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meat maketh my brother to oflend, I will eat no meat while the world standeth.” And again,

And again, “ I know that through Christ there is nothing unclean, but to him that thinketh it to be unclean-but it is evil to that man who eateth with oflence.”

Wherefore, although we must determinately resist these teachers of traditions, and sharply contend against the laws of popes, by which they would break in upon the liberty of the people of God; yet, we must spare those weak and fearful ones, whom these wicked tyrants hold captive under their laws, until they shall be disentangled from them. Therefore, resolutly contend against the wolves and for the sheep; but not against the sheep at the same time; which thou wilt do, if thou inveigh against the laws and lawgivers, and yet, at the same time, bear with them in the weak, lest they should be oftended, until they themselves shall discover the tyranny they are under, and come to the knowledge of their liberty.

But if thou wilt use thy liberty, do it in secret : as Paul saith Rom. xiv. The faith that thou hast in thine own experience, have before God; but take heed that thou use it not before the weak. On the other hand, the same before the tyrants and stiffnecked, to the open contempt of them, and that, with the utmost firmness of determination; that they themselves may know that they are under sin, and that their laws are of no avail unto righteousness; nay, that they had no right whatever to make those laws.

Since, therefore, this life cannot go on without ceremonies and works; nay, since the heated and inexperienced age of young persons has need to be curbed and guarded by these restraints; and since each one must, by the same means, mortify his own body; a minister of Christ must be prudent and faithful : that he may so rule and teach the people of Christ in all these things, that their conscience and faith be not offended, and that no false opinion or root of bitterness spring up in them, and thereby many be defiled, (as Paul warns the Hebrews :) that is, that they lose not faith, and begin to be


lefiled by a false opinion of works, as that they are by them to become righteous. Which evils soon take place, and defile many, unless faith be perseveringly insisted on; nor can they possibly be avoided where faith is buried in silence, and the ordinances of men only, inculcated: which has hitherto ever been done by those pestilent

, impious, soul-murdering traditions of our popes, and the opinions of our theologians, who have, in these nets, dragged souls innumerable into hell: so that you may plainly see they are Antichrist !

In a word, as poverty in the midst of riches, .faithfulness in the midst of business, humility in the midst of bonours, abstinence in the midst of banquets, chastity in the midst of pleasures, so, the righteousness of faith is in peril in the midst of ceremonies : “Can a man (says Solomon) carry fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?" Prov. vi. And yet, as we must be in the midst of riches, of business, of honours, of banquets, of pleasures, so must we be in the midst of ceremonies; that is, perils. And further, as it is absolutely needful that in fant boys should be brought up under the care, and in the bosoms of young women, to preserve their lives; with which

young women, nevertheless, it would be dangerous to their salvation for them to be familiar when arrived at the age of manhood; even so, men of a heated and inexperienced age, must be restrained and brought into subjection by the close, yea, even iron restraints of ceremonies, lest their thoughtless mind should rush headlong into vices : although, at the same time, it would be perdition to them if they should always continue under these restraints, from an opinion of becoming righteous by them. For they are rather to be taught, that they were not thus incarcerated, to the end that they might thereby become righteous or meritorious, but, that they might be restrained from evil, and be the more easily trained up to the righteousness of faith; which, before, through the impetuosity of their age, and the need of its being restrained, they could not receive.

Wherefore, ceremonies, in the Christian life, are to be considered in no other light, than those preparatory scaffoldings are by builders and artificers, which are erected to assist in the work and building; which are not prepared as being of any value in themselves, or as designed to remain, but because the work and building cannot go on without them; for when the building is finished,

they are laid aside. Here, you see, the scaffoldings themselves are not despised, nay, most carefully attended to; but it is the false opinion of them that is despised, because no one imagines that they are the real and durable edifice. Thus, if any one should be so consummately ignorant, as to regard nothing more during the whole of his life, than the erecting of these preparatory scaffoldings in the most sumptuous, diligent, and persevering manner, and should never once think of the real edifice, but be pleased with, and boast of, his attention to these mere temporary props and scaffoldings; would not every one pity his madness, judging, that after such a wonderful expense, some mighty edifice would surely have appeared!

Therefore, we do not despise ceremonies or works, nay, we carefully attend to them; but it is the false opinion of works that we contemn, that no one might imagine that it is righteousness: as the hypocrites do, who fix and spend their whole lives on these devoted services, and, after all, never attain unto that for which they are performed : or, as the apostle saith, “ Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth, 2 Tim. ii. For they seem to have a desire to build, and prepare themselves to do it, but never build after all : and thus, they remain in a “form" of godliness, and never attain unto the “power” thereof.

And yet, at the same time, they please themselves in these devoted services, yea, and judge all others, whom they do not see to glare in the same pompous show of works, Whereas, had they an unctuous experience of faith, they might, with these gifts of God thus squandered and abused, do something considerable to the salvation of themselves and others. But since human nature, or natural reason, (as it is called,) is naturally superstitious, and is ever proposing to itself certain laws and works, under the imagination of attaining unto righteousness thereby; and since, moreover, from the custom of all earthly legislators, it is inured to, and confirmed in, this same propensity; it is impossible that it should, by any power of its own, free itself from that working bondage, into the knowledge of the liberty of faith.

Therefore, we have need of prayer, that the Lord would draw us and make us teachable of God; that is, passively receptive of God's teaching: and that he would, as he has promised, write his laws in our hearts : for without this, we must perish. For unless he himself teach us inwardly this “wisdom hidden in a mystery,” nature cannot but condemn it and judge it heretical, because it is offended at it and accounts it foolishness. As we find it happened unto the prophets and apostles of old; and the same treatment I, and all like me, meet with at this day from blind and ungodly popes and their flatterers. On shom, together with us, may God have mercy and lift up the light of his countenance upon them; that we might know his way upon the earth, his saving health among all nations, who is blessed for ever. Amen!

Anno 1520.

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