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MYLES COVERDALE TO ALL CHRISTIAN
READERS, WISHETH GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE
LORD AND ONLY SAVIOUR
Like as the almighty eternal God, three in persons and one in substance, of his tender mercy and love, not only created man at the beginning after his own similitude and likeness, but also, when he was lost, most graciously redeemed him and brought him out of bondage; even so, when man, neither regarding his wonderful creation nor his most dear redemption, The accustogropeth in darkness, in vice, and blindness, lieth in the devil's ness'ol Ciod. prison, and goeth in the way of damnation, God alway setteth up his light before him, sendeth the message of his word unto him, sheweth him what case he is in, giveth him warning, openeth the prison door, calleth him out of the devil's service, telleth him what danger it is to be his bondman or servant unto sin : this doth God alway, afore he punish and plague the world. This, I say, hath been the property of God since the beginning, as the stories and prophecies of all the holy bible do testify. And though we had no writing of God's acts in times past, yet hath he practised this same his wonderful work of mercy upon us.
So that like as we must needs confess, that we are created of God and redeemed by his only mercy in his dear Son Jesus Christ; so can we not God hath deny, but we have heard his holy message, had no less les kindnesse preachings and warnings of dangers to come, than other have world. had afore our days: yet even the same merciful God, that sent Noe to preach righteous unto the wicked world, and converted the Ninevites by his word in the ministration of
did to the old
follow God's word are laughed to scorn.
the prophet Jonas, hath done even so with us in every condition. And some (thanks be unto him therefore !) hath he brought out of darkness into his wonderful light, and out of the devil's service into the kingdom of his dear Son.
But alas and woe to this unthankful world ! For like as a great number that be in prison of Satan will not come forth, when they are called and the door set open, but go on still stumbling in darkness, when the lantern of light is offered
them; even so, if any play a wise man's part, and do as he is They that warned by God's word, he shall have a sort of apish' people,
a number of dizzards? and scornful mockers, which, because the man will not dance in the devil's morrice with them?, nor
keep their company in the bondage of sin and vice, neither (1 Pet. Iv. 4.) run with them unto like confusion, as St Peter calleth it, laugh
him to scorn, and blear out their tongues at him, even like fools and coxcombs of the world. And like as when a poor wretch cometh out of prison, he shall have more to stand gazing and gaping upon him, than to do him good, or to help him to his fees; even so now that God of his mercy hath called us out of Satan's prison, and from the school of false doctrine, my lord's fool with his companions standeth staring upon us, and mocketh us, because we sit not still with other prisoners. There goeth a fellow of the new learning, saith one; there is one of these new-fangled gospellers, saith another; that is one of the new brethren, saith the third; he followeth the new faith, &c.
Wherefore, in consideration hereof, I have here set forth The doctrine this book : partly, because it sheweth the antiquity and annew thing.
cient age of our holy Christian faith, and partly, to give occasion unto all such as have received it, not to be ashamed of it,
[? Apish: trifling. Todd.]
[3 The Morrice or Moorish dance is said to have been first brought into England in Edward the Third's time. The word is found in Milton, Comus, 116.]
are saved it is the power of
nor to shrink from it for any opprobrious mockage or scornful derision in this world. The apostle saith, that the preaching or word of “ Christ's cross is foolishness to them that 1 Cor. i. perish,” and that “the thing which appertaineth to the Spirit 1 Cor. ii. of God is foolishness to a carnally minded man.” Whereby, like as we may learn, that it is no new thing to be mocked and stared upon for holding with the doctrine that maketh so much of Christ's death and the true worshipping of God in the Spirit; even so may we see, to the singular comfort of our conscience, that no man mocketh us for it, but such as perish and are carnally minded; and that, for all their derision and scorning, it is yet the power of God, (1 Cor. i.), and be- To us which longeth to his holy Spirit, (1 Cor. ii.), and is not our own God? doctrine, neither of any other man's making. This is now to us a comfort and consolation.
But because the world is angry with us for our faith, and giveth us so evil report for teaching it, it shall be expedient for us to declare, what faith is, and what faith we mean, when we make mention thereof. First, because we may not describe it after our own judgment, we will rehearse the words of the apostle, which, writing to the Hebrews, saith after this manner : “ Faith is a substance of things to be What faith is. hoped for, an evidence, or certainty, of things which do not appear.” By the which distinction it is manifest, that when we set forth or teach this faith, we mean no vain faith, no false opinion of faith, no fond imagination of faith, no dead faith, no idle faith; but a substantial thing, even a sure belief of things that are to be hoped for, and a proof, experience, or knowledge of things that are not seen. This faith then is the instrument, whereby we feel and are certain of heavenly things, that our corporal eye cannot see.
Now, because none other virtue can so apprehend the mercy of God, nor certify us so effectually of our salvation, as this living faith doth; therefore hath the scripture imputed our justification before God only unto faith, among all other
1 Pet. i.
1 Cor. x.
virtues; not without other virtues following, but without any other work or deed justifying.
This is the faith of Christ, which all the scripture speakAd Romanos. eth of. This is the faith, that St Paul preacheth to justify in
the sight of God; as St James teacheth, that works justify in the sight of men, and that it is but a dead faith, which
hath no works. This is the faith, without the which it is Rom. xiv. impossible to please God,” and of the which “ whatsoever
proceedeth not is sin.” This is the faith, whereby God "purifieth our hearts,” and whose end is salvation. This is the "faith, that worketh by charity” or godly love, and is of value before God. This is the faith, whereby the holy fathers, which were afore Christ's incarnation, did in spirit eat and drink, and enjoy the same mercy of God in Christ that we are partakers of.
To be short: this is the same faith, whereby God saved those his elect, of whom St Paul maketh mention in the foresaid epistle to the Hebrews, and rehearseth many godly fruits of the same in their conversation.
This then is no new-fangled faith, no strange faith, no faith invented by man's brain ; but even the same that God's holy Spirit teacheth in the infallible truth of his scripture, and that Adam, Abel, Enoch, and all the other servants of God were saved in. Why do men therefore either call it a newfangled faith, or report evil of us for setting it forth? Why? I fear me, this is one cause: The old faith, that all those servants of God had, whom the apostle nameth in the eleventh chapter to the Hebrews, had a life and conversation joined unto it, which was rich and full of all good works. Therefore seeing there be so many babblers and prattlers of faith, and so few that bring forth the worthy fruits of penance, it giveth to the world occasion to report of us, that our faith is but new-fangled. They see
not fall to labour and taking of pains, as Adam did ; they see not the righteousness and thankfulness in us, that was in Abel; they see us not walk after the word and will of God, as Enoch did ; they see us not take God's warning so earnestly, as Noe did; they see us not so obedient to the voice of God, nor so well willing and content to leave our friends, to forsake our own wills, our own lands and goods, at God's calling, and dwell in a strange country, to do God's pleasure, as Abraham did; they see that we choose not rather to suffer adversity with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season ; they see us not esteem the rebuke of Christ, or trouble for his sake, to be greater riches than all the treasures of this world, as Moses did. To be short, they see not in our garden those sweet flowers and fruits of God's holy Spirit, which were in them that had the old faith.
Ashamed may we be therefore, as many of us as either write, teach, preach, speak, or talk of the old faith, if we endeavour not ourselves to have those old heavenly virtues, that were ever plentiful in all God's true servants; in every one, I mean, according to his calling. Not that it is evil to teach or talk of the true old faith; but this I say, because that, according to the doctrine of St James, they are but deceivers James i. of themselves, that are not doers of God's word, as well as hearers thereof. And through such slender receiving of Christ's holy gospel it is now come to pass, that like as we have need of such an apostle as was holy St Paul, to rebuke this vain confidence that men put in their works, and to tell us that no work of our doing, but faith of God's working, doth justify us in his sight; even so have we no less need of such another apostle, as was holy St James, to rebuke this would to horrible unthankfulness of men, that, professing themselves to manay sa che be Christian and to hold of Christ's old faith, are yet dead Apostle was ! unto all good works, receive not the word of God in meekness, cast not away all uncleanness and maliciousness, are swift to speak, to talk, to jangle, and to take displeasure, are forgetful hearers of the word, and not livers thereafter; boasting themselves to be of God's pure and undefiled religion,
God we had