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The Fifth Sermon upon the Lord’s Prayer.
Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie. — Matt. vi. 11.
Give us this day our daily bread.
This is a very good prayer, if a body should say no more at one time, but that; for as we see our need, so we shall pray. When we see God’s name to be dishonoured, blasphemed and ill spoken of then a man, a faithful man, should say, “Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” When we see the devil reign, and all the world follow his kingdom, then we may say, “Our Father, which art in heaven, thy kingdom come.” When we see that the world followeth her own desires and lusts, and not God’s will and his commandments, and it grieveth us to see this, we be sorry for it; we shall make our moan unto God for it, saying, “Our Father, which art in heaven, Fiat voluntas tua, Thy will be done.” When we lack necessaries for the maintenance of this life, every thing is dear, then we may say, “Our Father, which art in heaven, give us this day our daily bread.” Therefore as we see cause, so we should pray. And it is better to say one of these short prayers with a good faith, than the whole psalter without faith.
By this now that I have said, you may perceive that the common opinion and estimation which the people have had of this prayer (the Lord’s prayer, I say) is far from that that it is indeed. For it was esteemed for nothing: for when we be disposed to despise a man, and call him an ignorant fool, we say, “He cannot say his Pater-noster;” and so we made it a light matter, as though every man knew it. But I tell you, it is a great matter; it containeth weighty things, if it be weighed to the very bottom, as a learned man could do. But as for me, that that I have learned out of the holy scripture and learned men’s books, which expound the same, I will shew unto you: but I intend to be short. I have been very long before in the other petitions, which something expound those that follow: therefore I will not tarry so long in them as I have done in the other.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” Every word is to be considered, for they have their importance. This word “bread” signifieth all manner of sustenance for the preservation of this life; all things whereby man should live are contained in this word “bread.” You must remember what I said by that petition, “Hallowed be thy name.” There we pray unto God that he will give us grace to live so that we may, with all our conversations and doings, hallow and sanctify him, according as his word telleth us. Now forasmuch as the preaching of God’s word is most necessary to bring us into this hallowing, we pray in the same petition for the office of preaching. For the sanctifying of the name of God cannot be, except the office of preaching be maintained, and his word be preached and known: therefore in the same petition, when I say, Sanctificetur, “Hallowed be thy name,” I pray that his word may be spread abroad and known, through which cometh sanctifying. So likewise in this petition, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we pray for all those things which be necessary and requisite to the sustenance of our souls and bodies. Now the first and principal thing that we have need of in this life is the magistrates: without a magistrate we should never live well and quietly. Then it is necessary and most needful to pray unto God for them, that the people may have rest, and apply their business, every man in his calling; the husbandman in tilling and ploughing, the artificer in his business. For you must ever consider, that where war is, there be all discommodities; no man can do his duty according unto his calling, as appeareth now in Germany, the Emperor and the French king being at controversy. I warrant you, there is little rest or quietness. Therefore in this petition we pray unto God for our magistrates, that they may rule and govern this realm well and godly; and keep us from invasions of alienates and strangers; and to execute justice, and punish malefactors: and this is so requisite, that we cannot live without it. Therefore when we say, “Give us this day our daily bread”; we pray for the king, his counsellors, and all his officers. But not every man that saith these words understandeth so much; for it is obscurely included, so that none perceive it but those which earnestly and diligently consider the same. But St Paul he expresseth it with more words plainly, saying, “I exhort you to make supplications and prayers for all men, but specially pro regibus et qui in sublimitate constituti sunt, for the kings, and for those which be aloft.” Whereto? Ut placidam et quietam vitam agamus, “That we may live godly and quietly, in all honesty and godliness.” And when I pray for them, I pray for myself: for I pray for them that they may rule so, that I and all men may live quietly and at rest. And to this end we desire a quiet life, that we may the better serve God, hear his word, and live after it. For in the rebels’ time, I pray you, what godliness was shewed amongst them? They went so far, as it was told, that they defiled other men’s wives: what godliness was this? In what estate, think you, were those faithful subjects which at the same time were amongst them? They had sorrow enough, I warrant you. So it appeareth, that where war is, there is right godliness banished and gone. Therefore to pray for a quiet life, that is as much as to pray for a godly life, that we may serve God in our calling, and get our livings uprightly. So it appeareth, that praying for magistrates is as much as to pray for ourselves.
They that be children, and live under the rule of their parents, or have tutors, they pray in this petition for their parents and tutors; for they be necessary for their bringing up: and God will accept their prayer, as well as theirs which be of age. For God hath no respect of persons; he is as ready to hear the youngest as the oldest: therefore let them be brought up in godliness, let them know God. Let parents and tutors do their duties to bring them up so, that as soon as their age serveth, they may taste and savour God; let them fear God in the beginning, and so they shall do also when they be old. Because I speak here of orphans, I shall exhort you to be pitiful unto them; for it is a thing that pleaseth God, as St James witnesseth, saying, Religio pura, &c., “Pure religion.”
It is a common speech amongst the people, and much used, that they say, “All religious houses are pulled down”: which is a very peevish saying, and not true, for they are not pulled down. That man and that woman that live together godly and quietly, doing the works of their vocation, and fear God, hear his word and keep it; that same is a religious house, that is, that house that pleaseth God. For religion, pure religion, I say, standeth not in wearing of a monk’s cowl, but in righteousness, justice, and well-doing, and, as St James saith, in visiting the orphans, and widows that lack their husbands, orphans, that lack their parents, to help them when they be poor, to speak for them when they be oppressed: herein standeth true religion, God’s religion, I say: the other which was used was an unreligious life, yea, rather an hypocrisy. There is a text in scripture, I never read it but I remember these religious houses: Estque recta homini via, cujus tamen postremum iter est ad mortem; “There is a way, which way seemeth to men to be good, whose end is eternal perdition.” When the end is naught, all is naught. So were these monks’ houses, these religious houses. There were many people, specially widows, which would give over house-keeping, and go to such houses, when they might have done much good in maintaining of servants, and relieving of poor people; but they went their ways. What a madness was that! Again, how much cause we have to thank God, that we know what is true religion; that God hath revealed unto us the deceitfulness of those monks, which had a goodly shew before the world of great holiness, but they were naught within. Therefore scripture saith, Quod excelsum est hominibus, abominabile est coram Deo; “That which is highly esteemed before men is abominable before God.” Therefore that man and woman that live in the fear of God are much better than their houses were.
I read once a story of a holy man, (some say it was St Anthony,) which had been a long season in the wilderness, neither eating nor drinking any thing but bread and water: at the length he thought himself so holy, that there should be nobody like unto him. Therefore he desired of God to know who should be his fellow in heaven. God made him answer, and commanded him to go to Alexandria; there he should find a cobler which should be his fellow in heaven. Now he went thither and sought him out, and fell in acquaintance with him, and tarried with him three or four days to see his conversation. In the morning his wife and he prayed together; then they went to their business, he in his shop, and she about her housewifery. At dinner time they had bread and cheese, wherewith they were well content, and took it thankfully. Their children were well taught to fear God, and to say their Pater-noster, and the Creed, and the Ten Commandments; and so he spent his time in doing his duty truly. I warrant you, he did not so many false stitches as coblers do nowadays. St Anthony perceiving that, came to knowledge of himself, and laid away all pride and presumption. By this ensample you may learn, that honest conversation and godly living is much regarded before God; insomuch that this poor cobler, doing his duty diligently, was made St Anthony’s fellow. So it appeareth that we be not destituted of religious houses: those which apply their business uprightly and hear God’s word, they shall be St Anthony’s fellows; that is to say, they shall be numbered amongst the children of God.
Further, in this petition the man and wife pray one for the other. For one is a help unto the other, and so necessary the one to the other: therefore they pray one for the other, that God will spare them their lives, to live together quietly and godly, according to his ordinance and institution; and this is good and needful. As for such as be not married, you shall know that I do not so much praise marriage, that I should think that single life is naught; as I have heard some which will scant allow single life. They think in their hearts that all those which be not married be naught: therefore they have a common saying amongst them, “What!” say they, “they be made of such metal as we be made of”; thinking them to be naught in their living; which suspicions are damnable afore God: for we know not what gifts God hath given unto them; therefore we cannot with good conscience condemn them or judge them. Truth it is, “marriage is good and honourable amongst all men,” as St Paul witnesseth; Et adulteros et fornicatores judicabit Dominus, “And the Lord shall and will judge,” that is, condemn, “adulterers and whoremongers”; but not those which live in single life. When thou livest in lechery, or art a whore, or whoremonger, then thou shalt be damned: but when thou livest godly and honestly in single life, it is well and allowable afore God; yea, and better than marriage: for St Paul saith, Volo vos absque solicitudine esse, “I will have you to be without carefulness,” that is, unmarried; and sheweth the commodities, saying, “they that be unmarried set their minds upon God, how to please him, and to live after his commandments. But as for the other, the man is careful how to please his wife; and again, the woman how to please her husband.” And this is St Paul’s saying of the one as well as of the other. Therefore I will wish you not to condemn single life, but take one with the other; like as St Paul teacheth us, not so extol the one, that we should condemn the other. For St Paul praiseth as well single life, as marriage; yea, and more too. For those that be single have more liberties to pray and to serve God than the other: for they that be married have much trouble and afflictions in their bodies. This I speak, because I hear that some there be which condemn single life. I would have them to know that matrimony is good, godly, and allowable unto all men: yet for all that, the single life ought not to be despised or condemned, seeing that scripture alloweth it; yea, and he affirmeth that it is better than matrimony, if it be clean without sin and offence.
Further, we pray here in this petition for good servants, that God will send unto us good, faithful, and trusty servants; for they are necessary for this bodily life, that our business may be done: and those which live in single life have more need of good trusty servants than those which are married. Those which are married can better oversee their servants. For when the man is from home, at the least the wife overseeth them, and keepeth them in good order. For I tell you, servants must be overseen and looked to: if they be not overseen, what be they? It is a great gift of God to have a good servant: for the most part of servants are but eye-servants; when their master is gone, they leave off from their labour, and play the sluggards: but such servants do contrary to God’s commandment, and shall be damned in hell for their slothfulness, except they repent. Therefore, I say, those that be unmarried have more need of good servants than those which be married; for one of them at the least may always oversee the family. For, as I told you before, the most part of servants be eye-servants; they be nothing when they be not overseen.
There was once a fellow asked a philosopher a question, saying, Quomodo saginatur equus? “How is a horse made fat?” The philosopher made answer, saying, Oculo domini, “With his master’s eye.” Not meaning that the horse should be fed with his master’s eye, but that the master should oversee the horse, and take heed to the horse-keeper, that the horse might be well fed. For when a man rideth by the way, and cometh to his inn, and giveth unto the hostler his horse to walk, and so he himself sitteth at the table and maketh good cheer, and forgetteth his horse; the hostler cometh and saith, “Sir, how much bread shall I give unto your horse?” He saith, “Give him two-penny worth.” I warrant you, this horse shall never be fat. Therefore a man should not say to the hostler, “Go, give him”; but he should see himself that the horse have it. In like manner, those that have servants must not only command them what they shall do, but they must see that it be done: they must be present, or else it shall never be done. One other man asked that same philosopher this question, saying, “What dung is it that maketh a man’s land most fruitful in bringing forth much corn?” “Marry,” said he, Vestigia domini, “The owner’s footsteps.” Not meaning that the master should come and walk up and down, and tread the ground; but he would have him to come and oversee the servants tilling of the ground, commanding them to do it diligently, and so to look himself upon their work: this shall be the best dung, saith the philosopher. Therefore never trust servants, except you may be assured of their diligence; for I tell you truly, I can come nowhere but I hear masters complaining of their servants. I think verily, they fear not God, they consider not their duties. Well, I will burthen them with this one text of scripture, and then go forward in my matters. The prophet Jeremy saith, Maledictus gui facit opus Domini negligenter. Another translation hath fraudulenter, but is one in effect: “Cursed be he that doth the work of the Lord negligently or fraudulently,” take which you will. It is no light matter, that God pronounceth them to be cursed. But what is “cursed”? What is it? “Cursed” is as much to say as, “It shall not go well with them; they shall have no luck; my face shall be against them.” Is not this a great thing? Truly, consider it as you list, but it is no light matter to be cursed of God, which ruleth heaven and earth. And though the prophet speaketh these words of warriors going to war, yet it may be spoken of all servants, yea, of all estates, but specially of servants; for St Paul saith, Domino Christo servitis: “You servants,” saith he, “you serve the Lord Christ, it is his work.” Then, when it is the Lord’s work, take heed how you do it; for cursed is he that doth it negligently. But where is such a servant as Jacob was to Laban? How painful was he! How careful for his master’s profit. Insomuch that when somewhat perished, he restored it again of his own. And where is such a servant as Eleazer was to Abraham his master? What a journey had he! How careful he was, and when he came to his journey’s end, he would neither eat nor drink afore he had done his master’s message; so that all his mind was given only to serve his master, and to do according to his commandments: insomuch that he would neither eat nor drink till he had done according to his master’s will! Much like to our Saviour’s saying, Cibus meus est ut faciam voluntatem ejus, qui misit me; “This is my meat, to do the will of him that sent me.” I pray you servants, mark this Eleazer well; consider all the circumstances of his diligent and faithful service, and follow it: else if you follow it not you read it to your own condemnation. Likewise consider the true service which Joseph, that young man, did unto his master Potiphar, lieutenant of the Tower; how faithfully he served, without any guile or fraud: therefore God promoted him so, that he was made afterwards the ruler over all Egypt. Likewise consider how faithful Daniel was in serving king Darius. Alack, that you servants be stubborn-hearted, and will not consider this! You will not remember that your service is the work of the Lord; you will not consider that the curse of God hangeth upon your heads for your slothfulness and negligence. Take heed, therefore, and look to your duties.
Now, further: whosoever prayeth this prayer with a good faithful heart, as he ought to do, he prayeth for all ploughmen and husbandmen, that God will prosper and increase their labour; for except he give the increase, all their labour and travail is lost. Therefore it is needful to pray for them, that God may send his benediction by their labour; for without corn and such manner of sustenance we cannot live. And in that prayer we include all artificers; for by their labours God giveth us many commodities which we could not lack. We pray also for wholesome air. Item, we pray for seasonable weather. When we have too much rain, we pray for fair weather: again, when we lack rain, we pray that God will send rain. And in that prayer we pray for our cattle, that God will preserve them to our use from all diseases: for without cattle we cannot live; we cannot till the ground, nor have meat: therefore we include them in our prayer too.
So you see that this prayer containeth innumerable things. For we pray for all such things as be expedient and needful for the preservation of this life. And not alone this, but we have here good doctrine and admonitions besides. For here we be admonished of the liberality of God our heavenly Father, which he sheweth daily over us. For our Saviour, knowing the liberality of God our heavenly Father, commandeth us to pray. If he would not give us the things we ask, Christ would not have commanded us to pray. If he had borne an ill will against us, Christ would not have sent us to him. But our Saviour, knowing his liberal heart towards us, commandeth us to pray, and desire all things at his hands.
And here we be admonished of our estate and condition, what we be, namely, beggars. For we ask bread: of whom? Marry, of God. What are we then? Marry, beggars: the greatest lords and ladies in England are but beggars afore God. Seeing then that we all are but beggars, why should we then disdain and despise poor men? Let us therefore consider that we be but beggars; let us pull down our stomachs. For if we consider the matter well, we are like as they be afore God: for St Paul saith, Quid habes quod non accepisti? “What hast thou that thou hast not received of God?” Thou art but a beggar, whatsoever thou art: and though there be some very rich, and have great abundance, of whom have they it? Of God. What saith he, that rich man? He saith, “Our Father, which art in heaven, give us this day our daily bread”: then he is a beggar afore God as well as the poorest man. Further, how continueth the rich man in his riches? Who made him rich? Marry, God. For it is written, Benedictio Dei facit divitem; “The blessing of God maketh rich.” Except God bless, it standeth to no effect: for it is written, Comedent et non saturabuntur; “They shall eat, but yet never be satisfied.” Eat as much as you will, except God feed you, you shall never be full. So likewise, as rich as a man is, yet he cannot augment his riches, nor keep that he hath, except God be with him, except he bless him. Therefore let us not be proud, for we be beggars the best of us.
Note here, that out Saviour bíddeth us to say, “us”. This “us” lappeth in all other men with my prayer; for every one of us prayeth for another. When I say, “Give us this day our daily bread,” I pray not for myself only, if I ask as he biddeth me; but I pray for all others. Wherefore say I not, “Our Father, give me this day my daily bread?” For because God is not my God alone, he is a common God. And here we be admonished to be friendly, loving, and charitable one to another: for what God giveth, I cannot say, “This is my own”; but I must say, “This is ours.” For the rich man cannot say, “This is mine alone, God hath given it unto me for my own use.” Nor yet hath the poor man any title unto it, to take it away from him. No, the poor man may not do so; for when he doth so, he is a thief afore God and man. But yet the poor man hath title to the rich man’s goods; so that the rich man ought to let the poor man have part of his riches to help and to comfort him withal. Therefore when God sendeth unto me much, it is not mine, but ours; it is not given unto me alone, but I must help my poor neighbours withal.
But here I must ask you rich men a question. How chanceth it you have your riches? “We have them of God,” you will say. But by what means have you them? “By prayer,” you will say. “We pray for them unto God, and he giveth us the same.” Very well. But I pray you tell me, what do other men which are not rich? Pray they not as well as you do? “Yes,” you must say; for you cannot deny it. Then it appeareth that you have your riches not through your own prayers only, but other men help you to pray for them: for they say as well, “Our Father, give us this day our daily bread,” as you do; and peradventure they be better than you be, and God heareth their prayer sooner than yours. And so it appeareth most manifestly, that you obtain your riches of God, not only through your own prayer, but through other men’s too: other men help you to get them at God’s hand. Then it followeth, that seeing you get not your riches alone through your own prayer, but through the poor man’s prayer, it is meet that the poor man should have part of them; and you ought to relieve his necessity and poverty. But what meaneth God by this inequality, that he giveth to some an hundred pound; unto this man five thousand pound; unto this man in a manner nothing at all? What meaneth he by this inequality? Here he meaneth, that the rich ought to distribute his riches abroad amongst the poor: for the rich man is but God’s officer, God’s treasurer: he ought to distribute them according unto his Lord God’s commandment. If every man were rich, then no man would do any thing. Therefore God maketh some rich and some poor. Again; that the rich may have where to exercise his charity, God made some rich and some poor: the poor he sendeth unto the rich to desire of him in God’s name help and aid. Therefore, you rich men, when there cometh a poor man unto you, desiring your help, think none otherwise but that God hath sent him unto you; and remember that thy riches be not thy own, but thou art but a steward over them. If thou wilt not do it, then cometh in St John, which saith: “He that hath the substance of this world, and seeth his brother lack, and helpeth him not, how remaineth the love of God in him?” He speaketh not of them that have it not, but of them that have it: that same man loveth not God, if he help not his neighbour, having wherewith to do it. This is a sore and hard word. There be many which say with their mouth, they love God: and if a man should ask here this multitude, whether they love God or no; they would say, “Yes, God forbid else!” But if you consider their unmercifulness unto the poor, you shall see, as St John said, “the love of God is not within them.” Therefore, you rich men, ever consider of whom you have your riches: be it a thousand pound, yet you fetch it out of this petition. For this petition, “Give us this day our daily bread,” is God’s store-house, God’s treasure-house: here lieth all his provision, and here you fetch it. But ever have in remembrance that this is a common prayer: a poor man prayeth as well as thou, and peradventure God sendeth this riches unto thee for another man’s prayers’ sake, which prayeth for thee, whose prayer is more effectual than thine own. And therefore you ought to be thankful unto other men, which pray for you unto God, and help you to obtain your riches. Again, this petition is a remedy against this wicked carefulness of men, when they seek how to live, and how to get their livings, in such wise, like as if there were no God at all. And then there be some which will not labour as God hath appointed unto them; but rather give them to falsehood; to sell false ware, and deceive their neighbours; or to steal other men’s sheep or conies: those fellows are far wide. Let them come to God’s treasure-house, that is to say, let them come to God and call upon him with a good faith, saying, “Our Father, give us this day our daily bread; “truly God will hear them. For this is the only remedy that we have here on earth, to come to his treasure-house, and fetch there such things as we lack. Consider this word “daily”. God promiseth us to feed us daily. If ye believe this, why use you then falsehood and deceit? Therefore, good people, leave your falsehood; get you rather to this treasure-house; then you may be sure of a living for God hath determined that all that come unto him, desiring his help, they shall be holpen; God will not forget them. But our unbelief is so great, we will not come unto him: we will rather go about to get our living with falsehood, than desire the same of him.
O what falsehood is used in England, yea, in the whole world! It were no marvel if the fire from heaven fell upon us, like as it did upon the Sodomites, only for our falsehood’s sake! I will tell you of a false practice that was practised in my country where I dwell. But I will not tell it you to teach you to do the same, but rather to abhor it for those which use such deceitfulness shall be damned world without end, except they repent. I have known some that had a barren cow: they would fain have had a great deal of money for her; therefore they go and take a calf of another cow, and put it to this barren cow, and so come to the market, pretending that this cow hath brought that calf; and so they sell their barren cow six or eight shillings dearer than they should have done else. The man which bought the cow cometh home: peradventure he hath a many of children, and hath no more cattle but this cow, and thinketh he shall have some milk for his children; but when all things cometh to pass, this is a barren cow, and so this poor man is deceived. The other fellow, which sold the cow, thinketh himself a jolly fellow and a wise merchant; and he is called one that can make shift for himself. But I tell thee, whosoever thou art, do so if thou lust, thou shalt do it of this price, — thou shalt go to the devil, and there be hanged on the fiery gallows world without end: and thou art as very a thief as when thou takest a man’s purse from him going by the way, and thou sinnest as well against this commandment, Non facies furtum, “Thou shalt do no theft.” But these fellows commonly, which use such deceitfulness and guiles, can speak so finely, that a man would think butter should scant melt in their mouths.
I tell you one other falsehood. I know that some husbandmen go to the market with a quarter of corn: now they would fain sell dear the worst as well as the best; therefore they use this policy: they go and put a strike [a bushel.] of fine malt or corn in the bottom of the sack, then they put two strikes of the worst they had; then a good strike aloft in the sack’s mouth, and so they come to the market. Now there cometh a buyer, asking, “Sir, is this good malt?” “I warrant you,” saith he, “there is no better in this town.” And so he selleth all his malt or corn for the best, when there be but two strikes of the best in his sack. The man that buyeth it thinketh he hath good malt, he cometh home: when he putteth the malt out of the sack, the strike which was in the bottom covereth the ill malt which was in the midst; and so the good man shall never perceive the fraud, till he cometh to the occupying of the corn. The other man that sold it taketh this for a policy: but it is theft afore God, and he is bound to make restitution of so much as those two strikes which were naught were sold too dear; so much he ought to restore, or else he shall never come to heaven, if God be true in his word.
I could tell you of one other falsehood, how they make wool to weigh much: but I will not tell it you. If you learn to do those falsehoods whereof I have told you now, then take the sauce with it, namely, that you shall never see the bliss of heaven, but be damned world without end, with the devil and all his angels. Now go when it please you, use falsehood. But I pray you, wherefore will you deceive your neighbour, whom you ought to love as well as your own self? Consider the matter, good people, what a dangerous thing it is to fall into the hands of the ever-living God. Leave falsehood: abhor it. Be true and faithful in your calling. Quaerite regnum Dei, et justitiam ejus, et cetera omnia adjicientur vobis: “Seek the kingdom of God, and the righteousness thereof, then all things necessary for you shall come unto you unlooked for.”
Therefore in this petition, note first God’s goodness, how gentle he is towards us; insomuch that he would have us to come unto him and take of him all things. Then again, note what we be, namely, beggars, for we beg of him; which admonisheth us to leave stoutness and proudness, and to be humble. Note what is, “our”; namely, that one prayeth for another, and that this storehouse is common unto all men. Note again, what we be when we be false; — the children of the devil, and enemies unto God.
There be some men which would have this petition not to import or contain these bodily things, as things which be too vile to be desired at God’s hand; therefore they expound it altogether spiritually, of things pertaining unto the soul only: which opinion, truly, I do not greatly like. For shall I trust God for my soul, and shall I not trust him for my body? Therefore I take it, that all things necessary to soul and body are contained in this petition: and we ought to seek all things necessary to our bodily food only in this storehouse.
But you must not take my sayings after such sort, as though you should do nothing but sit and pray; and yet you should have your dinner and supper made ready for you. No, not so: but you must labour, you must do the work of your vocation. Quaerite regnum Dei, “Seek the kingdom of heaven”: you must set those two things together, works and prayer. He that is true in his vocation, doing according as God willeth him to do, and then prayeth unto God, that man or woman may be assured of their living; as sure, I say, as God is God. As for the wicked, indeed God of his exceeding mercy and liberality findeth them; and sometimes they fare better than the good man doth: but for all that the wicked man hath ever an ill conscience; he doth wrong unto God; he is an usurper, he hath no right unto it. The good and godly man he hath right unto it; for he cometh by it lawfully, by his prayer and travail. But these covetous men, think ye, say they this prayer with a faithful heart, “Our Father, which art in heaven; Give us this day our daily bread?” Think ye they say it from the bottom of their hearts? No, no; they do but mock God, they laugh him to scorn, when they say these words. For they have their bread, their silver and gold in their coffers, in their chests, in their bags or budgets; therefore they have no savour of God: else they would shew themselves liberal unto their poor neighbours; they would open their chests and bags, and lay out and help their brethren in Christ. They be as yet but scorners: they say this prayer like as the Turk might say it.
Consider this word, “Give.” Certainly, we must labour, yet we must not so magnify our labour as though we gat our living by it. For labour as long as thou wilt, thou shalt have no profit by it, except the Lord increase thy labour. Therefore we must thank him for it; he doth it; he giveth it. To whom? Laboranti et poscenti, “Unto him that laboureth and prayeth.” That man that is so disposed shall not lack, as he saith, Dabit Spiritum Sanctum poscentibus illum; “He will give the Holy Ghost unto them that desire the same.” Then, we must ask; for he giveth not to sluggards. Indeed, they have his benefits; they live wealthily: but, as I told you afore, they have it with an ill conscience, not lawfully. Therefore Christ saith, Solem suum oriri sinit super justos et injustos; “He suffers his sun to rise upon the just and unjust.” Also, Nemo scit an odio vel amore sit dignus; “We cannot tell outwardly by these worldly things, which be in the favour of God, and which be not”; for they be common unto good and bad: but the wicked have it not with a good conscience; the upright, good man hath his living through his labour and faithful prayer. Beware that you trust not in your labour, as though ye got your living by it: for, as St Paul saith, Qui plantat nihil est, negue gui rigat, sed gui dat incrementum Deus; “Neither he that planteth is aught, nor he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase.” Except God give the increase, all our labour is lost. They that be the children of this world, as covetous persons, extortioners, oppressors, caterpillars, usurers, think you they come to God’s storehouse? No, no, they do not; they have not the understanding of it; they cannot tell what it meaneth. For they look not to get their livings at God’s storehouse, but rather they think to get it with deceit and falsehood, with oppression, and wrong doings. For they think that all things be lawful unto them; therefore they think that though they take other men’s goods through subtilty and crafts, it is no sin. But I tell you, those things which we buy, or get with our labour, or are given us by inheritance, or otherways, those things be ours by the law; which maketh meum and tuum, mine and thine. Now all things gotten otherwise are not ours; as those things which be gotten by crafty conveyances, by guile and fraud, by robbery and stealing, by extortion and oppression, by hand-making, or howsoever you come by it beside the right way, it is not yours; insomuch that you may not give it for God’s sake, for God hateth it.
But you will say, “What shall we do with the good gotten by unlawful means?” Marry, I tell thee: make restitution; which is the only way that pleaseth God. O Lord, what bribery, falsehood, deceiving, false getting of goods is in England! And yet for all that, we hear nothing of restitution; which is a miserable thing. I tell you, none of them which have taken their neighbour’s goods from him by any manner of falsehood, none of them, I say, shall be saved, except they make restitution, either in affect or effect; in effect, when they be able; in affect when they be not able in no wise. Ezekiel saith, Si impius egerit poenitentiam, et rapinam reddiderit; “When the ungodly doth repent, and restoreth the goods gotten wrongfully and unlawfully.” For unlawful goods ought to be restored again: without restitution look not for salvation. Also, this is a true sentence used of St Augustine, Non remittetur peccatum, nisi restituatur ablatum; “Robbery, falsehood, or otherwise ill-gotten goods, cannot be forgiven of God, except it be restored again.” Zacheus, that good publican, that common officer, he gave a good ensample unto all bribers and extortioners. I would they all would follow his ensample! He exercised not open robbery; he killed no man by the way; but with crafts and subtilties he deceived the poor. When the poor men came to him, he bade them to come again another day; and so delayed the time, till at the length he wearied poor men, and so gat somewhat of them. Such fellows are now, in our time, very good cheap; but they will not learn the second lesson.
They have read the first lesson, how Zachee was a bribe-taker; but they will not read the second: they say A, but they will not say B. What is the second lesson Si quem defraudavi, reddam quadruplum; “If I have deceived any man, I will restore it fourfold.” But we may argue that they be not such fellows as Zacheus was, for we hear nothing of restitution; they lack right repentance.
It is a wonderful thing to see, that christian people will live in such an estate, wherein they know themselves to be damned: for when they go to bed, they go in the name of the devil. Finally, whatsoever they do, they do it in his name, because they be out of the favour of God. God loveth them not; therefore, I say, it is to be lamented that we hear nothing of restitution. St Paul saith, Qui furabantur non amplius furetur; “He that stale, let him steal no more.” Which words teach us, that he which hath stolen or deceived, and keepeth it, he is a strong thief so long till he restore again the thing taken; and shall look for no remission of his sins at God’s hand, till he hath restored again such goods. There be some which say, “Repentance or contrition will serve; it is enough when I am sorry for it.” Those fellows cannot tell what repentance meaneth. Look upon Zacheus: he did. repent, but restitution by and by followed. So let us do too; let us live uprightly and godly; and when we have done amiss, or deceived any body, let us make restitution. And after, beware of such sins, of such deceitfulness; but rather let us call upon God, and resort to his storehouse, and labour faithfully and truly for our livings. Whosoever is so disposed, him God will favour, and he shall lack nothing: as for the other impenitent sluggards, they be devourers and usurpers of God’s gifts, and therefore shall be punished, world without end, in everlasting fire.
Remember this word “our”: what it meaneth I told you. And here I have occasion to speak of the proprieties of things: for I fear, if I should leave it so, some of you would report me wrongfully, and affirm, that all things should be common. I say not so. Certain it is, that God hath ordained proprieties of things, so that that which is mine is not thine; and what thou hast I cannot take from thee. If all things were common, there could be no theft, and so this commandment, Non facies furtum, “Thou shalt not steal,” were in vain. But it is not so: the laws of the realm make meum et tuum, mine and thine. If I have things by those laws, then I have them well. But this you must not forget, that St Paul saith, Sitis necessitatibus sanctorum communicantes; “Relieve the necessity of those which have need.” Things are not so common, that another man. may take my goods from me, for this is theft; but they are so common, that we ought to distribute them unto the poor, to help them, and to comfort them with it. We ought one to help another; for this is a standing sentence: Qui habuerit substantiam hujus mundi, et viderit fratrem suum necessitatem habere, et clauserit viscera sua ab eo, quomodo caritas Dei manet in eo? “He that hath the substance of this world, and shall see his brother to have need, and shutteth up his entire affection from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” There was a certain manner of having things in common in the time of the apostles. For some good men, as Barnabas was, sold their lands and possessions, and brought the money unto the apostles: but that was done for this cause, — there was a great many of christian people at that time entreated very ill, insomuch that they left all their goods: now, such folk came unto the apostles for aid and help; therefore those which were faithful men, seeing the poverty of their brethren, went and sold that that they had, and spent the money amongst such poor which were newly made Christians. Amongst others which sold their goods there was one Ananias and Saphira his wife, two very subtile persons: they went and sold their goods too; but they played a wise part: they would not stand in danger of the losing of all their goods; therefore they agreed together, and took the one part from the money, and laid it up; with the other part they came to Peter, affirming that to be the whole money. For they thought in their hearts, like as all unfaithful men do, “We cannot tell how long this religion shall abide; it is good to be wise, and keep somewhat in store, whatsoever shall happen.” Now Peter, knowing by the Holy Ghost their falsehood, first slew him with one word, and after her too: which indeed is a fearful ensample, whereby we should be monished to beware of lies and falsehood. For though God punish thee not by and by, as he did this Ananias, yet he shall find thee; surely he will not forget thee. Therefore learn here to take heed of falsehood, and beware of lies. For this Ananias, this willful Ananias, I say, because of this willful lie, went to hell with his wife, and there shall be punished world without end. Where you see what a thing it is to make a lie. This Ananias needed not to sell his lands, he had no such commandment: but seeing he did so, and then came and brought but half the price, making a pretence as though he had brought all, for that he was punished so grievously. O what lies are made nowadays in England, here and there in the markets! truly it is a pitiful thin; that we nothing consider it. This one ensample of Ananias and Saphira, their punishment, is able to condemn the whole world.
You have heard now, how men had things in common, in the first church: but St Paul he teacheth us how things ought to be in common amongst us, saying, Sitis necessitatibus sanctorum communicantes; “Help the necessity of those which be poor.” Our good is not so ours that we may do with it what us listeth; but we ought to distribute it unto them which have need. No man, as I told you before, ought to take away my goods from me; but I ought to distribute that that I may spare, and help the poor withal. Communicantes necessitatibus, saith St Paul; “Distribute them unto the poor,” let them lack nothing; but help them with such things as you may spare. For so it is written, Cui plus datum est, plus requiretur ab illo; “He that hath much, must make account for much; and if he have not spent it well, he must make the heavier account.” But I speak not this to let poor folks from labour; for we must labour and do the works of our vocation, every one in his calling for so it is written, Labores manuum tuarum manducabis, et bene tibi erit, “Thou shalt eat thy hand-labour, and it shall go well with thee.” That is to say, every man shall work for his living, and shall not be a sluggard, as a great many be: every man shall labour and pray; then God will send him his living. St Paul saith, Qui non laborat, non comedat; “He that laboureth not, let him not eat.” Therefore those lubbers which will not labour, and might labour, it is a good thing to punish them according unto the king’s most godly statutes. For God himself saith, In sudore vultus tui vesceris pane tuo; “In the sweat of thy face thou shalt eat thy bread.” Then cometh in St Paul, who saith, Magis autem laboret, ut det indigentibus; “Let him labour the sorer, that he may have wherewith to help the poor.” And Christ himself saith, Melius est dare quam accipere; “It is better to give than to take.” So Christ, and all his apostles, yea, the whole scripture admonisheth us ever of our neighbour, to take heed of him, to be pitiful unto him: but God knoweth there be a great many which care little for their neighbours. They do like as Cain did, when God asked him, “Cain, where is thy brother Abel?” “What,” saith he, “am I my brother’s keeper?” So these rich franklings, [A man above a vassal; a freeholder.] these covetous fellows, they scrape all to themselves, they think they should care for nobody else but for themselves: God commandeth the poor man to labour the sorer, to the end that he may be able to help his poor neighbour: how much more ought the rich to be liberal unto them!
But you will say, “Here is a marvellous doctrine, which commandeth nothing but ‘Give, Give:’ if I shall follow this doctrine, I shall give so much, that at the length I shall have nothing left for myself.” These be words of infidelity; he that speaketh such words is a faithless man. And I pray you, tell me, have ye heard of any man that came to poverty, because he gave unto the poor? Have you heard tell of such a one? No, I am sure you have not. And I dare lay my head to pledge for it, that no man living hath come, or shall hereafter come to poverty, because he hath been liberal in helping the poor. For God is a true God, and no liar: he promiseth us in his word, that we shall have the more by giving to the needy. Therefore the way to get is to scatter that that you have. Give, and you shall gain. If you ask me, “How shall I get riches?” I make thee this answer: “Scatter that that thou hast; for giving is gaining.” But you must take heed, and scatter it according unto God’s will and pleasure; that is, to relieve the poor withal, to scatter it amongst the flock of Christ. Whosoever giveth so shall surely gain: for Christ saith, Date, et dabitur vobis; “Give, and it shall be given unto you.” Dabitur, “it shall be given unto you.” This is a sweet word, we can well away with that; but how shall we come by it? Date, “Give.” This is the way to get, to relieve the poor. Therefore this is a false and wicked proposition, to think that with giving unto the poor we shall come to poverty. What a giver was Loth, that good man: came he to poverty through giving? No, no; he was a great rich man. Abraham, the father of all believers, what a liberal man was he; insomuch that he sat by his door watching when anybody went by the way, that he might call him, and relieve his necessity! What, came he to poverty? No, no: he died a great rich man. Therefore let us follow the ensample of Loth and Abraham let us be liberal, and then we shall augment our stock. For this is a most certain and true word, Date, et dabitur vobis; “Give, and it shall be given unto you.” But we believe it not; we cannot away with it. The most part of us are more given to take from the poor, than to relieve their poverty. They be so careful for their children, that they cannot tell when they be well. They purchase this house and that house; but what saith the prophet? Vae, qui conjungitis domum domui; “Woe be unto you that join house to house! the curse of God hangeth over your heads. Christ saith, Qui diligit patrem vel matrem vel filios plus quam me non est me dignus; “He that loveth his father or mother or children more than me, he is not meet for me.” Therefore those which scrape and gather ever for their children, and in the mean season forget the poor, whom God would have relieved; those, I say, regard their children more than God’s commandments: for their children must be set up, and the poor miserable people is forgotten in the mean season. There is a common saying amongst the worldlings, Happy is that child whose father goeth to the devil: but this is a worldly happiness. The same is seen when the child can begin with two hundred pound, whereas his father began with nothing: it is a wicked happiness, if the father gat those goods wickedly. And there is no doubt but many a father goeth to the devil for his child’s sake; in that he neglected God’s commandment, scraped for his child, and forgat to relieve his poor miserable neighbour. We have in scripture, Qui miseretur pauperis, foeneratur Deo; “Whosoever hath pity over the poor, he lendeth unto God upon usury:” that is to say, God will give it unto him again with increase: this is a lawful and godly usury.
Certain it is, that usury was allowed by the laws of this realm; yet it followed not that usury was godly, nor allowed before God. For it is not a good argument, to say, “It is forbidden to take ten pounds of the hundred, ergo, I may take five:” like as a thief cannot say, “It is forbidden in the law to steal thirteen-pence half-penny; ergo, I may steal sixpence, or three-pence, or two-pence.” No, no; this reasoning will not serve afore God: for though the law of this realm hangeth him not, if he steal four-pence, yet for all that he is a thief before God, and shall be hanged on the fiery gallows in hell. So he that occupieth usury, though by the laws of this realm he might do it without punishment, (for the laws are not so precise,) yet for all that he doth wickedly in the sight of God. For usury is wicked before God, be it small or great; like as theft is wicked. But I will tell you how you shall be usurers to get much gain. Give it unto the poor; then God will give it to thee with gain. Give twenty pence, and thou shalt have forty pence. It shall come again, thou shalt not lose it; or else God is not God. What needeth it to use such deceitfulness and falsehood to get riches? Take a lawful way to get them; that is, to scatter this abroad that thou hast, and then thou shalt have it again with great gain: quadruplum, “four times,” saith scripture. Now God’s word saith, that I shall have again that which I laid out with usury, with gain. Is it true that God saith? Yes: then let me not think, that giving unto the poor doth diminish my stock, when God saith the contrary, namely, that it shall increase; or else we make God a liar. For if I believe not his sayings, then by mine infidelity I make him a liar, as much as is in me. Therefore learn here to commit usury: and specially you rich men, you must learn this lesson well; for of you it is written, “Whosoever hath much, must make account for much.” And you have much, not to that end, to do with it what you lust; but you must spend it as God appointeth you in his word to do: for no rich man can say before God, “This is my own.” No, he is but an officer over it, an almoner, God’s treasurer. Our Saviour saith, Omnis qui reliquerit agrum, &c., centuplum accipiet; “Whosoever shall leave his field, shall receive it again an hundred fold.” As, if I should be examined now of the papists, if they should ask me, “Believe you in the mass?” I say, “No; according unto God’s word, and my conscience, it is naught, it is but deceitfulness, it is the devil’s doctrine.” Now I must go to prison, I leave all things behind me, wife and children, goods and land, and all my friends: I leave them for Christ’s sake, in his quarrel. What saith our Saviour unto it? Centuplum accipiet; “I shall have an hundred times so much.” Now though this be spoken in such wise, yet it may be understood of alms-giving too. For that man or woman that can find in their hearts for God’s sake to leave ten shillings or ten pounds, they shall have “an hundred-fold again in this life, and in the world to come life everlasting.” If this will not move our hearts, then they are more than stony and flinty; then our damnation is just and well deserved. For to give alms, it is like as when a man cometh unto me, and desireth an empty purse of me: I lend him the purse, he cometh by and by and bringeth it full of money, and giveth it me; so that I have now my purse again, and the money too. So it is to give alms: we lend an empty purse, and take a full purse for it. Therefore let us persuade ourselves in our hearts, that to give for God’s sake is no loss unto us, but great gain. And truly the poor man doth more for the rich man in taking things of him, than the rich doth for the poor in giving them. For the rich giveth but only worldly goods, but the poor giveth him by the promise of God all felicity.
Quotidianum, “Daily.” Here we learn to cast away all carefulness, and to come to this storehouse of God, where we shall have all things competent both for our souls and bodies. Further, in this petition we desire that God will feed not only our bodies, but also our souls; and so we pray for the office of preaching. For like as the body must be fed daily with meat, so the soul requireth her meat, which is the word of God. Therefore we pray here for all the clergy, that they may do their duties, and feed us with the word of God according to their calling.
Now I have troubled you long, therefore I will make an end. I desire you remember to resort to this storehouse whatsoever ye have need of, come hither; here are all things necessary for your soul and body, only desire them. But you have heard how you must be apparelled; you must labour and do your duties, and then come, and you shall find all things necessary for you: and specially now at this time let us resort unto God; for it is a great drought, as we think, and we had need of rain. Let us therefore resort unto our loving Father, which promiseth, that when we call upon him with a faithful heart, he will hear us. Let us therefore desire him to rule the matter so, that we may have our bodily sustenance. We have the ensample of Elias, whose prayer God heard. Therefore let us pray this prayer, which our Saviour and Redeemer Jesus Christ himself taught us, saying, “Our Father, which art in heaven,” &c. Amen.
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