for the
weal of such as would be with his grace of his little chosen flock,
to come into this world and be "lapis offensionis et petra scandali,"
the stone of stumbling and the stone of
falling and ruin to all the willful
wretches in the world besides. Finally, methinketh that the
constitution provincial of which we spoke right now hath
determined this question already. For when the clergy therein
agreed that the English Bibles should remain which were
translated before Wycliffe's days, they consequently did agree
that to have the Bible in English was none hurt. And in that
they forbade any new translation to be read till it were approved
by the bishops, it appeareth well thereby that their intent was
that the bishop should approve it if he found it faultless, and
also of reason amend it where it were faulty, but if the man were

a heretic that made it or the faults such and so many as it
were more easy to make it all new than mend it. As it happed for
both points in the translation of Tyndale.
"Now if it so be that it would haply be thought not a thing
meetly to be adventured to set all on a flush at once, and dash
rashly out holy scripture in every lewd fellow's teeth, yet thinketh
me, there might such a moderation be taken therein as neither
good, virtuous lay folk should lack it, nor rude and rash brains
abuse it. For it might be with diligence
well and truly translated by some good,
Catholic, and well-learned man, or by divers dividing the
labor among them, and after conferring their several parts
together each with other. And after that might the work be allowed
and approved by the ordinaries, and by their authorities so put
unto print as all the copies should come whole unto the bishop's
hand. Which he may after his discretion and wisdom deliver
to such as he perceiveth honest, sad, and virtuous, with a good
monition and fatherly counsel to use it reverently with humble heart
and lowly mind, rather seeking therein occasion of devotion
than of dispicion. And providing as much as may be that the
book be, after the decease of the party, brought again and reverently
restored unto the ordinary. So that, as near as may be devised,
no man have it but of the ordinary's hand, and by him thought and
reputed for such as shall be likely to use it to God's honor and
merit of his own soul. Among whom, if any be proved after to
have abused it, then the use thereof to be forbidden him, either forever,
or till he be waxen wiser."
"By our Lady," quoth your friend, "this way misliketh not me. But who
should set the price of the book?"
"Forsooth," quoth I, "that reckon I a thing of little force. For neither
were it a great matter for any man in manner to give a groat or
twain above the mean price for a book of so great profit, nor for
the bishop to give them all free, wherein he might serve his
diocese with the cost of ten pounds, I think, or twenty marks. Which sum,
I dare say, there is no bishop but he would be glad to bestow
about a thing that might do his whole diocese so special a pleasure
with such a spiritual profit."

"By my troth," quoth he, "yet ween I that the people would grudge to
have it on this wise delivered them, at the bishop's hand, and had
liefer pay for it to the printer than have it of the bishop free."
"It might so happen with some," quoth I. "But yet in mine opinion
there were in that manner more willfulness than wisdom or any
good mind in such as would not be content so to receive them.
And therefore I would think in good faith that it would so fortune
in few. But before God, the more doubt would be lest they would
grudge and hold themselves sore grieved that would require it and
were haply denied it. Which I suppose would not often happen
unto any honest householder to be by his discretion reverently read
in his house. But though it were not taken to every lewd lad
in his own hands to read a little rudely when he list, and then
cast the book at his heels, or among other such as himself to keep a
quodlibet and a pot parliament upon, I
trow there will no wise man find a fault
therein. Ye spoke right now of the Jews, among whom the
whole people have, ye say, the scripture in their hands. And ye thought
it no reason that we should reckon Christian men less worthy thereto
than them. Wherein I am, as ye see, of your own opinion. But yet
would God we had the like reverence to the scripture of God that they
have. For I assure you, I have heard very worshipful folk say, which
have been in their houses, that a man could not hire a Jew to sit
down upon his Bible of the Old Testament,
but he taketh it with great reverence
in hand when he will read, and reverently
layeth it up again when he hath done. Whereas we, God
forgive us, take a little regard to sit down on our Bible with the
Old Testament and the New too. Which homely handling, as it
proceedeth of little reverence, so doth it more and more
engender in the mind a negligence and contempt of God's holy
words. We find also that among the Jews, though all their whole
Bible was written in their vulgar tongue, and those books thereof
wherein their laws were written were usual in every man's hands
as things that God would have commonly known, repeated, and
kept in remembrance: yet were there again certain parts
thereof which the common people of the Jews of old time, both of

reverence and for the difficulty, did forbear to meddle with. But
now since the veil of the Temple is broken
asunder that divided among the Jews
the people from the sight of the secrets,
and that God had sent his Holy Spirit to be assistant with his whole
church to teach all necessary truth, though it may therefore be the
better suffered that no part of holy scripture were kept out of honest
laymen's hands, yet would I that no part thereof should come
in theirs which, to their own harm, and haply their neighbors'
too, would handle it over homely, and be too bold and busy therewith.
And also, though holy scripture be, as ye said while ere, a medicine
for him that is sick, and food for him that is whole, yet since there is
many a body sore soul-sick that taketh himself for whole, and in holy
scripture is a whole feast of so much diverse viand, that after the
affection and state of sundry stomachs one may take harm by the
selfsame that shall do another good, and sick folk often have such
a corrupt tallage in their taste that they most like the meat that is
most unwholesome for them; it were not therefore, as methinketh,
unreasonable that the ordinary, whom God hath in the diocese
appointed for the chief physician to discern between the whole
and the sick and between disease and disease, should after his
wisdom and discretion appoint everybody their part, as
he should perceive to be good and wholesome for them. And therefore
as he should not fail to find many a man to whom he might
commit all the whole, so, to say the truth, I can see none harm therein
though he should commit unto some man the Gospel of Matthew,
Mark, or Luke whom he should yet forbid the Gospel of Saint
John; and suffer some to read the Acts of the Apostles whom
he would not suffer to meddle with the Apocalypse. Many were there,
I think, that should take much profit by Saint Paul's Epistle ad
Ephesios, wherein he giveth good counsel to every kind of people,
and yet should find little fruit for their understanding in his
Epistle ad Romanos, containing such
high difficulties as very few learned men
can very well attain. And in like wise
would it be in divers other parts of the Bible, as well in the Old

Testament as the New, so that, as I say, though the bishop might
unto some layman betake and commit with good advice and instruction
the whole Bible to read, yet might he to some man well and
with reason restrain the reading of some part, and from some busybody
the meddling with any part at all, more than he shall hear
in sermons set out and declared unto him; and in like wise, to
take the Bible away from such folk again, as be proved by their
blind presumption to abuse the occasion of their profit unto
their own hurt and harm. And thus may the bishop order the
scripture in our hands with as good reason as the father doth by
his discretion appoint which of his children may for his sadness
keep a knife to cut his meat, and which shall for his wantonness have
his knife taken from him for cutting of his fingers. And thus am I
bold, without prejudice of other men's judgment, to show you
my mind in this matter, how the scripture might without great
peril and not without great profit, be brought into our tongue, and
taken to laymen and women both; not yet meaning thereby but that
the whole Bible might, for my mind, be suffered to be spread abroad in
English. But if that were so much doubted that percase all might
thereby be letted, then would I rather have used such moderation as
I speak of, or some such other as wiser men can better devise. Howbeit,
upon that I read late in the epistle that the King's Highness translated
into English of his own, which his grace made in Latin,
answering to the letter of Luther, my mind giveth me that His
Majesty is of his blessed zeal so minded to move this matter unto
the prelates of the clergy (among whom I have perceived some of
the greatest and of the best of their own minds well inclinable thereto
already) that we lay people shall in this matter ere long time pass,
except the fault be found in ourselves, be well and fully satisfied
and content."
"In good faith," quoth he, "that will in my mind be very well done.
And now am I for my mind in all this matter fully content and
"Well," quoth I, "then will we to dinner, and the remnant will we
finish after dinner." And therewith went we to meat.
The End of the Third Book

The Fourth Book
The First Chapter
The author showeth wherefore it were not well done to
suffer Luther's books, or any other heretic's, to go abroad
and be read among the people, though there were some
good things in them among the bad.
When we had after dinner a little paused, your friend and I drew
ourselves aside into the garden. And there, sitting down in an
arbor, he began to enter forth into the matter, saying that he had
well perceived that not in his country only, but also in the university
where he had been, there were that had none evil opinion of
Luther, but thought that his books were by the clergy forbidden of
malice and evil will, to the end that folk should not surely see
and perfectly perceive what he saith, or at the least, what thing he
meaneth by his words. Which will not appear, they think, by a
line taken out in the midst of a leaf, but by the diligent consideration
of the whole matter. Without which, men might impute a
wrong blame, they say, to the best writers that ever wrote in this
world. But they think that the clergy will not have his books read
because that in them laymen may read the priests' faults, which
was, they say, the very cause of that condemnation. For else, whether
he had written well or evil, yet, they say, his books had been kept
in men's hands and read. For there is, they think, therein, though
some part were naught, many things yet well said, whereof there
was no reason that men should lose the profit for the bad. And also
reason, men think it were, that all were heard that can be said
touching the truth to be known concerning the matters of our
salvation; to the intent that, all heard and perceived, men may for
their own surety the better choose and hold the right way.
"Forsooth," quoth I, "if it were now doubtful and ambiguous whether

the church of Christ were in the right rule of doctrine or not,
then were it very necessary to give them all good audience that
could and would anything dispute on either party for it or against
it, to the end that, if we were now in a wrong way, we might leave
it and walk in some better. But now on the other side, if it so be (as
indeed it is) that Christ's church hath the true doctrine already, and
the selfsame that Saint Paul would not
give an angel of heaven audience to the
contrary, what wisdom were it now therein to show ourselves so
mistrustful and wavering, that for to search whether our faith
were false or true, we should give
hearing not to an angel of heaven, but
to a fond frere, to an apostate, to an open incestuous lecher, a
plain limb of the devil, and a manifest messenger of hell? In
which words, if ye would haply think that I use myself too sore
to call him by such odious names, ye must consider that he
spareth not, both untruly and without necessity, in his railing
books to call by as evil them whom his duty were highly to
reverence; whereas I do between us twain call him but as himself
hath showed him in his writing, in his living, and in his
mad marriage. And yet I neither do it, nor would, were it not that
the matter self of reason doth require it. For my part is it of necessity
to tell how naught he is, because that the worse the man is, the
more madness were it for wise men to give his false fables harkening
against God's undoubted truth, by his Holy Spirit taught unto
his church, and by such multitude of miracles, by so much blood
of holy martyrs, by the virtuous living of so many blessed confessors,
by the purity and cleanness of so many chaste widows and
undefouled virgins, by the wholesome doctrine of so many holy
doctors, and finally, by the whole consent and agreement of all
Christian people this fifteen hundred year, confirmed. And therefore
not any respect unto his railing against the clergy is, as some
would have it seem, the cause of his condemnation and suppression
of his books. For the good men of the clergy be not so sore grieved
with them that touch the faults of the bad, nor the bad themselves

be not so tender eared, that for the only talking of their faults they
would banish the books that were good in other things besides.
For else could not the books of many old holy fathers have endured
so long, wherein the vices of them that in the clergy be naught be
very vehemently rebuked. But the very
cause why his books be not suffered to be
read is because his heresies be so many
and so abominable, and the proofs wherewith he pretendeth to
make them probable be so far from reason and truth and so far
against the right understanding of holy scripture, whereof, under
color of great zeal and affection, he laboreth to destroy the
credence and good use, and finally, so far stretcheth allthing
against good manner and virtue, provoking the world to wrong
opinions of God and boldness in sin and wretchedness, that there
can no good but much harm grow by the reading. For if there
were the substance good, and of error or oversight some cockle
among the corn, which might be sifted out and the remnant
stand instead, men would have been content therewith as they be with
such other. But now is his not besprent with a few spots, but
with more than half venom poisoned the whole wine, and that right
rotten of itself. And this done of purpose and malice, not without an
evil spirit, in such wise walking with his words, that the contagion
thereof were likely to infect a feeble soul as the savor of a
sickness sore infecteth a whole body. Nor the truth is not to be
learned of every man's mouth. For as
Christ was not content that the devil
should call him God's Son, though it were true; so is he not
content that a devil's limb, as Luther is or Tyndale, should teach
his flock the truth, for infecting them with their false devilish
heresies besides. For likewise as the holy scripture of God, because
of the good Spirit that made it, is of its own nature apt to purge
and amend the reader, though some that read it of their invincible
malice turn it to their harm, so
do such writings as Luther's is, in the
making whereof the devil is of counsel
and giveth therewith a breath of his assistance --

though the goodness of some men master the malice thereof,
walking harmless with God's help, as the Prophet saith, upon
the serpent and the cockatrice, and treading
upon the lion and the dragon -- yet be
such works of themselves always right unwholesome to meddle with, meet
and apt to corrupt and infect the reader. For the proof whereof, we
need none other example than this that we be in hand withal,
if we consider what good the reading of his books hath done in
Saxony. And this find we more than too
much proved here among us, that of ten
that use to read his books, ye shall
scantly find twain but that they not only cast off prayer and
fasting, and all such goodly virtues as holy scripture commendeth
and the church commandeth and virtuous people have ever had in
great price, but also fall in plain contempt and hatred thereof. So
that what fruit should grow of the reading ye may soon guess.
The Second Chapter
The author showeth many of Luther's heresies to be so
abominable, and some part also so peevish, that the very bare
rehearsal is enough, without any further dispicion thereupon,
to cause any good man abhor them, and to be
ashamed also to seem so foolish as to hold them. And for
an example, the author rehearseth divers, whereof some be
new set forth by Tyndale in his English books, worse yet
in some part than his master Luther is himself.
"And in good faith, I would ween that any good man, except some
reasonable necessity should compel him thereto, else would (if he heard
but his opinions once rehearsed) be very loath to lose his time in the
reading either of his fond proof or of the very titles and names thereof
"If they be such indeed," quoth your friend, "and that they be not
mistaken or misreported."

"Methinketh," quoth I, "that the fruit which ye see spring of them
should suffice to make you perceive them for naught. And iwis a
frere's living that weddeth a nun, when his living is such,
should make it easy to wit that his teaching is not very good."
"Surely," quoth he, "I cannot say nay but that these be shrewd tokens."
"I shall," quoth I, "do more for you. For I shall find the means that
ye shall see his own books, and then perceive yourself that men
belie him not."
"I pray you," quoth he, "let me hear some of his opinions by mouth
the while, and for the seeing of them in his own books, I shall
bethink me after."
"First he began," quoth I, "with pardons and with the pope's power,
denying finally any of both to be of any effect at all.
"And soon after, to show what good spirit moved him, he denied
all the seven sacraments, except baptism, penance, and the
Sacrament of the Altar, saying plainly that all the remnant be but
feigned things and of none effect.
"Now these that he leaveth for good, it is good to see how he handleth
them. For in penance, he saith, that there neither needeth contrition
nor satisfaction. Also, he saith that there needeth no priest for the hearing
of confession; but that every man, and every woman too, is as sufficient
to hear confession and assoil and do all that longeth to the confessor, as is a
"Marry, sir," quoth your friend, "this were an easy way for one thing. For
the sorest thing that I find in confession is that, when I see many confessors
at a pardon, yet can I scant like one of them so well, upon
the sight, that I would tell any such tales to once in seven years, and I
might choose. But now, if I might, after Luther's way, be confessed to a
fair woman, I would not let to be confessed weekly."
"Ye would," quoth I, "peradventure tell her a tale that ye would not tell
every man. But yet, if some men told some tales to a fair woman that
they tell in confession to a foul frere, they would wish, I ween,
among that they had kept their counsel in their own breast."
"Marry," quoth he, "that may happen also in the confession that is made unto
a priest."
"Possible it were indeed," quoth I. "And Tyndale in his book of
obedience, or rather disobedience, saith that the curates do go and show

the bishops the confessions of such as be
rich in their parishes; and that the bishops
thereupon do cite them and lay their secret sins to their
charge, and either put them to open, shameful penance, or compel
them to pay at the bishop's pleasure. Now dare I be bold to say, and I
suppose all the honest men in this realm will say and swear the same, that
this is a very foolish falsehood, imagined of his own mind, whereof he
never saw the example in his life. We see in some, rather, the contrary fault;
that not only the rich, but the poor also, keep open queans and live in
open adultery, without payment or penance or anything almost
once said unto them. But therewith findeth Tyndale no fault in the
bishops. For he saith plainly that the bishop hath none authority to
punish any such thing at all. But he letteth not on the other side to
belie the bishops and the curates too, feigning that the one doth utter
folks confessions to the other. And when he hath so belied them,
then forthwith, as though he had proved his tale true, he taketh the
same false feigned lie for a ground thereupon to build the destruction
of that holy sacrament of penance. For upon that lie and such other
like, he saith plainly that confession to the priest is the worst thing that
ever was found. Now if that were true as it is as false as he that said it,
how happed it then (which question Luther and he be asked often, and
always make as they heard it not) -- how happed it, I say, that of so many
virtuous, wise, and cunning fathers as have been in Christ's church in
so many hundred years, never none had the wit nor the grace to spy
this great thing, but all teach confession till now that Tyndale came,
which yet in this point passeth his master Luther? For he saith
he would in any wise have confession stand, but he would have it made
at liberty as well to women as men. But Tyndale will have none at
all, because he listeth to belie both the bishops and the curates,
feigning that they should between them disclose our confessions."
"In faith," quoth your friend, "that is a thing I never heard to have
"Nor he neither," quoth I, "that dare I boldly say. And yet I wot well,
as ye said right now, that priests should utter folks' confession were
well possible, and in many of them nothing in this world more
likely neither, if God and his Holy Spirit were not, as it is, assistant

and working with his holy sacrament. But surely, whereas there be
many things that well and clearly prove
the sacrament of confession to be a
thing instituted and devised by God, yet if all the remnant lacked,
this one thing were unto me a plain persuasion and a full proof,
which thing I find in the noble book that the King's Highness made
against Luther; that is to wit, that in so common a custom of
confession, oftener than once in the year, where no man letteth boldly
to tell such his secrets, as upon the discovering or close keeping
thereof his honesty commonly and often time his life also dependeth,
so many simple as be of that sort that hear them, and in all other
thing so light and lavish of their tongue, and some therewith so
lewd in all their living that for money they force little to steal,
rob, and murder too, and might many times with the disclosing
of some such things get so much as some of them would kill a
man for a less: yet find we never any man take harm by his
confession, or cause given of complaint through any such
secrets uttered and showed by the confessor."
"In good faith," quoth he, "this is very truth and a great thing in
mine opinion. But undoubtedly, if confession came once to women's
ears, there would be a sore change. For it would be hard for God
and the devil too to keep their tongues."
"Yes, yes," quoth I, "a woman can keep a
counsel well enough. For though she
tell a gossip, she telleth it but in
counsel yet, nor that gossip to her gossip neither, and so when
all the gossips in the town know it, yet it is but counsel still.
And therefore I say it, not for any harm that would come by them,
but for the novelty thereof."
"Now in earnest," quoth your friend, "this was a much merry mad
invention of Luther, and Luther is in a manner as mad as Tyndale.
For it were as good almost to have no confession at all as to set
women to hear it."
"Forsooth," quoth I, "if it had been wisdom and not against
God's will, it would of likelihood have been found by some

good men before these days, in this long time of so many hundred
years. Howbeit he goeth near enough to take it all
away. And divers of his scholars, besides Tyndale, do now deny
it utterly. And himself leaveth little substance and little fruit
therein. For he would that we should not care much for any full confession
of all deadly sins, nor be very studious in the gathering of
our faults to mind, nor pondering the circumstances, nor the
weight and gravity thereof, nor taking any sorrow therefor. Now these
things taken away and the sacrament of penance left such as he
would have it, consider in yourself what fruit were a man likely to
find in it -- he that taketh a confessor, he forceth not whom, and then
confesseth, he forceth not what, disposing him to repentance, he
forceth not how, good works in satisfaction accounteth for
naught -- what manner of amendment shall this man come to? And
especially if besides all this he may take to his confessor a fair woman,
such as a young man would have a lust to break his mind unto -- doth
it not plainly appear that this fond fellow so playeth with this holy
sacrament of penance that he goeth about utterly to destroy it?
And yet is this one of the three that he leaveth, taking four away
"Surely," quoth your friend, "so doth he this too, as thinketh me."
"Forsooth," quoth I, "and he handleth the sacrament of baptism not
much better. For he magnifieth baptism but to the suppression of
penance and of all good living. For therein
he teacheth that the sacrament self hath no
virtue at all; but the faith only.
"Item, he teacheth that only faith sufficeth to our salvation with our
baptism, without good works. He saith also that it is sacrilege to
go about to please God with any works and not with faith only.
"Item, that no man can do any good work.
"Item, that the good and righteous man always sinneth in doing
"Item, that no sin can damn any Christian man, but only lack of
belief. For he saith that our faith suppeth up all our sins, how great
soever they be.
"Item, he teacheth that no man hath no free will, nor can anything do

therewith, not though the help of grace be joined thereunto; but
that everything that we do, good and bad, we do nothing at all
there in our self, but only suffer God to do allthing in us, good and
bad, as wax is wrought into an image or a candle by the man's
hand without anything doing thereto itself.
"Item, he saith that God is as verily the author and cause of the
evil will of Judas in betraying of Christ, as of the good will of Christ
in suffering of his Passion.
"In matrimony, he saith plainly that it is no sacrament; and so
saith Tyndale too.
"Item, that if a man be not able to do his duty to his wife, he is
bound secretly without slander to provide another to do it for
"Forsooth," quoth your friend, "this was courteously considered of him;
he is a very gentleman, I warrant you. It is no marvel though his
wife be well teeming if he make her such provision."
"Surely," quoth I, "this wise device hath he, and much other beastliness
he saith in such things, and his disciple after him, of such sort
as honest ears could scant abide the hearing.
"In the sacrament of order, he saith that priesthood and all
holy orders be but a feigned invention.
"Item, that every Christian man and Christian woman is a
"Item, that every man may consecrate the Body of Christ."
"This is a shameful saying, in good faith," quoth your friend.
"Abide ye," quoth I, "and ye shall hear worse yet. For he saith further
that every woman and child may consecrate the Body of our Lord."
"Surely," quoth he, "then is the man mad outright."
"He saith," quoth I, "further yet, that the Canon of the Mass is false."
"Item, that the host in the Mass is none oblation nor sacrifice.
"Item, that the Mass with its Canon after the form that is and
ever hath been used in Christ's church, is sacrilege and abomination.
"And though much of this concerneth his damnable heresies
touching the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, yet saith he thereof
many lewd doctrines more. And among other he teacheth that it is
heresy to believe that there is not very bread and very wine in the

Sacrament of the Altar joined with the Body and Blood of our
"Item, Zwingli and Ecolampadius, scholars of Luther, have built
further upon this ungracious ground of their master, and teach
that the Sacrament of the Altar is not the very Body nor Blood of our
Lord at all. And Luther himself, albeit he now writeth against
them therein, yet (as it by many things appeareth) minded and
intended to put forth by leisure the same heresy himself, till
he changed his mind for envy that he bore toward them when he
saw that they would be heads of a sect themselves (for that could
he suffer no man to be but himself). But before, as I say, he did
intend it himself. And therefore he made away toward it by these
other heresies that I have rehearsed you, and by divers other more.
"For he teacheth also that the Mass availeth no men quick nor dead;
but only to the priest himself.
"Item, he teacheth that man should go to Mass as well after supper as
before breakfast, and in his common clothes as he goeth all day,
without light or any honorable rite used therein.
"Item, he saith it were best that men should never be houseled but
once in their life. And that never till they lie a dying, as they be
but once christened and that at their beginning.
"Item, he teacheth that every man and woman should take the Holy Sacrament
and spare not to touch it and handle it as much as them list.
"Item, he saith that the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar is ordained
of God to be received, but not to be worshipped."
"In faith," quoth your friend, "these things be far out of course."
"Ye see, "quoth I, "now how he handleth all the blessed sacraments.
"But now hath he other wild heresies at large. For he teacheth,
against scripture and all reason, that no Christian man is or can be
bound by any law made among men, nor is not bound to observe
or keep any.
"Item, he teacheth that there is no purgatory.
"Item, that all men's souls lie still and sleep till the Day of Doom.

"Item, that no man should pray to saints nor set by any holy
relics nor pilgrimages, nor do any reverence to any images."
"By my troth, " quoth your friend, "I had forgotten that when I
was now in the university, in the communication that I had with
my friends there in that matter, one of them objected against me
that the worship of images hath been ere this condemned by a
great council in Greece."
"There was indeed," quoth I, "a council once in Greece gathered by an
emperor, that then was a heretic there, which was after in
the eightieth synod by the general council damned and annulled.
But this no more doth to the matter than if there would now in
Saxony and Switzerland and such other places, such people as be
swerved from the faith gather themselves together and keep, as they
would call it, a general council, wherein they might determine what
they would. And yet were all that no prejudice to the right belief of
the Catholic Church, which is always
that known people that still persevere
as one body with our Savior Christ in their former, fast confirmed
faith, from which faithful body these other withering branches
be blown away by the devil. And therefore, as a council of Lutherans
assembling themselves in Saxony could make none authority
against the true faith of the church, so could that council in
Greece nothing prove their purpose, which made none interruption
of the right belief and godly custom of worship done to saints
and images that yet did, for all that, continue still in all the Catholic
Church of Christ and ever since hath done."
"Forsooth," quoth he, "that is truth.
"But yet," quoth he, "was there one at our communication learned
in the law, and in his chamber were we, which said that if he
list, he could show a fair law incorporated in the decrees of the
church, which law, if it were laid in their light that would take
upon them the defense of any worship to be done to images,

would make all their eyes daze. Then longed not only I, but all the
remnant also, very sore to see that law. In bringing forth whereof
he made a while somewhat strange, as of a thing kept for a secret
"But in conclusion he set forth a book of the decrees, and therein he
read us in good faith a plain text, as methought
and all that were present, by
which Saint Gregory writeth unto a certain
bishop that had broken down the images in his church;
and there Saint Gregory, albeit that he blameth him for breaking
them, yet for all that he commendeth him for that he would not
suffer them to be worshipped."
"Did you," quoth I, "read that law yourself?"
"In good faith," quoth he, "I stood by and looked on that book while he
read it."
"Did he," quoth I, "or you either, read the next law following in that book?"
"Nay, verily," quoth he, "for methought this was enough."
"So was it verily," quoth I, "and too much too, without more. But and if
ye had either read the next law following or the gloss upon the
selfsame law that ye read, ye should then have seen that the law which
he showed you made little for his purpose."
"By my troth, as for the gloss," quoth he, "neither I nor any man else
that there was had list once to look on, considering that the text was
plain and easy to understand. And as for the law next following, we
looked not after, for we thought not to find it contrary. And if we should,
then should we not yet have wist which we should believe."
"Yes, yes," quoth I, "ye would not much have doubted if ye had read
the law that followeth, for it is a law synodal, made in the sixth
synod, in which there is well and plainly
shown that images be to be worshipped
among Christian men, and well
declareth in what wise we worship them and ought to do; that is
to wit, none image to be worshipped as God, nor the hope of our health
to be set upon the image, nor to look that the image shall be
he which shall judge our souls in time to come; but we worship

the image, and reverence, and well ought to do, for the remembrance
of the thing that the image representeth. And yet though we do
the image honor and reverence, yet for divine honor and service
only done to God, that kind of worship called "latria," we neither
do nor may do, neither to image nor any creature in all the whole
world either in heaven or earth. And this should ye have seen if ye
had either read, as I say, the law next following or the gloss of that
law that ye read."
"Marry," quoth he, "but in the law self that we read, good Saint Gregory
saith plain the contrary. For he commendeth the bishop there
because he would not suffer the images to be worshipped at all."
"That word "at all," quoth I, "ye set to yourself more than ye find in
the book. For indeed the book saith no more but that they should not
be worshipped by this Latin word, "adorare." By which word he
understood that divine worship called "latria."
"Whereby know we," quoth he, "he understood it so? For I believe not
much the gloss."
"Ye may," quoth I, "perceive it by the law that followeth. Wherein albeit
that thereby the same word "adorare," yet
is it there showed how we may adorare,
that is to wit, how we may worship
"Why," quoth he, "if that law say, "quod possumus adorare," and Saint
Gregory saith, "quod non licet adorare," be not they twain plain
"Yes," quoth I, "if they both took that word
"adorare" in one sense. But when the synod
used that word for such worship as we
may do to a creature, and Saint Gregory uses it for such worship
only as may not be done but only to the Creator, then they be
nothing repugnant at all."
"But yet," quoth he, "whereby shall I be sure that Saint Gregory took it
so? For it appeareth by the law, as yourself saith, that the word may
be taken otherwise. For the same law itself taketh it otherwise; and
then peradventure so did he, and thereby forbade all manner worship
to be done unto images."

"That were very unlikely," quoth I, "that Saint Gregory were of one
mind and the whole synod of the contrary.
"But now, since ye make the matter so clear upon the words of Saint
Gregory incorporated in the decrees, and will not believe the gloss,
which appeareth plainly that he meant only to forbid us to do such
worship to images as is only due to God, will ye be content therein
to believe Saint Gregory himself if he tell you himself that he meant
none other?"
"Yea, before God," quoth he, "that will I well."
"Then," quoth I, "we shall agree well enough." And therewith I took down
off a shelf among my books the register of Saint Gregory's epistles,
and therein turned to the very words which are by Gracyane taken
out of his second Epistle ad Serenum episcopum Massilie, and incorporated
in the decrees. And then caused I him to read the formal
words as they be couched in the decree. And by the collation of the
one with the other, I caused him to see that Gracian had taken but a
part of the epistle, and that by other words of the epistle self
it appeareth evidently that Saint Gregory spoke of none other worship
to be withdrawn from images but only divine worship
and observance due to God, as by divers other things in the epistle
appeareth plain, as in that he saith that
that it is not lawful to worship anything
wrought by hand, because it is written, "Dominum Deum tuum
adorabis et illi soli servies" (Thou shalt worship thy Lord God
and only him shalt thou serve).
"Now is it in this place of scripture meant none other worship
nor service than divine honor and service called "latria," as is to
learned men well-known. And he that will affirm the contrary and
say that in scripture is forbidden from images all manner of worship,
he must affirm also that all manner worship and all manner service is
forbidden by scripture from all manner creatures. For the scripture saith
there, "Thou shalt worship and serve only God"; and so should we, by
that construction, neither worship nor serve father nor mother,
master nor prince nor king. And in the same place Saint Gregory
saith that we do worship only the
Holy Trinity, which showeth that he

speaketh only of divine worship called "latria," which is done
with a mind that reputeth the thing worshipped to be very God.
For else, by those words if he forbade any manner worship for to be
done to anything saving the Trinity, then did he forbid any worship
to be done to any saint, or to our blessed Lady either. And
every man well wotteth how reverently himself worshipped both
our Lady and all saints, as well by many books and epistles of his as
by the litany which, as his epistles well showeth, he ordained to be
with great devotion used in honor of God, our Lady, and all holy
saints. And over that by the great honor that he did to saints in
churches specially dedicated unto them; and also great honor and
reverence used unto their holy relics, as in his own books and
epistles appeareth. And finally, if his epistles had been lost out of
which the decree is taken, yet the words of that decree itself
would well enough suffice. For therein is
it specified that images be the books of
lay people, wherein they read the life of
Christ. And then if it be, as it is indeed, well and virtuously done
devoutly to kiss a book in which Christ's
life and his death is expressed by writing,
why should it be evil done reverently to kiss the images by which
Christ's life and his Passion be represented by scripture or painting?"
"In good faith," quoth he, "I am well satisfied in this matter, and so
would they that then were with me if they had seen all that I see now."
"They may," quoth I, "soon see as much whensoever they list to look
"But now to turn again to the matter, neither the bishop of
Massyle, that broke the images that they speak of, nor the council
of Greece neither, schismatical as it was, went never yet so far as
Luther and Tyndale and their company do, which not only set at
naught images, but also leave no saint unblasphemed,
nor Christ's own mother
"For Luther cannot abide the common anthem of our Lady and the
most devout Salve Regina, because we therein call that blessed virgin
our advocate.

"Item, he saith that every other woman now living, if she have
the same faith, may be prayed unto as our Lady, and with
her prayer as much profit us.
"Item, he teacheth that men should do no worship to the holy cross
that Christ died on, saying that if he had it whole or all the pieces
thereof, he would cast it in such a place as no sun should shine
thereon, to the end it should never be found to be worshipped more.
"Item, of all feasts he saith that he hateth the feast of the holy cross
and the feast of Corpus Christi.
"He teacheth also that no man or woman is bound to keep and
observe any vow that he hath made to God of virginity, or widowhood,
or other chastity of marriage; but that they may marry
at their liberty, their vow notwithstanding."
"And how proveth he that?" quoth your friend.
"Marry, " quoth I, "by the breaking of his own, when he married the
nun. And now he raileth against all chastity, and saith that if
a priest live chaste, he is like to the priests of the idol Sybeles.
"Long would it be to write you all the abominable heresies of this
new sect. But some of them have I rehearsed, that ye may thereby
consider whether he that teacheth such things go not about
utterly to destroy the whole faith, religion, and virtue of Christendom.
And that he is not in any of these points belied, I shall find
the means that ye shall see it in his own books. And there shall ye see
how madly he laboreth to prove them."
"Prove them?" quoth your friend. "The substance of these matters be
too abominable to be reasoned. And to make him hated of all good
folk is enough to hear them rehearsed. But I marvel me much how
he fell into such a heap of heresies."
The Third Chapter
The author showeth by what occasion that Luther first
fell to the devising of these heresies. And that the occasion
was such as well declareth that he was pricked thereto by
malice, and ever proceeded from evil to worse, not
witting where to hold him, and that he refuseth to
stand to the judgment of any folk earthly concerning the
truth or falsehood of his opinions, save only himself.

"Now that is," quoth I, "somewhat worth to consider, how this lewd
frere began to fall in the mischievous matters. Ye shall understand
that there was a pardon obtained in Saxony; for which pardon, as
the manner is there, Luther was the preacher and preached to the
people, exhorting them thereto, and announcing the authority
thereof all that he possible might, not without his great advantage
therefor. So happed it then, soon after, that the setting forth of the
pardon, with the advantage thereof, was taken from him and set to another.
For anger whereof he fell into such
a fury, that forthwith he began to write
against all pardons. Howbeit because
the matter was new and strange, he began first by way of doubts
and questions only, submitting himself and his writing to the
judgment of the pope, and desiring to be informed of the truth.
Whereupon when he was by writing answered by the master of the
pope's palace, then waxed he more wood and fell to railing against
him, and made also another book against the power of the pope,
affirming that his power upon the church was never instituted of
God, but ordained only by the common consent of Christian people
for avoiding of schisms. But yet he said that all Christian men were
bound to stand and obey thereunto, and that the Bohemians were
damnable heretics for doing the contrary. But soon after, when
he was in such wise answered by good and cunning men that he
perceived himself unable to defend that he had affirmed, then fell
he from reasoning to railing, and utterly denied that he had before
affirmed. And then began to write that the pope had no power at
all, neither by God nor man. And that the Bohemians, whom he had
in his writings before called damnable heretics, were good
Christian men, and all their opinions good and Catholic. Then
when he was cited by the Pope's Holiness to appear, he appealed to the
next general council which should be gathered in the Holy Ghost.
So that whatsoever general council were after assembled, he
might jest and rail thereon and say it was not it that he appealed
unto, for it was not assembled in the Holy Ghost."
"He took," quoth your friend, "a good wily way."
"As wily as it was," quoth I, "yet would he not stand thereby, but

fled from that to another. Now shall ye understand that yet
soon after this, in the book by which he not answereth, but
raileth against that book wherein our sovereign lord the king, like
a most faithful, virtuous, and most erudite prince, evidently and
effectually revinced and confuted the most venomous and pestilent
book of Luther entitled The Captivity of Babylon, in which he
laboreth to destroy the holy sacraments of Christ's church; in that
book, I say, Luther, which had before appealed to the next general
council, utterly denieth the authority of all general councils
and setteth them all at naught."
"By my troth," quoth your friend, "either was the man very negligent
before or very naught after, when he changeth so often and
writeth ever the longer the more contrary, not to his adversary
only, but also to himself. But I pray you how excuseth he his
"Marry," quoth I, "he saith that he seeth further than he saw before.
Whereunto the King's Grace showeth him that it were unlikely that
he should see better through a pair of evil spectacles of ire and
"Very true," quoth your friend, "by my troth. But yet I hear say
that he hath offered to stand at the judgment of learned men in all
his matters, if his offer had been taken in time."
"Indeed," quoth I, "once he promised to stand to that judgment
of the University of Paris, and thereupon was there open dispicions
kept, and the very words written by notaries sworn for both
the parties. But when his opinions were after at Paris by the university
condemned, then he refused to stand to their judgment, and
fell again to his old craft of railing.
"He appeared also at Worms before the emperor and the princes
of the Empire by a safe conduct. And there recognized and acknowledged,
as well the said pestilent book written against the sacraments
as many other of like sort, to be his own, and offered to abide by
them. Which he might boldly do, being by that safe conduct
in good surety of himself that he could take none harm. Then was
he moved to dispicions upon the articles, so that he should agree

upon some persons, virtuous and well-learned, that should be judges
of that disputations, and that he should be content to stand to their
judgment upon the same. Whereupon he agreed to come to
dispicions, but he would in no wise agree to make any men living
judges upon it, nor stand to no man's judgment earthly.
The Fourth Chapter
The author showeth how that Luther in the book that himself
made of his own acts at the city of Worms in
Almaine, doth so madly oversee himself that he discloseth
unaware certain follies of himself, which a man
will well laugh at, and marvel much to see it.
"And that these things be true, it well appeareth to all the world
in the book that he made himself of his demeanor and his acts at the
city called Worms in Almaine. Which book whoso readeth, shall
have a great pleasure to see therein both the frantic vainglory of that
fond frere, and yet, therewithal, to see him carried out with folly so
far from himself, that in a line or twain he discovereth all that
he went about to hide in all the book besides. For ye shall
understand that, albeit he made the book himself, yet he made it
so that he would it should seem to have been of some other man's
making and not of his own, to the intent that such worshipful
words as he speaketh of himself might make him, in the ears of
the reader seem some honorable person. Which words else he
wist well, spoken of his own mouth, all the world would wonder on.
Now in this book, besides that he leaveth out some things there said
and spoken where the words written in could do him no worship,
and some things reciteth with advantage for his part,
rehearsing the other side nakedly and barely and some part pared off too,
to make it seem the more slender, one thing he observeth diligently,
that whereas speaking of the emperor, he calleth him never but
simply and singly Charles, he never speaketh of himself but he
setteth forth his name in great capital letters and solemn titles,

"The Man of God, Luther." And whereas they that spoke against his
errors, he writeth that they burst out in virulent and venomous
words, when he cometh to his own answer, then he writeth in
this wise, "But then D. Martine for his incredible humanity and
bounty, answered in this wise benignly." And sometimes with these
words, "The most benign father most mildly made answer."
And finally he finisheth and endeth his book as it were with a
Gloria Patri to the whole psalm, in this wise: "This holy devout man
therefore, even born to teach and preserve the Gospel of God, our
Lord long preserve for his church, with his holy word also. Amen."
Now who was there ever born so suspicious that ever would have
suspected that he which wrote such glorious words of Luther should
be Luther himself? For where should a man find so very a vainglorious
fool that would not in himself be ashamed of himself to
think such things? But now ye that read this, I pray you for God's
sake see how utterly this itch and tickling of vanity and vainglory
had cast him clean beside his mind and memory. For whereas
all the book besides was so devised and handled that it should
seem some other to have made it and not himself, suddenly the
fond fellow bewrayed himself unaware. For in one place forgetting
himself, he speaketh in this wise: "When this was spoken, then the
orator of the Empire in a chiding manner said that I had not
answered to the purpose, and that
those things which had been damned
and determined in general councils of
old, ought not now of new to be brought
again in question by me, and therefore I should give a plain answer
whether I would revoke mine errors or not. Then unto this I
answered in this wise, "Since that it is so, etc." Lo, here may ye see the
incredible humility and lowly mind of this most benign father
which, under the visor of a strange herald, bloweth out himself
his own boast. Then may ye see therewith his marvelous profound
prudence that had not the wit to beware that himself bewrayed
not his own so foolish a device, in the vain avaunting of his own
false boast and praise, that though the words had been true, yet
would almost a very natural fool have been ashamed of himself to
write them."

"By my troth," quoth your friend, "this device was madly minded of
Luther and madly handled and madly overseen, to show himself
so fond; but if pride, as the proverb is, must needs have a shame."
The Fifth Chapter
The author showeth the perpetual inconstancy of
Luther, and his contrariety and repugnance against himself.
"Now as for his constancy, appeareth," quoth I, "by that I have before
rehearsed of his continual change in his heresies from day to day,
from worse to worse, which course he kept; not only in the matters
above rehearsed, but almost in all the remnant. For as concerning
purgatory, he wrote first that although it could not be proved by
evident scripture, as he affirmed, yet was there no doubt but that
there is purgatory, and that thing he said was of all Christian men
firmly to be believed. And then he wrote that he wondered of the
madness of such false and foolish heretics, as were born within
one hundred year past and are not
ashamed to deny purgatory, which the
whole church of Christ hath believed this
fifteen hundred year. Now what constancy is there in this frere
that wrote this of heretics that deny purgatory, and within a while
after, denieth it himself, saying in the sermon that he wrote of the
rich man and Lazarus, that all men's souls lie still and sleep till
"Marry," quoth your friend, "then hath some man had a sleep of a fair
length. They will, I ween, when they wake forget some of their
"By my faith," quoth I, "he that believeth Luther that his soul shall
sleep so long, shall, when he dieth, sleep in shrewd rest."
"I much marvel," quoth your friend, "what evil ailed him to find
out this fond folly."
"To this opinion," quoth I, "or rather to the feigning of this opinion
(for I verily think that himself thinketh not as he writeth), he

fell for envy and hatred that he bore to priesthood, by the malice
of which his ungracious mind, he rather were content that
all the world lay in the fire of purgatory till Doomsday than that
there were one penny given to a priest to pray for any soul."
"This is," quoth your friend, "very likely."
"Like constancy," quoth I, "hath he used in the matter of holy vows.
For in his book of the captivity of Babylon, he writeth that neither
man nor angel is able to dispense with the vow made by man to
God. And soon after he wrote that no vow could bind any man, but
that every man may boldly break them of his own head. But it
well appeareth that he wrote the first of anger and malice toward
the pope, and then changed to the second of a lecherous lust to the
nun that he minded to marry.
The Sixth Chapter
The author showed how that Luther hath been fain, for the
defense of his indefensible errors, to go back and forsake
all the manner of proof and trial which he first promised to
stand to. And now, like a man shameful and shameless,
hath no proof in the world but his own word, and calleth
that the word of God.
"His inconstant wit and very devilish intent especially showed
itself by this also, which I shall now rehearse you. In the beginning
the man had the mind that commonly such fools have; he reckoned all
the world wild geese save himself, and all the wit and learning to stand
in his own head. And then weening that he should find no match
but that he should, as he list, be able to prove the moon made of green
cheese, he professed in his books that he would for the proof or reproof of
his opinions stand to natural reason, to the authority of the old
holy fathers, the laws and canons of Christ's church, and to the holy
scripture of God with the interpretations of the old holy doctors.
But soon after, when he perceived himself in his opinion deceived,

and that he saw himself confuted and concluded evidently both
by scripture, natural reason, the laws and determinations of the
church, and the whole consent of the holy fathers, interpreters of holy
scripture, then began he to sing another song. For then as for reason,
he refused to stand to, saying that the matters
of our faith be things above reason
and that reason hindereth us in our faith,
and is unto faith an enemy. And as for the laws of the church, he with
other blasphemous heretics burned up openly at Wittenberg,
singing in derision a dirge about the fire for the law's soul. And
then would he stand to nothing but only scripture, nor to that
neither but if it were very plain and evident. But now if it were
in question whether the scripture were evident for him or against
him, therein would he stand to no man's judgment but his
own. For as for the whole faith of Christ's church continued by so
many hundred years, he set utterly at naught, calling it men's
devices. And in scripture the interpretation of Saint Jerome,
Saint Augustine, Saint Ambrose, and all the old holy fathers of so
many years past, he nothing would esteem, but with blasphemous
words letted not to write, "I care not for Augustine, I care not
for a hundred Cyprians, I care not for a thousand Jeromes, I care
not but for scripture alone, and that is plain on my part." As though
none of these old holy cunning men had understood any scripture
till he came. Now was he by this unreasonable manner driven to
another devilish device against saints. For to the intent that their
authority should not, by the devotion and reverence that all good men
bear them, diminish his credence, he was forced to labor to bring
men in that heresy that they should pray to no saints, but would
have their images drawn down, all their pilgrimages left up,
all their relics cast out, all their honor and men's devotion
toward them withdrawn, so far forth that he could neither abide
the honor of our blessed Lady, nor the holy cross, nor Christ's
blessed Body, as plainly declareth his abominable books."

The Seventh Chapter
The author showeth what things caused the people to fall
into Luther's fond and furious sect. And he showeth also
what mischief the followers of that sect have done in
Almaine, Lombardy, and Rome.
"It is," quoth your friend, "a wonder to me that the people, being before
brought up in the right belief, could find in their hearts to
give him audience in some such heresies as these be."
"Ye must understand and may perceive," quoth I, "that he did not
set forth all at once. But as Tyndale hath begun here in England with
the thing that had a good visage, though he had corrupted it and
meant naught indeed, putting forth first the New Testament in
such wise handled that unlearned folk were likely to take harm
and conceive divers heresies in their hearts ere they could perceive
his falsehood, and then hath since by two other books openly
showed himself to lack nothing of Luther but that he hath not
yet married a nun: so did Luther also put forth in the beginning
no more but the matter of pardons, as I told you, and therein nothing
affirmed neither against the determination of the church, but
submitted himself thereto. Now with this demeanor was there
no man offended. But yet did he that time intend a further
mischief, which he little and little pursued and brought to
pass. And one special thing with which he spiced all the
poison was the liberty that he so highly commended
unto the people, bringing them in belief that, having faith, they
needed nothing else. For as for fasting, prayer, and such other
things, he taught them to neglect and set at naught as vain and
unfruitful ceremonies, teaching them also that, being faithful
Christians, they were so near cousins to Christ that they be in a full
freedom and liberty discharged of all governors and all manner
laws, spiritual or temporal, except the Gospel only. And albeit
he said that of a special perfection it should be well done to suffer
and bear the rule and authority of popes, princes, and other governors,

which rule and authority he calleth
but only tyranny, yet he saith that the
people be so free by faith that they be no
more bound thereto than they be bound to suffer wrong. And
this doctrine also teacheth Tyndale, as the special matter of his holy
book of disobedience. Now was this doctrine in Almaine of the
common uplandish people so pleasantly heard that it blinded
them in the looking upon the remnant, and could not suffer them
to consider and see what end that same would in conclusion come to.
The temporal lords were glad also to hear this gear against the
clergy, and the people as glad to hear it against the clergy and
against the lords too, and against all their governors of every good
town and city. And finally so far went it forward that at the last
it began to burst out and fall to open force and violence. For
intending to begin at the feeblest, there gathered them together,
for the setting forth of these ungracious heresies, a boisterous company
of that unhappy sect, and first rebelled against an abbot, and
after against a bishop, wherewith the temporal lords had good
game and sport and dissembled the matter, gaping after the lands
of the spiritualty, till they had almost played as Aesop telleth of
the dog, which to snatch at the shadow of the cheese in the water,
let fall and lost the cheese that he bore in his mouth. For so was it
shortly after, that those uplandish Lutherans took so great boldness,
and so began to grow strong, that they set also upon the temporal
lords. Which had they not set hand thereto the sooner, while they
looked for other men's lands, had been like shortly to lose their
own. But so acquitted they themselves, that they slew upon the point of
seventy thousand Lutherans in one summer, and subdued the remnant
in that part of Almaine to a right miserable servitude. Howbeit, in
the meanwhile many mischievous deeds they did.
"And yet in divers other parts of Almaine and Switzerland
this ungracious sect, by the negligence of the governors in great
cities, is so far forth grown that finally the common people have
compelled the rulers to follow them, whom, if they had taken heed in
time, they might have ruled and led.

"And now is it too piteous a sight to see the dispiteous despites
done there in many places to God and all good men, with the
marvelous change from all face and fashion of Christendom into
a very tyrannous persecution, not only of all good Christian
people, quick and dead, but also of Christ himself. For there shall
ye see now the goodly monasteries destroyed, the places burned up,
the religious people put out and sent to seek their living, or in
many cities the places yet standing with more despite to God
than if they were burned up to ashes. For the religious people,
monks, freres, and nuns, be clean drawn and driven out,
except such as would agree to forsake their vows of chastity and
be wedded, and the places dedicated to cleanness and chastity left
only to these apostates and brothels to live there in lechery. Now
the parish churches in many places not only defaced, all ornaments
withdrawn, the holy images pulled down and either
broken or burned, but also the Holy
Sacrament cast out, and the abominable
beasts (which abhorreth me to think
on) not abhorred in despite to defile in the pyxes, and use in many
places continually the churches for a common siege. And that in so
despiteful wise, that when a stranger of other places where
Christ is worshipped resorteth to these cities, some of those unhappy,
wretched citizens fail not, as it were for courtesy and kindness, to
accompany them in walking abroad to show them the pleasures
and commodities of the town, and then bring them to no place
lightly but only the churches, to show them in derision what uses
the churches serve for.
"Of this sect was the great part of those ungracious people also,
which late entered into Rome with the duke of Bourbon, not only
robbing and spoiling the city, as well their own friends as the
contrary part, but like very beasts did also violate the wives in
the sight of their husbands, slew the children in the sight of the
fathers. And to extort the discovering of more money, when men
had brought out all that ever they had to save themselves from death
or further pain, and were at pacts and promises of rest without
further business, then the wretched tyrants and cruel tormentors,
as though all that stood for nothing, ceased not to put them eftsoons
to intolerable torments. And old, ancient, honorable men, those
fierce heretics letted not to hang up by the privy members, and

from many they pulled them off and cast
them in the street. And some brought out
naked with his hands bound behind him, and a cord tied
fast unto his privy members. Then would they set before him in his
way other of those tyrants with their morris-pikes, the points
toward the breasts of these poor naked men. And then one or two of
those wretches would stand behind those morris-pikes and draw
the poor souls by the members towards them. Now then was all
their cruel sport and laughter either to see the silly naked men in
shrinking from the pikes to tear off their members, or for pain of that
pulling to run their naked bodies in deep upon the pikes.
Too piteous and too abominable were it to rehearse the villainous
pain and torments that they devised on the silly women, to whom
after they had beastly abused them, wives in the sight of their
husbands and the maidens in the sight of their fathers, they were
reckoned for piteous that did no more but cut their throats. And
very certain is it that not in Rome only, but also in the country of
Milan that they kept and oppressed, after torments used and
money fetched out that way, that some calling himself a gentleman in
Almaine or Spain would feign himself fallen in love of his
host's daughter, and that he would marry her in any wise, and then
make much earnest business for to have some money with her. And
whether he got aught or got naught by that device, he letted not
soon after to put the father, the mother, the fair daughter, and all
the whole house to new torments, to make them tell where any more
money were, were there any or none. And some failed not to take the
child and bind it to a broach and lay it to the fire to roast, the
father and mother looking on. And then begin to common of a price
for the sparing of the child, asking first a hundred ducats,
then fifty, then forty, then twenty, then ten, then five, then
twain, when the silly father had not one left but these tyrants had
all before. Then would they let the child roast to death. And yet in
derision, as though they pitied the child, they would say to the
father and the mother, "Ah, fie, fie for shame, what marvel is it
though God send a vengeance among you. What unnatural people be
you that can find in your hearts to see your own child roasted before

your face, rather than ye would out with one ducat to deliver it
from death."
"Thus devised these cursed wretches so many diverse fashions of
exquisite cruelties that, I ween, they have taught the devil new
torments in hell that he never knew before, and will not fail to
prove himself a good scholar, and surely render them his lesson
when they come there, where it is to be feared that many of them be
by this. For soon after that they had in Rome exercised a while
this fierce and cruel tyranny, and entered into the holy churches,
spoiled the holy relics, cast out the Blessed Sacrament, pulled
the chalice from the altar at Mass, slain priests in the church, left no
kind of cruelty or spite undone but from hour to hour imbruing
their hands in blood, and that in such wise as any
Turk or Saracen would have pitied or abhorred -- our Lord sent
soon after such a pestilence among them that he left not of them
the third part alive. For this purpose I rehearse you this their
heavy, mischievous dealing, that ye may perceive by their deeds
what good cometh of their sect. For as
our Savior saith, ye shall know the
tree by the fruit."
The Eighth Chapter
The messenger saith that the malice of the men is not to
be imputed to the sect, since that of every sect some be
naught. And the author showeth that in the Lutherans, the
sect self is the cause of the malice that the men fall to.
"Sir," quoth your friend, "in good faith I neither can nor will defend
that sect. But yet reason it is to take everything as it is. And if it
be naught, it hath the less need to be made worse. But as for the
malicious, cruel dealing of men of war, is not, in my mind, to
be imputed to the sect of Luther. For there is no sect so saintly
but they fall in cruelty when they fall to war. And of every sect
also be some bad. And therefore the malice of the men is not, as meseemeth,
to be imputed unto the sect."

"It is not," quoth I, "all one to be some naught and all naught. But they
that fall in this sect wax naught all the whole meinie. For, forthwith
upon this sect once begun, the whole flocks of such as were infected
therewith fell unto those mischievous deeds that I before rehearsed
you. And also, though men in war wax furious and cruel, yet was
there never none that went therein so far, and especially in such
kind of cruelty as hath been among Christian men in their war
always forborne, as is the despites done to the Blessed Sacrament,
wherein these beasts were more hot and more busy than would the
great Turk, and that because their sect is yet in manner worse
than his. Moreover, the unhappy deeds of that sect must needs be
imputed to the sect self while the doctrine thereof teacheth and
giveth occasion to their evil deeds. A Christian man's evil living
cannot be imputed to his Christendom. For his living is contrary
to the doctrine and living of Christ. But as for the doctrine of
this unhappy sect, and the living also of the beginners of the same,
is such as every wise man well perceiveth doth teach and give
occasion of their evil deeds. For what good deed shall he study or
labor to do that believeth Luther that he hath no free will of his
own by which he can, with help of grace, either work or pray?
Shall he not say to himself that he may sit still and let God
"What harm shall they care to forbear, that believe Luther that
God alone without their will worketh all the mischief that they do
"What shall he care how long he live in sin, that believeth
Luther that he shall after this life neither feel well nor ill in body
nor soul till the Day of Doom? Will not he, trow you, say as the
Welshman said? "If thou give her that day, by God, Davy will
have thy coat too." And this thing I say but for an example. For look his
opinions through and ye shall find that they plainly set
forth all the world to wretched living. If they would say that we
misconstrue their words, their books be open, and the words
plain, and inculcated again and again, so often and so openly that
men cannot err therein, nor they by any cloak or color defend

"And besides that not only the commonalty of their sect show the
effect and fruit of their doctrine by their abominable dealing, as
I have rehearsed you, but also the doctors and the arch-heretics
themselves well declare the holiness of their doctrine by their own
living. For as they live they teach, and as they teach they live.
The Ninth Chapter
The author showeth that it is a great token that the
world is near at an end, while we see people so far fallen
from God that they can abide it to be content with this pestilent,
frantic sect which no people Christian or heathen
could have suffered before our days.
"If the world were not near at an end and the fervor of devotion
so sore cooled that it were almost quenched among Christian people,
it could never have come to pass that so many people should fall
to the following of such a beastly sect. For albeit that the Mahometans,
being a sensual and filthy sect, did in few years draw the great part
of the world unto it by the selfsame
ways which now the Lutherans use --
that is to wit, voluptuous living and
violence, offering delight unto the receivers and death to the refusers --
yet was there before this abominable sect never any sect so
shameless that would still avow themselves for Christian folk,
granting the scripture to be true, and therewithal so enemiously
blaspheme and oppugn the church of Christ, the sacraments of
Christ, the saints of Christ, the cross of Christ, the mother of
Christ, and the Holy Body of Christ, so shamefully living and openly
professing a bestial manner of living, clean contrary to the
doctrine and life of Christ. The Arians, the Pelagians, the Manichees,
and so forth every sort of heretics, began of such as
though they wickedly erred in substantial articles of the faith,
yet was their outward fashion of living so honest and spiritual
in appearance that men thought themselves bound the better to
believe their doctrine as Christian, for some spiritual form and

fashion of their Christian living. But now the chieftains of these
execrable heresies both teach and use more sensual and licentious
living than ever did Mahomet. Which, though he license men
to many wives, yet he never taught nor suffered his folk to break
their chastity promised once and solemnly dedicated to God.
Whereas Luther not only teacheth monks, freres, and nuns to
marriage but also, being a frere, hath married a nun himself,
and with her liveth under the name of wedlock in open,
incestuous lechery without care or shame, because he hath procured
and gotten so many shameful and shameless companions.
"Who could have abided to look any man in the face that should have
done thus in Saint Jerome's and Saint Augustine's days? What speak we
of Saint Jerome and Saint Augustine? Who durst have done it for shame
any time since Christ's birth until our wretched days? Or who
since Adam's time among the chosen people of God? What speak
we of the chosen people of God? The very paynims and pagans, idolaters,
kept their chastity vowed once to their false gods, and
rather chose to cut off the members with which they might break it
than to stand in the jeopardy to break it.
And in Rome of old time when they were
pagans, if any vestal virgin (for so called they their nuns) were
violated, they not only beat the man to death with rods in the
marketplace and buried the woman quick, but also reckoned it
for a wonderful monster, and a token of wrath and indignation of
their gods toward their city and empire, putting thereupon
themselves in devoir with open processions and prayers and sacrifice
to procure the recovery of their
gods' favor. Is it not, then, now a
wondrous case to see, since that the
chastity promised once to God and also to the false idols under the
name of god, hath always been, since the world began, among Christian
and heathen so highly esteemed that the breakers thereof have always
been, by the common consent of the whole world, as a thing taught
by God unto good men and by nature to all men, taken, reputed
and punished as abominable wicked wretches -- is it not, I say, now a
wondrous thing to see that in the flock of Christian people, which by

Christ himself, by all his apostles, by all his holy martyrs, confessors
and doctors, by all his whole church, all the whole time of
these fifteen hundred years passed, chastity hath been more highly praised
and esteemed than ever it was of any other sect since the world
began, we should see now a lewd frere so bold and so shameless to
marry a nun and abide thereby, and be taken still for a Christian man,
and over that, for a man meet to be the beginner of a sect whom
any honest man should vouchsafe to follow? If our Lord God,
whose wisdom is infinite, should have sat and studied to devise
a way whereby he might cast in our face the confusion of our
folly, how might he have found a more effectual openly to
show us the shame of our sin, than to suffer us that call ourselves
Christian folk to see such a rabble spring up among us as,
professing the faith and religion of Christ, let not to set at
naught all the doctors of Christ's church, and lean to the only
authority of Frere Tuck and Maid Marian?
The Tenth Chapter
The author inveigheth against this detestable article of
this ungracious sect, whereby they take away the liberty
of man's free will and ascribe allthing to destiny.
"Surely, as I say, this world is either, after the words of Saint
John, "totus positus in maligno" (all set in malice), that we be so
prone wittingly to take so wrong a way, or else is it in a marvelous
blindness, if we can neither perceive by the naughty living of
the persons that their sect is naught, nor can perceive by their
doctrine that their sect must make their persons naught, their
heresies being such as ye have heard. Whereby every man that any
faith hath, and any manner knowledge of Christian belief, may well and
surely perceive that Luther and all his offspring, with all those
that favor and set forth his sect, be very limbs of the devil,
and open enemies to the faith of Christ. And not only to the faith
and manhood of our Savior Christ, but also against the Holy
Ghost and the Father himself, and utterly against all goodness of the

Godhead, as those that wretchedly lay all the weight and blame of
our sin to the necessity and constraint of God's ordinance,
affirming that we do no sin of ourselves by any power of our own
will, but by the compulsion and handiwork of God; and that we
do not the sin ourselves, but that God doth the sin in us himself.
And thus these wretched heretics, with this blasphemous
heresy alone, lay more villainous rebuke to the great majesty
of God than ever any one ribald
laid unto another. For who was there
ever that laid unto another all the particular
evil deeds of any one other man, where these ribalds
lay to the charge and blame of God all the malice and mischief,
from the first fault to the last, that ever was wrought or thought
by man, woman, or devil? And by this give they wretches great
boldness to follow their foul affections, as things after their
opinion more verily wrought in them by God than the best
minds be in good men. And that it were therefore in vain for
them to resist their sinful appetites. And if they shall be
damned, yet they say it shall be long ere they feel it. For Luther
saith that all souls shall sleep and feel neither good nor bad after
this life till Doomsday. And then they that shall be damned, shall
be damned, he saith, for no deserving of their own deeds but
for such evil deeds as God only forced and constrained them unto
and wrought in them himself, using them in all those evil deeds
but as a dead instrument, as a man heweth with a hatchet. And
that God shall damn all that shall be damned, for his own deeds
only which himself shall have done in them; and finally, for
his only pleasure, because it liked him not to choose them as he did
his chosen people. Whom they say that he chose in such wise, before
the beginning of the world, that they can never sin."
The Eleventh Chapter
The messenger saith that howsoever Luther and his followers
in Almaine believe, yet he cannot think that such as be
Lutherans in England, of whom some, he saith, have seemed
good and honest, be so mad and unhappy to believe that all

hangeth upon destiny. Whereupon the author showeth the
contrary, and that they be naught indeed, seem they never so
good. And for proof that, howsoever they color their words,
they mean that all dependeth upon only destiny, he rehearseth
a certain dispicion had with a heretic detected to
the bishop and examined, the author being present, where
the heretic being learned and a preacher, made many
shifts to make it seem that in his evil words he meant but
When your friend had heard all this, he said at last that, albeit the
words of Luther seemed very plain toward the affirming of such
opinions, yet were the things so far out of all frame, that it gave
him occasion to doubt lest Luther meant not allthing so evil as his
words seem to weigh to. And if he so meant himself, with other of his
flock and affinity in Almaine, yet thought your friend that such as here
favor and follow his sect in England, of whom some seem right honest
and far from his manner of living, do not so take his words nor
understand them that way, but construe them to some better sense.
"Forsooth," quoth I, "they cannot but know his open living in lechery
with his lewd leman the nun. And that all the captains of that sort,
some late Carthusians, some Observants, some of other religions, and
all now apostates and wedded, live in like manner and teach other the
same. And by this can they not doubt but that their doctrine is
naught, except themselves allow that way for good. Now as for their
own goodness, ye find few that fall to that sect, but that soon after they
fall into the contempt of prayer and fasting and of all good works,
under the name of ceremonies. And if any do otherwise, it is for
some purpose for the while to blind the people and keep themselves
in favor, till they may find the time by leisure to fashion and
frame them better to their purpose, which in the beginning, if
they showed themselves plainly, could haply not abide to hear
them. Of which their demeanor, and that in these heresies they
mean here no better than Luther doth himself, I have had good
experience, and among many other things this that I shall show
you. It happed me to be lately present whereas one in the Lutherans'

books deeply learned, and of truth, neither in holy scripture
nor in secular literature unlearned (as I perceive not only by
the testimony of other men and the degrees that he had taken in
the university, but also by his words and his writing) was in the
presence of right honorable, virtuous, and very cunning persons
examined. For he was at that time in ward for heresy, because
that, being learned and using to hear confessions, and among many
folk meetly well allowed in preaching, and thereby growing in good
opinion and favor of many good simple people, abused all these
open and apparent good things to the secret sowing and setting
forth of Luther's heresies. And had, for that intent, not only taught and
written and covertly corrupted divers light and lewd persons, but
also had bought great number of the books of Luther and Wycliffe,
Husse and Zwingli, and such other heretics, and of many one
sort divers books, to be delivered as he could find occasion unto
young scholars of the universities such as he thought of youth and
lightness most likely to be soon corrupted. This man, I say, being
examined and long keeping himself close from disclosing of the matter,
and more ready to go straight to the devil with lying and false forswearing
than to be acknown of his evil demeanor and confess
the truth, at the last, perceiving the matters, partly by the confession
of other folk, partly by his own handwriting so far forth
come to light that they could in no wise be cloaked, then began
he somewhat plainly to confess and declare not only what he had
done for the setting forth of that sect, but also partly what opinions
he and other his fellows had held and were of. Setting nevertheless
all the colors he could to make it seem that, though the
words which they spoke or wrote were strange and contrary to
right belief, yet the effect of their meaning was not much discrepant
from the true faith of Christ's church. Howbeit, when he was
reasoned withal and saw that he could not so shift it off, but that
for any color he could find one part of his tale ever contraried another,
at last he showed plainly their opinions, and laid forth as
in part for his own excuse, as things inducing him thereto, all the
texts of scripture by which they pretend to prove their opinions
true. Among which opinions, when he came to the opinion by

which they hold that only faith alone is sufficient, without good
works, unto that he said in the beginning that they meant nothing
else thereby but that men should put their faith in God's promises
and hope to be saved thereby, and that they should not put their
trust in their works, for that would turn them to pride.
"Then was it answered him that he and his fellows could not mean
so. For if they did, then could they not blame the church as they
do, making as though the church had all this while hid the true
faith from the people, and that themselves were now shent for
preaching the Gospel truly. For if this were their meaning,
they then meant none other than every common preacher of the church
hath always preached before Luther's days.
For what preacher hath not told the people
the parable of the poor publican ashamed of his sins and the proud
Pharisee boasting of his virtues? Who
hath not bidden them do well? And albeit
that God will reward them for their good
deeds, yet put not their trust in themselves and their own deeds, but
in God's goodness. Who hath not told them that they should, as God
biddeth them in the Gospel, that when
they have done all they can do, yet say to
themselves, "We be but unprofitable servants; we have done but
our duty." These things and such other, the church hath always taught
against the putting of a proud trust
in our own deeds, because that we cannot
always surely judge our own deeds, for
the blind favor that we bear toward ourselves. And therefore was it said
to him, "If ye meant but thus as the church meaneth, then would ye
preach but as the church preacheth, and not blaspheme the church in
your sermons, as though ye began true preaching of the Gospel, and
that the church had hitherto preached false. And also ye must needs
mean some other thing. For Luther, whose sect ye confess that ye
have leaned unto, writeth in this manner far other wise. For he
saith plain that faith alone, without any good works, doth justify
us and sufficeth for our salvation." Then answered he that therein they
meant none other but that faith is sufficient alone if one happen
after he have faith and baptism to die ere he have time to do any

good works. Then was it said unto him, if they should teach
this opinion under such words for a great secret mystery new
found out, and thereby blame the church for misteaching the
people, as though the church taught them to put less trust in God
and in faith of Christ than they should do, and induced them to put
their trust in themselves and their own good works, they used themselves
marvelously, considering that if they meant none other, the
church and they meant all one thing. But they could not mean so.
For then why should they blame the church, that saith not the contrary?
And also, if they meant none other thing, few words would serve
them. They should not need so often to speak thereof. For then that tale
can do little good here or anywhere else where folk be christened in
their cradles. For either they die ere they have time to do good
works, and then they be too young to hear that sermon, or else they
live and have time to do good works. And then that sermon were
not wholesome for them, that good works need not, but only faith
is sufficient without them. And when the people take it as ye
speak it, that faith alone is enough for them, then is it now a bare
gloss for you to say that ye meant not so, but only that faith alone
had been enough for them if they had died in their swaddling
"To this he said that they thought also that faith alone doth
justify a man, without any good works, not only in children
but also in every age. For whensoever a man that hath been a
sinner doth repent and amend in his mind with a full faith in
the promises of God, he is justified ere ever he do any of these good
works -- alms, fasting or any such other. For he cannot work
well till he be good already. For as Christ saith, "Arbor mala non
potest bonum fructum facere" (An evil tree cannot bring forth good
fruit), and therefore since good works be good fruit, an evil man
cannot work them. Whereby, it appeareth well that the man is
justified before by his faith alone without the works, and then out
of the faith groweth the good fruit of good works. But faith did
justify the man before, and the man was as good before the works as he
is after. For his faith did justify him. And as for that works, be but
things that the faith in the man or the man by the faith bringeth forth,

as the tree bringeth forth his leaves and can do none other, faith being
in the heart.
"Then was it said unto him that in this tale he seemed to make the
good works to be much like a shadow that the body maketh of
necessity while it standeth in the sun, and is never the better
therefor. And then was it asked him whether a man must not, if his
faith shall serve him, have charity therewith and a purpose to do
good works. "Yes," quoth he, "that he must if he have age and discretion
thereto." Then was it answered him that then was all gone that
himself had said before. For then did not
faith alone justify the man, but the
charity with the purpose of good works
must, by his own granting, needs go therewith, or else would his
faith justify nothing at all. For if he had never so great a faith
and never so sure a belief in God's promises, yet if he purposed to
do no good deeds therewith, but peradventure harm, he should
have little justification by his only faith. And therefore it was
false that he had said a man is never the better for his good works,
while his good works be so taken and reputed with God that the
purpose of them, yet undone, so far forth worketh to his justification
that without that purpose he cannot be justified. And that it is also
false that he said that faith alone justifieth a man, when himself is
fain to grant that faith without charity and purpose of good
works cannot justify, which is as much to say as faith alone cannot
"To this he answered that he had said that faith only was sufficient,
and that faith alone doth justify, because that if a man
had faith, it could not be but that he should work good works.
For faith, he saith, could never be idle, as the fire must needs burn
and give heat. And therefore, as a man may say, "The fire is enough
to burn a tree," though he speak nothing of heat, and yet the fire
doth it by heat; and a man may say, "The fire maketh me see by
night," and yet the fire doth it but by the light, so may a man
say that faith doth save us, though faith do it not without
hope and charity and other virtuous works, because that faith

hath always good hope and charity with it, and cannot but work
well, no more than the fire can be without heat and light and
burn all combustible things that it may touch and tarry with.
"Then was it said unto him that albeit a man might so speak
by the fire, yet would not this thing serve their sect. For he that
saith fire alone is enough to burn, would not say nay to him that
would say the fire could not burn but if it had heat. But your sect
scorneth and blameth the church because the church saith that faith
will not suffice but if it have charity and good works. For else ye
had no cause in this matter to preach contrary to the church. Moreover,
where ye say that faith hath always good hope with it, that
seemeth not always true. For he that hopeth that by faith alone he
shall be saved, without any good works, as Lutherans do believe indeed,
he hath an evil hope and a damnable. Now where ye say that
ye preach faith alone to be sufficient because that faith hath
always charity joined therewith, if this were true, why preach ye
not as well that charity alone is sufficient, which were as near the
truth as the other? Now where ye make
all the ground upon this, that faith
hath ever charity therewith and that it
cannot be but that charity, which is indeed the thing that specially
bringeth forth good works much more properly than faith, for
faith bringeth them forth by charity when it is joined therewith,
as the Apostle saith, "Fides que per
dilectione operatur" (Faith worketh by
charity) -- where ye say it cannot be but that this charity is always
joined unto faith, this ground will fail you, and make your
foundation false, and all your building fall. The apostle Paul in
many places of his epistles saith the contrary thereof. For he saith that
if a man have so great faith that he might
by the force of his faith work miracles,
and also such fervent affection to the faith that he would give his body
to the fire for the defense thereof, yet if he lacked charity, all his
faith sufficed not."
"In good faith," quoth your friend, "he was well and properly answered.
But yet methinketh he might have replied a little again to those

words of Saint Paul, and might have voided them well with
other words of his own. For where he writeth also to the Galatians,
that if any angel would come down from
heaven and preach a contrary gospel to that
that he had preached already, accursed should he be and not to be
believed, he did not in these words affirm nor intend thereby that
ever it should so be, or could so be, that any angel so should do indeed.
For he knew right well it was impossible that any angel of
heaven should come down and tell a false tale. But he said it
only by a manner of speaking, which is among learned men called
hyperbole, for the more vehement expressing
of a matter, nothing meaning
else but that the Gospel which he had preached was the plain,
sure, and undoubtable truth, against which no man were to be
believed. And in like wise, methinketh, the man that ye speak of
might have said that though Saint Paul said if he had so great
faith that he were able thereby to remove hills, except he had charity
therewith it would not serve him, he meant thereby no more but to
show the great need that men have to charity, and not that it were
possible that faith could be without charity, no more than he meant
that an angel may come down from heaven to preach a false faith.
And therefore might it yet stand right well with all those words of
Saint Paul, that faith cannot fail of salvation, since it cannot
fail of charity. And of truth, meseemeth as that man said, that
faith cannot be idle but it must needs work well."
"Forsooth," quoth I, "the man lacked you there, for he found not
that gloss. Which though he had, yet would it not have served him.
For between those two places of Saint Paul is there great difference.
For in the one is there an impossible excess and hyperbole; in the
other is there not so. For angels of heaven never can come down and
teach a false faith. But faith may be severed from charity. And in
the one place he none other thing intendeth than, as ye say, to
show by that great exceeding word the undoubted truth of the
faith which himself had preached. But in the other place his
special purpose was to teach the Corinthians that they should

neither trust that any gift of nature, or
gift of God above nature, or any manner
virtue -- almsdeed, faith, or other --
were able to stand them in stead without charity. And this did
he especially for that he would that no man should be in such error
as to reckon that either excellent gift of cunning, great labor
spent in preaching, great alms spent on poor people, or a very
fervent faith, might suffice to their salvation if charity lacked.
Against which error he doth in such wise exhort them to charity,
in avoiding the rancor which by occasion of schisms did arise
among them, that he showed them precisely that without charity
they lost clearly the merit of all their other virtues and graces that God
had given them -- cunning, almsdeed, faith, and all -- putting
the example by his own self, which though he were a chosen servant
and apostle, yet if he were in language equal with all the whole world and
with angels too, and had all the cunning that possible could be had, and
the spirit of all prophecy therewith, and would give all his goods in
alms, and had also all the full faith so great that it sufficed to work
wonders with, and so fervent that he would abide to be burned for it,
yet if he lacked charity, all this would not serve him. So that ye
may see now that your gloss would not have relieved this man. For
though none angel could come down and teach an untruth,
and therefore the words that ye allege can be none otherwise taken
than, as ye say, by way of excess and hyperbole to declare the
vehemence of his mind in the matter of faith which he then spoke
of, yet this other place of Saint Paul that was laid against that
heretic that I speak of, as great and vehement as the words
be, yet do they plainly prove that the Apostle showeth that
faith may be without charity, and that
both so great that it may suffice to the
doing of great wonders and so fervent that it may suffer a painful
death, and yet, for fault of charity, not sufficient to salvation, and
that this may hap as well in faith as in almsdeed, which the
Apostle putteth in the same case. And therefore where that man
said, and ye seem to confirm the same, that faith cannot be idle

from the working of good works, the Apostle to show the contrary,
and that all the works of faith, though they seem never so good, be yet
naught indeed if they be not wrought with charity, commendeth
only the faith that worketh by charity, signifying that all other works
of faith be not available. And surely faith alone, without charity, may
be besides this not only idle without that business of good works,
but also for lack of good works it may be utterly dead. And therefore,
as it was there objected unto that man, the
holy apostle James saith to them that reckon
faith sufficient for salvation without good works, that they be worse
than devils. For he saith that the devils do believe and tremble for the
fear of God. And that men which, by the hope and boldness of their
belief, think their faith without good works sufficient, be worse
than devils, because they stand out of dread of God that menaceth
unto them the pains of hell except they do good works. Without
which, Saint James for a final conclusion saith that the faith is
but dead.
"But here was it also said unto him yet again, that though Saint
James do say that faith without good works is dead, he should not
thereby run to his old gloss and say that therefore he and other
Lutherans meant that faith sufficeth to salvation, because they
think it cannot be but that it shall needs bring forth good works,
and that therefore on the contrary side if one have no good works he
hath no faith, because a dead faith is no faith, as a dead man is no
man. It was told him that this gloss would not serve him. For Saint
James meant not that the faith that he calleth dead for lack of good
works is no faith, no more than Saint
Paul meant that a widow living in
delight and pleasure is no woman, though he said that she is dead
even as she goeth alive. But Saint James meant only that such faith
shall not stand them in stead. For Saint
James denieth not but that such a dead
faith as he calleth dead because it is
unprofitable, is yet a very faith indeed, though it be not quick

in good works. And therefore he resembleth such a faith in a man
unto the unprofitable faith that is in a devil. For he saith that where
such a man is bold of his faith, the devil hath faith as well as he,
for the devil doth believe such things as we believe. To this the man
answered that some right well-learned men were of the mind
that without a man wrought good works, it was a good proof that he had
no faith at all, for very faith could not but work, and that the devil
had no faith but by equivocation of this word "faith." For the very
faith indeed is a faith in the promises of God. And the devil is
desperate and hath not, nor cannot have, faith and trust in God's
"Then was it answered him that those right well-learned men were
Luther and Tyndale and their fellows, that take themselves for
better learned than Christ's blessed apostles Saint Paul or Saint
James, which in their holy writing affirm fully the contrary.
And where they say that the devil hath no faith but hath the knowledge
of the things that we believe, and so he hath not faith, they
affirm therein more than they may make good. For Saint James
saith "they believe," and saith not "they know" And he when he wrote
it, knew much better than Luther and Tyndale too, what manner
perceiving the devils have in the articles of our faith. In which
as there be some whereof the devils have peradventure not a belief
but a certain and sure knowledge, as of Christ's descension into hell
and spoiling of their possession, so are they of likelihood in any
other articles of our faith, whereof they have only belief and persuasion
without the very knowledge and science. And where those
well-learned men Luther and Tyndale say that the devil hath not
faith but by the equivocation of the word "faith" -- being indeed, as
ye say, a faith in the promises of God whereby Christian men hope to
come to heaven, whereas the devils be desperate and can have no such
faith in God's promises nor hope or look for heaven -- these well
learned men that so say go about to set Saint James to school. For
they would we should ween that Saint James did speak of faith like
one that wist not what faith meant, but were deceived by equivocation
of the word, calling faith the thing that is not faith indeed; whereas
indeed Saint James speaketh of it as he should, and useth the
word in its right signification, and these Lutherans abuse the

word of a malicious mind to deceive
unlearned people with equivocation. For
whereas faith signifieth the belief and
firm credence given not only to such things as God promiseth,
but also to every truth that he telleth his church by writing or
without which thing he will have us bound to believe, and whereas
of truth, the devils, as Saint James saith, do believe such things
and have them in a reverent dread: now would these heretics
blind us with their equivocation, by which they not only restrain
the faith unto the promises alone from all other articles of the faith,
of which many be no promises -- as to believe that there is a God, and that
there be three persons, and many such other articles -- but also abuse
the word "faith" altogether, turning it slyly from belief into
trust, confidence, and hope, and would have it seem as
though our faith were nothing else but a sure trust and a faithful
hope that we have in God's promises. And this sophistical handling
of faith is the thing that, as appeareth by Tyndale in his book
of obedience, these Lutherans ween to deceive all the world withal,
and to make men ween that faith betokeneth not belief, but
hope and trust, and so to make men ween that Saint James wist
not what faith meant when he laid against them that put their
trust as these Lutherans teach us, in their only faith, the comparison
between them and devils which believe as surely as they. And
therefore, to reprove Saint James they would make us believe that our
faith were nothing but hope, whereas every man wotteth that faith
and hope be two distinct virtues, and that hope is not faith
but followeth faith in him that hath hope. For no man can hope for
heaven if he believe it not. But on the other side, he may, as the devil
doth, though he believe it and know it too, yet fall far from all hope
thereof. And if these Lutherans will defend their heresy by that
sophistical gloss, they must then change their article and say
no more that faith alone is sufficient, but they must say that hope
alone is sufficient. And yet shall they then lie as loud as they do now.
For hope without charity will but beguile them.
"After such reasoning, the man said that he and the other Lutherans,
when they spoke that only faith was sufficient, they mean

not of a dead faith that is without charity and good works, but a
very faith that is quick and worketh by charity, and that such faith,
he thought, was sufficient. But then was it answered that neither they
nor he could mean so. For how could they call that thing faith
only that is joined with charity and good works? Or how can
it stand that they mean that faith which by charity worketh
good works, when they say that it is sufficient alone without good
works, and that it is, as Luther saith, great sin and sacrilege to
go about to please God by good works and not by only faith? How
could they say that only faith sufficeth, if they should mean that
without charity and good works, no faith sufficeth? For it were a
mad thing to say that faith alone sufficeth without good works,
and therewith to say that without good works faith sufficeth nothing.
And so was it said unto him that therefore, though they color
their matters when they be examined, yet it cannot be but that he and
other Lutherans, where they sow their heresy, mean plainly as
they speak that folk need no more but believe, and then howsoever
they live shall make no matter. For nothing, as Luther
saith, can damn a Christian man, save only lack of belief.
For all other sins (if belief and faith stand fast) be quite absorbed
and supped up, he saith, in that faith.
"When this man was with such reasoning, and much better than I
do or can rehearse you, somewhat sore pressed upon, then brought
he forth another gloss and said that they meaned not but
that faith, if it should suffice for salvation, must needs have with
it charity and good works, or else it were no very faith, as a dead
man is no very man. Howbeit, he said that though it be nothing
without good works yet when it is joined with good works all
the merit cometh of our faith only, and no part thereof for our
works. So that God giveth us heaven for our faith only, and nothing
for our works. For though he give it not for our faith if we
lack good works, yet if we have both, he regardeth not in his
reward our works anything but only our faith. And he said that
for this cause they say that only faith causeth our salvation.
"To this it was answered that if this opinion were true, yet it well

appeared that this is not the thing that they mean. For the words of
Luther and Pomerane and all the arch-heretics of that sect be very
plain. For they say that it is sacrilege to go about to please God by any
good works but faith only. And then why should good works be
joined to faith, or why should God exact good works of us? Whereof
should they serve, if they be nothing pleasant to God? And when
Luther saith that nothing can damn any Christian man but only
lack of belief, he showeth manifestly that we not only need no
good works with our faith, but also that so we have faith, none
evil works can hurt us. And so he meaneth plainly that faith
only, without any good works joined thereto and also with all
kind of evil works joined thereto, is sufficient to save us. And
therefore if ye be of his sect (was it said to the man) ye cannot
void but that this is your very doctrine, howsoever ye color it.
"Then was it further asked him, if their meaning should be such as
he had said, what should move him and other his fellows so to
think that in faith and good works joined together, the good
works were nothing worth, but that all the merit should be in
the faith, and all the thanks and reward should be given to the faith,
and right naught to the good works.
"Whereunto he answered that many texts of scripture induced
them thereunto, and special texts of
Saint Paul: "Fides iustificat" (Faith
justifieth). And "Credidit Abraam Deo,
et reputatum est ei ad iusticiam" (Abraam
believed God, and it was accounted in him
for justice). "Si ex operibus habet quidem gloriam, sed non apud
Deum" (If he were justified by the works, then had he glory
but not with God). "Si ex operibus, Christus
pro nobis gratis mortuus est" (If we be
justified by the works, then did Christ die for us for naught). "Gratis
redempti estis" (Ye be redeemed freely). And thereby may we see that
our works were no part of the cause. And yet especially these
words of our Savior Christ, he said, much moved them to be of
that mind, where he saith, "Qui crediderit
et baptizatus fuerit, salvus erit" (He

that believeth and is baptized shall be saved). Where Christ requireth
nothing but only faith.
"By all these texts he said, it plainly appeared that all our
salvation came of faith, as Abraam was justified by faith and not by
his works. And that if our good works should be the cause of our
salvation, then as Saint Paul saith, Christ died for naught. For
he needed not to die for us if our own works might save us. Nor
we were not redeemed freely if we should redeem ourselves with the
payment of our own works.
"To this was it answered that those texts and all other alleged
for that purpose signify none other but that after the faith of
Christ brought into the world by the Incarnation and Passion of
our blessed Savior, men are no longer bound to the observance
of Moses' law. Nor that all the law of Moses, nor all the good
works of man, were not able to save one man of themselves, nor
without faith; and that Christ freely redeemed us. For neither had he
or ever shall have any reward of us for the bitter pains taken in his
blessed Passion for us. Nor never deserved we unto him that he should
so much do for us. Nor the first faith, nor the preaching thereof,
nor the first justification of man thereby, nor the sacrament and
fruit of our baptism, was not given to the world for any good
works that ever the world had wrought, but only of God's mere
liberal goodness. But yet there is never a
text of them nor any other in all scripture
so meant, that after the baptism the
faith only shall save us without good works, if we live and have
reason to do them. For though it be said by the mouth of our
Savior, "He that believeth shall be saved," where he nothing speaketh
of any good works; yet meaneth he not that he that believeth shall be
saved without good works, if he live to do them. For else
why should ye not as well say that men
shall be saved for keeping of the commandments
without faith, since Christ saith, "If thou wilt enter
into the kingdom of heaven, keep the commandments." And
saith also, "Do that and thou shalt have life." At which time he
spoke no word of any faith. He saith
also in holy scripture, "Date elemosinam,

et omnia munda sunt vobis" (Give alms, and all is clean in you).
Which words, if men should as largely construe for the preeminence
of almsdeed as ye that are of Luther's sect construe the texts
that speak of faith, they might take a false gloss and color to
say that without faith, or penance either, or any other virtue,
almsdeed alone sufficeth for salvation, how wretchedly soever
we lead our life besides. But if we should so say of almsdeed,
we should say wrong, as ye do when ye say so of faith. For likewise
as it is understood that faith must needs go with good works
if they shall be fruitful, though it be not spoken of in those texts
that speak of good works, so is it understood that in them
which after baptism have time and reason to work well, good
works must walk with faith, and sorrow at heart for fault of
good works, if the faith shall aught avail them. For if both good
works and final repentance of the lack of good works do
fail us, having time and reason to them, we be like to fare much
the worse for our faith. And that this is thus, we may well know
by the texts of holy scripture if we set them together, and take
not one text for our part and set another at naught.
"To this answered he that albeit these texts set together do prove
that faith alone doth not suffice without good works (which
thing he said that himself denied not) yet he said that none of
those texts prove anything the contrary, but that when faith and
good works be joined together, all the merit cometh yet of our
faith only, and nothing of our works.
"Whereunto he was answered that though it so were indeed that
no texts of scripture proved the contrary, yet since there is none that
saith so, and the whole church saith and believeth the contrary,
what reason have ye to say so, and to give the whole merit unto
faith, and no part of the reward to good works? And now have
ye much less reason so to do, when the plain words of Holy Writ
be openly to the contrary. For did not
God say to Cain, "If thou do well thou
shalt have well?" Saith not Christ of
them that doth alms, "A good measure shaken together, heaped
and running over, shall they give into your bosom?" Doth not our

Lord show that in the Day of Judgment
he will give the kingdom of heaven to
them that have done alms in meat, drink, cloth, and
lodging, because of their charity used in those deeds? Which deeds
though he will not reward with heaven except faith went with
them, yet if they were wrought in faith, he promiseth to reward
those works and not their faith only; and that so far forth that it
appeareth by the words of our Savior in the same places, and by
his words in which he said he would in the Day of Judgment
speak to them that had by faith wrought wonders in his name without
good works and charity, whom he would then bid walk
workers of wickedness, and tell them that he knoweth them not:
by these things, I say, it well appeareth that be a man's faith
never so great, yet, if those good works fail him, his faith shall
fail of heaven.
"Then said he yet again that faith can never be without good
works. But and if a man have faith, his faith shall not fail nor
cease to bring forth the fruit of good works, as the tree bringeth
forth his leaves.
"Then was it answered him that he was driven from that point before,
as well by the authority of Saint Paul as of Saint James. And also that
he wist well that faith or belief is not contrary to every sin,
but only to infidelity and lack of belief, so that with other sins
it may stand. Then said he that if men believed surely, he thought
they would not sin. For who would sin, said he, if he believed verily
and surely that sin should bring him to hell? Whereunto it was
answered, whoso believed after your Lutheran faith should never
let to sin, since Lutherans believe that no sin could damn
them but only lack of belief, and that no good work needeth
them, but that they shall be saved howsoever they live, for their
only faith. Whereby it well appeareth that ye Lutherans have but half
a faith. For ye believe God only in his promises, and in his threats
ye believe him not at all. Howbeit, if one believed indeed surely,
as ye would now seem to believe, truth is it that it would let many a
man from sin, but yet not every man. For albeit that many
men there be either the more bold in sin or the more negligent

in good virtues because their faith is very faint and feeble, which
would, if they had a sure and undoubted faith, be in such dread of
God and love also, that it would withdraw them from sin and
set them in the way of virtue; yet many men be there on the
other side, that were their faith never so strong, yet should it not
master the frowardness of their malicious appetites. And this
would happen sometimes, and daily doth, in men not deeply
drowned in malice, nor folk out of the faith neither, which yet
fall into the breach of God's commandment by the subtle suggestion
of the devil, or by the frailty
of their own flesh. Whereof it seemeth
that the holy Apostle was himself so sore afraid for all his faith
that he thrice prayed God to take the temptation
away. I cannot see but that Adam
believed the words of God, and yet he broke his commandment.
And I think that King David fell not
from his faith, though he fell first in
adultery and eft in manslaughter. And some examples have we seen
of them that have sought the revenging of their own malicious
minds by such ways as they saw, when they went about it, their
own undoubted death before their eyes. And therefore it is but a tale to
say that faith draweth always good works
with it, and that ye Lutherans in that
ye say that faith is sufficient alone
without good works should say so because it bringeth always good
works with it. For this were a very vain doctrine, that faith is
alone sufficient to save them that have the use of reason without
good works, if in such as have the use of reason faith be never
without good works.
"After such objections, then fell he to another point, and said
that if our good works and faith be joined, yet might it well
appear by scripture that all the merit was in our faith, and
nothing in man's works. For all the works of man, he said, be
stark naught, as things all spotted with sin. And for that he
laid divers texts of scripture. But especially, as the most
plain proof, the words of the prophet, "Omnis iusticia nostra velut

pannus menstruatae." And since that all our works, he said, be spotted and
sinful and naught, how good soever they seem, it must needs follow
that all the merit cometh of our faith.
"To this was answered him, "Lo, now by this ye have somewhat
opened yourself unaware, and declared your opinion in this matter
to be far other than ye said before. For in the glosses that ye have
used before, ye have always said that ye and all the sect of Luther,
as far as ye knew and thought, believed that faith could not
save us if we had reason without good works. But ye said that
faith was enough alone, because it brought of necessity good works
with it. And yet all the merit and reward due to the faith only,
and not to the good works that it bringeth forth. And now ye say
that there be no good works at all, but all our works be stark
naught. Now if ye think that there be no good works, how can
ye say, as ye said before, that ye think that faith always bringeth
forth good works? Moreover the words of the prophet, though
it be generally spoken, may be well understood to be verified in
far the most part of mankind, though not of all, or of the justice of
man, if it were compared with the sovereign justice of God. Or that
justice of right good men is yet sore spotted with sin, for that the
frailty of our nature seldom constantly standeth any while together
in good works, but that the perseverance is interrupted,
often spotted, and besprent with sin. And therefore is it said,
"Septies in die cadit iustus, et resurget"
(Seven times in the day falleth the righteous
man, and riseth again). It may be also understood of all the
righteousness of a man alone wrought of himself and his pure
natural powers without the aid and help
of special grace. For surely all such
justice of ours as is only ours, is all
spotted, and in effect all one foul spot, for any beauty that it hath
in the glorious eye of God. But surely the holy prophet never meant,
as Luther and his fellows would have seem, that the grace of God is in all
his people so feeble of itself, and of so little force and effect, that
no man may, with the help thereof, be able to do one good virtuous
deed. For Luther saith plainly that no man, though he have the

help of God's grace thereto, is able to keep and observe the
commandments of God. Which blasphemous words seem to
signify that both Saint John the Baptist and our blessed Lady
also were sinners, and over all this, that God were not able by the aid and
help of his grace to make a man keep his commandments and
keep him out of sin, though he would.
"All the old fathers that wrote against Pelagius, which held
opinion that man is of nature, or at the leastwise with the general
influence of grace, able and sufficient to do good and meritorious
works without help of any special grace toward every good
deed itself, misliked and condemned his doctrine, for that it
diminished the necessity of man's recourse unto God, for calling
help of his grace. But ye that hold all men's deeds for utterly naught,
though grace wrought with them, be double and treble more
enemies to grace than they. For where they said we might do good
sometimes without it, ye say we can at no time do no good with it.
And then were grace, by your tale, a very void thing. Was then
all the labor and the pain the apostles took in preaching
all naught and sinful? All the torments that the martyrs suffered in
their passion altogether sin? All the deeds of charity that Christ
shall (as himself saith) reward with everlasting life at the general
judgment, be they sin altogether? Saint Paul reckoned it
otherwise. For he said boldly of himself,
"Bonum certamen certavi, cursum
consummavi, et nunc superest mihi corona iusticiae" (I have labored
and striven a good strife, I have performed my course; now lacketh
me no more for me but the crown of justice).
"Thereunto he answered that Saint Paul would not say that our
deeds were sufficient of themselves, but
that all our sufficiency is of God. Whereunto
it was answered that this was little
to the matter. For no more is our faith sufficient of itself, but
the sufficiency thereof is also of God, in that our Lord with our
endeavor giveth us grace to believe, and in that it liketh our Lord
of his goodness so highly to reward it. For
surely, as it is very true that Saint Paul

saith that "Non sunt condignae passiones huius vitae ad futuram gloriam
quae revelabitur in nobis" (All that ever we can suffer in this
world is not worthy the glory to come that shall be showed in us)
-- for what thing could a silly wretched creature do or suffer for God,
in the brief time of this short life, that might of right require to
be rewarded everlastingly, with such inestimable joy as neither
eye hath seen, nor tongue can express, nor heart can imagine or conceive --
so is it also as true that all the faith we have or can have,
can of its own nature as little or much less deserve heaven as our
other good deeds. For what great thing do we to God, or what
great thing could we ask him of right, because we believe him?
As though he were much beholden unto us in that we vouchsafe
to trust him, as though his worship hung in our hands and his
estimation lost if he were out of credence with us. And therefore
among many foolish words of Luther, as foolish as ever heretic
spoke, he never spoke a more frantic than in that he saith that
God hath need of our faith. For he saith that God hath no need of
our good works, but he hath need of our faith, and hath need
that we should believe him. Truth is it that he needeth neither our
faith nor our works. But since that he hath determined that he
will not save us without both, if we be of discretion to have both,
therefore have we need of both. And yet neither is there the
one nor the other, nor they both together between them, that
be of their own nature worthy the reward of heaven. But as we see
that one ounce of gold, whereof ten pound weight were not of its
own nature toward man worth one ounce of wheat, nor one
hundred pound weight thereof, of the nature self, worth one silly
sheep, is yet among men, by a price appointed and agreed, worth
many whole sheep and many a pound weight of bread -- so hath it
liked the liberal goodness of God to set as well our faith as our deeds,
which were else both twain of their
own nature right little in value, at so
high a price as none is able to buy them
and pay for them but himself, because
we should work them only to him, and have none other paymaster,
nor none other chapman to sell our ware and our work
unto, but only him. Except we would be so mad and towards

him so unkind, that we would sell it to another for less, rather
than to him for more. As some do that had liefer travel far off and
sell for less, than they would for more sell to their neighbors at
home. And as do these foolish hypocrites, which rather than they
would sell their work to God for everlasting joy of heaven, sell it all
to the world for the peevish