A Pathway to the Holy Scripture, c. 1530
By William Tyndale
I do marvel greatly, dearly beloved in Christ, that ever any man should repugn or speak against the scripture to be had in every language, and that of every man. For I thought that no man had been so blind to ask why light should be shewed to them that walk in darkness, where they cannot but stumble, and where to stumble is the danger of eternal damnation: other so despiteful that he would envy any man (I speak not his brother) so necessary a thing: or so Bedlam mad to affirm that good is the natural cause of evil, and darkness to proceed out of light, and that lying should be grounded in truth and verity and not rather clean contrary, that light destroyeth darkness and verity reproveth all manner lying.
Nevertheless, seeing that it hath pleased God to send unto our Englishmen, even to as many as unfeignedly desire it, the scripture in their mother tongue, considering that there be in every place false teachers and blind leaders: that ye should be deceived of no man, I supposed it very necessary to prepare this Pathway into the scripture for you, that ye might walk surely and ever know the true from the false: and, above all, to put you in remembrance of certain points, which are, that ye well understand what these words mean: the Old Testament, the New Testament, the law, the gospel, Moses, Christ, nature, grace, working and believing, deeds and faith, lest we ascribe to the one that which belongeth to the other, and make of Christ Moses: of the gospel, the law: despise grace, and rob faith: and fall from meek learning into idle disputations, brawling and scolding about words.
The Old Testament is a book wherein is written the law of God and the deeds of them which fulfil them and of them also which fulfil them not.
The New Testament is a book wherein are contained the promises of God, arid the deeds of them which believe them, or believe them not.
Evangelion (that we call the gospel) is a Greek word and signifieth good, merry, glad and joyful tidings, that maketh a man’s heart glad and maketh him sing, dance, and leap for joy: as whenDavid had killed Goliah the giant came glad tidings unto the Jews, that their fearful and cruel enemy was slain and they delivered out of all danger: for gladness whereof they sung, danced, and were joyful. In like manner is the Evangelion of God (which we call gospel, and the New Testament) joyful tidings: and, as some say, a good hearing published by the apostles throughout all the world, of Christ the right David, how that he hath fought with sin, with death, and the devil, and overcome them: whereby all men that were in bondage to sin, wounded with death, overcome of the devil are without their own merits or deservings loosed, justified, restored to life and saved, brought to liberty and reconciled unto the favour of God and set at one with him again: which tidings as many as believe laud, praise and thank God, are glad, sing and dance for joy.
This Evangelion or gospel (that is to say such joyful tidings) is called the New Testament, because that as a man when he shall die, appointeth his goods to be dealt and distributed after his death among them which he nameth to be his heirs, even so Christ before his death commanded and appointed that such Evangelion, gospel, or tidings should be declared throughout all the world, and therewith to give unto all that repent and believe all his goods: that is to say his life wherewith he swallowed and devoured up death, his righteousness, wherewith he banished sin, his salvation, wherewith he overcame eternal damnation. Now can the wretched man (that knoweth himself to be wrapped in sin and in danger to death and hell) hear no more joyous a thing, than such glad and comfortable tidings of Christ, so that he cannot but be glad, and laugh from the low bottom of his heart if he believe that the tidings are true.
To strength such faith withal, God promised this his Evangelion in the Old Testament by the prophets, as Paul saith (Rom. i.) how that he was chosen out to preach God’s Evangelion, which he before had promised by the prophets in the Scriptures, that treat of his Son which was born of the seed of David. In Gen. iii. God saith to the serpent, I will put hatred between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed, that self seed shall tread thy head under foot. Christ is this woman’s seed: he it is that hath trodden under foot the devil’s head, that is to say sin, death, hell and all his power. For without this seed can no man avoid sin, death, hell and everlasting damnation.
Again (Gen. xxii.), God promised Abraham, saying, In thy seed shall all the generations of the earth be blessed. Christ is that seed of Abraham, saith St Paul (Gal. iii). He hath blessed all the world through the gospel. For where Christ is not, there remaineth the curse, that fell on Adam as soon as he had sinned, so that they are in bondage under damnation of sin, death and hell. Against this curse blesseth now the gospel all the world inasmuch as it crieth openly unto all that knowledge their sins and repent, saying, Whosoever believeth on the seed of Abraham shall be blessed: that is he shall be delivered from sin, death and hell and shall henceforth continue righteous and saved for ever, as Christ himself saith in the eleventh of John, He that believeth on me, shall never more die.
The law (saith the gospel of John in the first chapter) was given by Moses: but grace and verity by Jesus Christ. The law (whose minister is Moses) was given to bring us unto the knowledge of ourselves, that we might thereby feel and perceive what we are of nature. The law condemneth us and all our deeds and is called of Paul (in 2 Cor. iii.) the ministration of death. For it killeth our consciences and driveth us to desperation, inasmuch as it requireth of us that which is unpossible for our nature to do. It requireth of us the deeds of an whole man. It requireth perfect love, from the low bottom and ground of the heart as well in all things which we suffer, as in the things which we do. But saith John in the same place, grace and verity is given us in Christ: so that, when the law hath passed upon us and condemned us to death (which is his nature to do) then we have in Christ grace, that is to say favour, promises of life, of mercy, of pardon, freely, by the merits of Christ, and in Christ have we verity and truth in that God for his sake fulfilleth all his promises to them that believe. Therefore is the Gospel the ministration of life. Paul calleth it in the fore-rehearsed place of the 2 Cor. iii. the ministration of the Spirit and of righteousness. In the gospel when we believe the promises, we receive the spirit of life, and are justified, in the blood of Christ, from all things whereof the law condemned us. And we receive love unto the law, and power to fulfil it, and grow therein daily. Of Christ it is written, in the fore-rehearsed John i. This is he of whose abundance or fulness all we have received grace for grace or favour for favour. That is to say, For the favour that God hath to his Son Christ, he giveth unto us his favour and good-will and all gifts of his grace, as a father to his sons. As affirmeth Paul, saying, Which loved us in his beloved before the creation of the world. So that Christ bringeth the love of God unto us and not our own holy works. Christ is made Lord over all and is called in scripture God’s mercy-stool: whosoever therefore flieth to Christ, can neither hear nor receive of God any other thing save mercy.
In the Old Testament are many promises which are nothing else but the Evangelion or gospel to save those that believed them from the vengeance of the law. And in the New Testament is oft made mention of the law to condemn them which believe not the promises. Moreover, the law and the gospel may never be separate: for the gospel and promises serve but for troubled consciences which are brought to desperation and feel the pains of hell and death under the law and are in captivity and bondage under the law. In all my deeds I must have the law before me, to condemn mine unperfectness. For all that I do (be I never so perfect) is yet damnable sin when it is compared to the law which requireth the ground and bottom of mine heart. I must therefore have always the law in my sight that I may be meek in the spirit and give God all the laud and praise, ascribing to him all righteousness and to myself all unrighteousness and sin. I must also have the promises before mine eyes that I despair not, in which promises I see the mercy, favour and good-will of God upon me in the blood of his Son Christ, which hath made satisfaction for mine unperfectness and fulfilled for me that which I could not do.
Here may ye perceive that two manner of people are sore deceived. First, they which justify themselves with outward deeds in that they abstain outwardly from that which the law forbiddeth and do outwardly that which the law commandeth. They compare themselves to open sinners, and in respect of them justify themselves, condemning the open sinners. They set a vail on Moses’ face and see not how the law requireth love from the bottom of the heart, and that love only is the fulfilling of the law. If they did they would not condemn their neighbours. Love hideth the multitude of sins, saith St Peter in his first epistle. For whom I love from the deep bottom and ground of mine heart him condemn I not, neither reckon his sins, but suffer his weakness and infirmity as a mother the weakness of her son until he grow up into a perfect man.
Those also are deceived which without all fear of God give themselves unto all manner vices with full consent and full delectation, having no respect to the law of God (under whose vengeance they are locked up in captivity) but say, God is merciful and Christ died for us, supposing that such dreaming andimagination is that faith which is so greatly commended in holy scripture. Nay, that is not faith but rather a foolish blind opinion springing of their own corrupt nature and is not given them of the Spirit of God, but rather of the spirit of the devil, whose faith now-a-days the popish compare and make equal unto the best trust, confidence and belief that a repenting soul can have in the blood of our Saviour Jesus, unto their own confusion, shame, and uttering what they are within. But true faith is (as saith the apostle Paul) the gift of God, and is given to sinners after the law hath passed upon them and hath brought their consciences unto the brim of desperation and sorrows of hell.
They that have this right faith consent to the law that it is righteous and good, and justify God which made the law, and have delectation in the law (notwithstanding that they cannot fulfil it as they would, for their weakness), and they abhor whatsoever the law forbiddeth though they cannot always avoid it. And their great sorrow is because they cannot fulfil the will of God in the law, and the Spirit that is in them crieth to God night and day for strength and help, with tears (as saith Paul) that cannot be expressed with tongue. Of which things the belief of our popish (or of their) father whom they so magnify for his strong faith hath none experience at all.
The first, that is to say he which justifieth himself with his outward deeds, consenteth not to the law inward, neither hath delectation therein, yea, he would rather that no such law were. So justifieth he not God but hateth him as atyrant, neither careth he for the promises but will with his own strength be saviour of himself: no wise glorifieth he God though he seem outward to do.
The second, that is to say the sensual person, as a voluptuous swine neither feareth God in his law, neither is thankful to him for his promises and mercy which is set forth in Christ to all them that believe.
The right Christian man consenteth to the law that it is righteous and justifieth God in the law, for he affirmeth that God is righteous and just which is author of the law. He believeth the promises of God and justifieth God, judging him true and believing that he will fulfil his promises. With the law he condemneth himself and all his deeds and giveth all the praise to God. He believeth the promises and ascribeth all truth to God: thus everywhere justifieth he God and praiseth God. By nature through the fall of Adam are we the children of wrath, heirs of the vengeance of God by birth, yea and from our conception. And we have our fellowship with the damned devils, under the power of darkness and rule of Satan, while we are yet in our mother’s wombs, and though we shew not forth the fruits of sin as soon as we are born, yet are we full of the natural poison, whereof all sinful deeds spring, and cannot but sin outwards (be we never so young) as soon as we be able to work if occasion be given: for our nature is to do sin as is the nature of a serpent to sting. And as a serpent yet young or yet unbrought forth is full of poison and cannot afterward (when the time is come and occasion given) but bring forth the fruits thereof, and as an adder, a toad or a snake, is hated of man, not for the evil that it hath done but for the poison that is in it and hurt which it cannot but do: so are we hated of God for that natural poison which is conceived and born with us before we do any outward evil. And as the evil which a venomous worm doth maketh it not a serpent, but because it is a venomous worm, doth it evil and poisoneth: and as the fruit maketh not the tree evil, but because it is an evil tree therefore bringeth it forth evil fruit when the season of the fruit is: even so do not our evil deeds make us first evil, though ignorance and blindness, through evil working hardeneth us in evil, and maketh us worse and worse? but because that of nature we are evil therefore we both think and do evil, and are under vengeance under the law, convict to eternal damnation by the law, and are contrary to the will of God in all our will and in all things consent to the will of the fiend.
By grace (that is to say by favour) we are plucked out of Adam the ground of all evil and graffed in Christ, the root of all goodness. In Christ God loved us, his elect and chosen, before the world began and reserved us unto the knowledge of his Son and of his holy gospel: and when the gospel is preached to us openeth our hearts and giveth us grace to believe, and putteth the Spirit of Christ in us: and we know him as our Father most merciful, and consent to the law and love it inwardly in our heart and desire to fulfil it and sorrow because we cannot: which will (sin we of frailty never so much) is sufficient, till more strength be given us: the blood of Christ hath made satisfaction for the rest, the blood of Christ hath obtained all things for us of God. Christ is our satisfaction, Redeemer, Deliverer, Saviour from vengeance and wrath. Observe and mark in Paul’s, Peter’s and John’s epistles and in the gospel what Christ is unto us.
By faith are we saved only in believing the promises. And though faith be never without love and good works, yet is our saving imputed neither to love nor unto good works but unto faith only. For love and works are under the law which requireth perfection and the ground and fountain of the heart and damneth all imperfectness. Now is faith under the promises which damn not, but give pardon, grace, mercy, favour and whatsoever is contained in the promises.
Righteousness is divers: for blind reason imagineth many manner of righteousness. There is the righteousness of works (as I said before) when the heart is away and feeleth not how the law is spiritual and cannot be fulfilled but from the bottom of the heart: as the just ministration of all manner of laws and the observing of them, for a worldly purpose and for our own profit and not of love unto our neighbour without all other respect and moral virtues, wherein philosophers put their felicity and blessedness, which all are nothing in the sight of God in respect of the life to come. There is in like manner the justifying of ceremonies which some imagine their ownselves, some counterfeit, other saying in their blind reason, Such holy persons did thus and thus and they were holy men, therefore if I do so likewise, I shall please God. But they have none answer of God that that pleaseth. The Jews seek righteousness in their ceremonies which God gave unto them not for to justify but to describe and paint Christ unto them: of which Jews testifieth Paul saying, how that they have affection to God but not after knowledge, for they go about to stablish their own justice, and are not obedient to the justice or righteousness that cometh of God, which is the forgiveness of sin in Christ’s blood unto all that repent and believe. The cause is verily that except a man cast away his own imagination and reason, he cannot perceive God and understand the virtue and power of the blood of Christ. There is a full righteousness, when the law is fulfilled from the ground of the heart. This had neither Peter nor Paul in this life perfectly unto the uttermost that they could not be perfecter but sighed after it. They were so far forth blessed in Christ that they hungered and thirsted after it. Paul had this thirst: he consented to the law of God that it ought so to be, but he found another lust in his members contrary to the lust and desire of his mind that letted him and therefore cried out, saying, O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death? thanks be to God through Jesus Christ. The righteousness that before God is of value, is to believe the promises of God, after the law hath confounded the conscience: as when the temporal law ofttimes condemneth the thief or murderer and bringeth him to execution, so that he seeth nothing before him but present death, and then cometh good tidings, a charter from the king and delivereth him. Likewise, when God’s law hath brought the sinner into knowledge of himself and hath confounded his conscience and opened unto him the wrath and vengeance of God, then cometh good tidings. The Evangelion sheweth unto him the promises of God in Christ and how that Christ hath purchased pardon for him, hath satisfied the law for him and appeased the wrath of God. And the poor sinner believeth, laudeth and thanketh God through Christ, and breaketh out into exceeding inward joy and gladness, for that he hath escaped so great wrath, so heavy vengeance, so fearful and so everlasting a death. And he henceforth is an hungred and athirst after more righteousness, that he might fulfil the law, and mourneth continually, commending his weakness unto God in the blood of our Saviour, Christ Jesus.
Here shall ye see compendiously and plainly set out the order and practice of every thing afore rehearsed.
The fall of Adam hath made us heirs of the vengeance and wrath of God and heirs of eternal damnation, and hath brought us into captivity and bondage under the devil And the devil is our lord and our ruler, our head, our governor, our prince, yea and our god. And our will is locked and knit faster unto the will of the devil than could an hundred thousand chains bind a man unto a post. Unto the devil’s will consent we with all our hearts, with all our minds, with all our might, power, strength, will and lusts: so that the law and will of the devil is written as well in our hearts as in our members and we run headlong after the devil with full zeal and the whole swing of all the power we have, as a stone cast up into the air cometh down naturally of his own self, with all the violence and swing of his own weight. With what poison, deadly and venomous hate hateth a man his enemy. With how great malice of mind inwardly do we slay and murder. With what violence and rage, yea and with how fervent lust commit we advoutry, fornication and such like uncleanness. With what pleasure and delectation, inwardly, serveth a glutton his belly. With what diligence deceive we. How busily seek we the things of this world. Whatsoever we do, think, or imagine, is abominable in the sight of God. For we can refer nothing unto the honour of God, neither is his law or will written in our members or in our hearts: neither is there any more power in us to follow the will of God, than in a stone to ascend upward of his own self. And beside that we are as it were asleep in so deep blindness that we can neither see nor feel what misery, thraldom and wretchedness we are in, till Moses come and wake us and publish the law. When we hear the law truly preached, how that we ought to love and honour God with all our strength and might, from the low bottom of the heart, because he hath created us, and both heaven and earth for our sakes, and made us lord thereof, and our neighbours (yea, our enemies) as ourselves, inwardly, from the ground of the heart, because God hath made them after the likeness of his own image, and they are his sons as well as we, and Christ hath bought them with his blood and made them heirs of everlasting life as well as us, and how we ought to do whatsoever God biddeth and abstain from whatsoever God forbiddeth, with all love and meekness, with a fervent and a burning lust from the center of the heart, then beginneth the conscience to rage against the law and against God. No sea be it ever so great a tempest is so unquiet. For it is not possible for a natural man to consent to the law, that it should be good, or that God should be righteous which maketh the law, inasmuch as it is contrary unto his nature and damneth him and all that he can do and neither sheweth him where to fetch help, nor preacheth any mercy, but only setteth man at variance with God (as witnesseth Paul, Rom. iv.) and provoketh him and stirreth him to rail on God and to blaspheme him as a cruel tyrant. For it is not possible for a man, till he be born again, to think that God is righteous to make him of so poison a nature either for his own pleasure or for the sin of another man and to give him a law that is impossible for him to do or to consent to: his wit, reason and will being so fast glued, yea, nailed and chained unto the will of the devil. Neither can any creature loose the bonds, save the blood of Christ only.
This is the captivity and bondage whence Christ delivered us, redeemed and loosed us. His blood, his death, his patience in suffering rebukes and wrongs, his prayers and fastings, his meekness and fulfilling of the uttermost point of the law appeased the wrath of God: brought the favour of God to us again, obtained that God should love us first, and be our Father, and that a merciful Father that will consider our infirmities and weakness and will give us his Spirit again (which was taken away in the fall of Adam) rule/ govern and strength us and to break the bonds of Satan herein we were so strait bound. When Christ is thuswise reached and the promises rehearsed which are contained in the rophets, in the psalms, and in divers places of the five books of Moses, which preaching is called the Gospel or glad tidings, then the hearts of them which are elect and chosen begin to wax soft and melt at the bounteous mercy of God, and kindness shewed of Christ. For when the Evangelion is preached, the Spirit of God entereth into them which God hath ordained and appointed unto eternal life, and openeth their inward eyes, and worketh such belief in them. When the woful consciences feel and taste how sweet a thing the bitter death of Christ is and how merciful and loving God is through Christ’s purchasing and merits, they begin to love again and to consent to the law of God, how that it is good and ought so to be, and that God is righteous which made it, and desire to fulfil the law, even as a sick man desireth to be whole, and are an hungred and thirst after more righteousness and after more strength to fulfil the law more perfectly. And in all that they do, or omit and leave undone, they seek God’s honour and his will with meekness, ever condemning the unperfectness of their deeds by the law.
Now Christ standeth us in double stead, and us serveth, two manner wise. First, he is our Redeemer, Deliverer, Reconciler, Mediator, Intercessor, Advocate, Attorney, Solicitor, our Hope, Comfort, Shield, Protection, Defender, Strength, Health, Satisfaction and Salvation. His blood, his death, all that he ever did, is ours. And Christ himself, with all that he is or can do is ours. His blood-shedding and all that he did doth me as good service as though I myself had done it. And God (as great as he is) is mine, with all that he hath, as an husband is his wife’s, through Christ and his purchasing.
Secondarily, after that we be overcome with love and kindness and now seek to do the will of God (which is a Christian man’s nature) then have we Christ an example to counterfeit, as saith Christ himself in John, I have given you an example. And in another evangelist he saith, He that will be great among you, shall be your servant and minister, as the Son of man came to minister and not to be ministered unto. And Paul saith, Counterfeit Christ. And Peter saith, Christ died for you, and left you an example to follow his steps. Whatsoever therefore faith hath received of God through Christ’s blood and deserving, that same must love shed out, every whit and bestow it on our neighbours unto their profit yea, and that though they be our enemies. By faith we receive of God, and by love we shed out again. And that must we do freely after the example of Christ without any other respect save our neighbour’s wealth only, and neither look for reward in the earth nor yet in heaven, for the deserving and merits of our deeds as friars preach, though we know that good deeds are rewarded both in this life and in the life to come. But of pure love must we bestow ourselves, all that we have and all that we are able to do even on our enemies to bring them to God considering nothing but their wealth as Christ did ours. Christ did not his deeds to obtain heaven thereby (that had been a madness): heaven was his already, he was heir thereof, it was his by inheritance: but did them freely for our sakes, considering nothing but our wealth and to bring the favour of God to us again and us to God. And no natural son that is his father’s heir doth his father’s will because he would be heir, that he is already by birth: his father gave him that ere he was born and is loather that he should go without it, than he himself hath wit to be, but of pure love doth he that he doth. And ask him, Why he doth any thing that he doth? he answereth, My father bade, it is my father’s will, it pleaseth my father. Bond-servants work for hire, children for love: for their father, with all he hath, is theirs already. So doth a Christian man freely all that he doth, considereth nothing but the will of God and his neighbour’s wealth only. If I live chaste I do it not to obtain heaven thereby, for then should I do wrong to the blood of Christ. Christ’s blood hath obtained me that, Christ’s merits have made me heir thereof, he is both door and way thitherwards: neither that I look for an higher room in heaven than they shall have which live in wedlock, other than a whore of the stews (if she repent), for that were the pride of Lucifer: but freely to wait on the Evangelion, and to avoid the trouble of the world and occasions that might pluck me therefrom and to serve my brother withal, even as one hand helpeth another or one member another because one feeleth another’s grief and the pain of the one is the pain of the other. Whatsoever is done to the least of us (whether it be good or bad) it is done to Christ, and whatsoever is done to my brother (if I be a Christian man) that same is done to me. Neither doth my brother’s pain grieve me less than mine own: neither rejoice I less at his wealth than at mine own if I love him as well and as much as myself, as the law commandeth me. If it were not so, how saith Paul? Let him that rejoiceth, rejoice in the Lord, that is to say Christ tvhich is Lord over all creatures. If my merits obtained me heaven, or a higher place there, then had I wherein I might rejoice besides the Lord.
Here see ye the nature of the law and the nature of the Evangelion: how the law is the key that bindeth and damneth all men and the Evangelion is the key that looseth them again. The law goeth before and the Evangelion followeth. When a preacher preacheth the law he bindeth all consciences, and when he preacheth the gospel he looseth them again. These two salves (I mean the law and the gospel) useth God and his preacher to heal and cure sinners withal. The law driveth out the disease and maketh it appear, and is a sharp salve, and a fretting corosy and killeth the dead flesh and looseth and draweth the sores out by the roots and all corruption. It pulleth from a man the trust and confidence that he hath in himself and in his own works merits, deservings and ceremonies, and robbeth him of all his righteousness, and maketh him poor. It killeth him, sendeth him down to hell and bringeth him to utter desperation and prepareth the way of the Lord, as it is written of John the Baptist. For it is not possible that Christ should come to a man as long as he trusteth in himself or in any worldly thing or hath any righteousness of his own, or riches of holy works. Then cometh the Evangelion, a more gentle pastor which suppleth and suageth the wounds of theconscience and bringeth health. It bringeth the Spirit of God, which looseth the bonds of Satan and coupleth us to God and his will,through strong faith and fervent love, with bonds too strong for the devil, the world or any creature to loose them. And the poor and wretched sinner feeleth so great mercy, love and kindness in God, that he is sure in himself how that it is not possible that God should forsake him, or withdraw his mercy and love from him, and boldly crieth out with Paul, saying, Who shall separate us from the love that God loveth us withal? That is to say, What shall make me believe that God loveth me not? Shall tribulation? anguish? persecution? Shall hunger? nakedness? Shall sword? Nay, I am sure that neither death, nor life, neither angel, neither rule nor power, neither present things nor things to come, neither high nor low, neither any creature, is able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. In all such tribulations a Christian man perceiveth that God is his Father and loveth him even as he loved Christ when he shed his blood on the cross. Finally as before, when I was bond to the devil and his will I wrought all manner evil and wickedness, not for hell’s sake which is the reward of sin but because I was heir of hell by birth and bondage to the devil, did I evil (for I could none otherwise do, to do sin was my nature) even so now since I am coupled to God by Christ’s blood do I well, not for heaven’s sake, which is yet the reward of well doing, but because I am heir of heaven by grace and Christ’s purchasing, and have the Spirit of God, I do good freely, for so is my nature: as a good tree bringeth forth good fruit and an evil tree evil fruit. By the fruits shall ye know what the tree is. A man’s deeds declare what he is within, but make him neither good nor bad, though, after we be created anew by the Spirit and doctrine of Christ, we wax perfecter always with working according to the doctrine and not with blind works of our own imagining. We must be first evil ere we do evil, as a serpent is first poisoned ere he poison. We must be also good ere we do good, as the fire must be first hot, ere it heat another thing. Take an example: As those blind and deaf which are cured in the gospel could not see nor hear till Christ had given them sight and hearing, and those sick could not do the deeds of an whole man till Christ had given them health, so can no man do good in his soul till Christ have loosed him out of the bonds of Satan, and have given him wherewith to do good, yea and first have poured into him that self good thing which he sheddeth forth afterward on other. Whatsoever is our own, is sin. Whatsoever is above that is Christ’s gift, purchase, doing and working. He bought it of his Father dearly, with his blood, yea with his most bitter death and gave his life for it. Whatsoever good thing is in us that is given us freely, without our deserving or merits, for Christ’s blood’s sake. That we desire to follow the will of God it is the gift of Christ’s blood. That we now hate the devil’s will (whereunto we were so fast locked and could not but love it) is also the gift of Christ’s blood, unto whom belongeth the praise and honour of our good deeds, and not unto us.
Our deeds do us three manner of service. First they certify us that we are heirs of everlasting life and that the Spirit of God which is the earnest thereof is in us, in that our hearts consent unto the law of God and we have power in our members to do it though imperfectly. And secondarily we tame the flesh therewith and kill the sin that remaineth yet in us, and wax daily perfecter and perfecter in the Spirit therewith, and keep that the lusts choke not word of God that is sown in us, nor quench the gifts and working of the Spirit and that we lose not the Spirit again. And thirdly we do our duty unto our neighbour therewith, and help their necessity unto our own comfort also and draw all men unto the honouring and praising of God.
Andwhosoever excelleth in the gifts of grace let the same think that they be given him, as much to do his brother service as for his Own self, and as much for the love which God hath to the weak as mrto him unto whom God giveth such gifts. And he that vnthdraweth aught that he hath from his neighbour’s need robbeth his neighbour and is a thief. And he that is proud of the rifts of God and thinketh himself by the reason of them better than his feeble neighbour and not rather (as the truth is) knowledgeth himself a servant unto his poor neighbour by the reason of them, the same hath Lucifer’s spirit in him and not Christ’s.
These things to know: first the law, how that it is natural right and equity: that we have but one God to put our hope and trust in and him to love with all the heart, all the soul and all our might and power and neither to move heart nor hand but at his commandment, because he hath first created us of nought and heaven and earth for our sakes, and afterwards when we had marred ourself through sin, he forgave us and created us again in the blood of his beloved Son:
And that we have the name of our one God in fear and reverence, and that we dishonour it not in swearing thereby about light trifles or vanity or call it to record for the confirming of wickedness or falsehood or aught that is to the dishonour of God which is the breaking of his laws or unto the hurt of our neighbour:
And inasmuch as he is our Lord and God and we his double possession, by creation and redemption and therefore ought (as I said) neither to move heart or hand without his commandment, it is right that we have needful holy days to come together and learn his will, both the law which he will have us ruled by and also the promises of mercy which he will have us trust unto, and to give God thanks together for his mercy and to commit our infirmities to him through our Saviour Jesus and to reconcile ourselves unto him and each to other, if aught be between brother and brother that requireth it. And for this purpose and such like, as to visit the sick and needy and redress peace and unity, were the holy days ordained only, and so far forth are they to be kept holy from all manner works that may be conveniently spared for the time, till this be done and no further but then lawfully to work:
And that it is right that we obey father and mother, master, lord, prince and king and all the ordinances of the world, bodily and ghostly, by which God ruleth us and ministereth freely his benefits unto us all: and that we love them for the benefits that we receive by them and fear them for the power they have over us to punish us, if we trespass the law and good order. So far yet are the worldly powers or rulers to be obeyed only as their commandments repugn not against the commandment of God, and then ho. Wherefore we must have God’s commandment ever in our hearts and by the higher law interpret the inferior, that we obey nothing against the belief of one God, or against the faith, hope and trust that is in him only, or against the love of God whereby we do or leave undone all things for his sake, and that we do nothing for any man’s commandment against the reverence of the name of God to make it despised and the less feared and set by, and that we obey nothing to the hinderance of the knowledge of the blessed doctrine of God whose servant the holy day is. Notwithstanding, though the rulers which God hath set over us command us against God or do us open wrong and oppress us with cruel tyranny, yet because they are in God’s room we may not avenge ourselves but by the process and order of God’s law, and laws of man made by the authority of God’s law which is also God’s law, ever by an higher power, and remitting the vengeance unto God and in the mean season suffer until the hour be come:
And on the other side to know that a man ought to love his neighbour equally and fully as well as himself, because his neighbour (be he never so simple) is equally created of God and as full redeemed by the blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ. Out of which commandment of love spring these: kill not thy neighbour: defile not his wife: bear no false witness against him: and finally not only do not these things in deed but covet not in thine heart his house, his wife, his man-servant, maid-servant, ox, ass, or whatsoever is his: so that these laws pertaining unto our neighbour are not fulfilled in the sight of God, save with love. He that loveth not his neighbour keepeth not this commandment, Defile not thy neighbour’s wife, though he never touch her or never see her or think upon her. For the commandment is, though thy neighbour’s wife be never so fair, and thou have never so great opportunity given thee and she consent, or haply provoke thee (as Potiphar’s wife did Joseph) yet see thou love thy neighbour so well that for very love thou cannot find in thine heart to do that wickedness. And even so he that trusteth in any thing save in God only and in his Son Jesus Christ keepeth no commandment at all in the sight of God. For he that hath trust in any creature, whether in heaven or in earth, save in God and his Son Jesus, can see no cause to love God with all his heart &c. neither to abstain from dishonouring his name, nor to keep the holy day for the love of his doctrine, nor to obey lovingly the rulers of this world, nor any cause to love his neighbour as himself and to abstain from hurting him where he may get profit by him and save himself harmless. And in like wise, against this law, Love thy neighbour as thyself, I may obey no worldly power to do aught at any man’s commandment unto the hurt of my neighbour that hath not deserved it though he be a Turk:
And to know how contrary this law is unto our nature and how it is damnation not to have this law written in our hearts though we never commit the deeds, and how there is no other means to be saved from this damnation, than through repentance toward the law and faith in Christ’s blood, which are the very inward baptism of our souls, and the washing and the dipping of our bodies in the water is the outward sign. The plunging of the body under the water signifieth that we repent and profess to fight against sin and lusts and to kill them every day more and more with the help of God and our diligence in following the doctrine of Christ and the leading of his Spirit, and that we believe to be washed from our natural damnation in which we are born and from all the wrath of the law and from all the infirmities and weaknesses that remain in us after we have given our consent unto the law and yielded ourself to be scholars thereof, and from all the imperfectness of all our deeds done with cold love, and from all actual sin which shall chance on us while we enforce the contrary and ever fight there against and hope to sin no more. And thus repentance and faith begin at our baptism and first professing the laws of God, and continue unto our lives’ end and grow as we grow in the Spirit: for the perfecter we be the greater is our repentance and the stronger our faith. And thus, as the Spirit and doctrine on God’s part, and repentance and faith on our part, beget us anew in Christ, even so they make us grow and wax perfect and save us unto the end, and never leave us until all sin be put off and we clean purified and full formed and fashioned after the similitude and likeness of the perfectness of our Saviour Jesus whose gift all is:
And finally to know that whatsoever good thing is in us, that same is the gift of grace and therefore not of deserving, though many things be given of God through our diligence in working his laws and chastising our bodies and in praying for them, and believing his promises, which else should not be given us: yet our working deserveth not the gifts, no more than the diligence of a merchant in seeking a good ship bringeth the goods safe to land though such diligence doth now and then help thereto: but when we believe in God and then do all that is in our might and not tempt him, then is God true to abide by his promise and to help us and perform alone when our strength is past:
These things I say to know is to have all the scripture unlocked and opened before thee, so that if thou wilt go in and read, thou canst not but understand. And in these things to be ignorant is to have all the scripture locked up, so that the more thou readest it, the blinder thou art and the more contrariety thou findest in it and the more tangled art thou therein and canst nowhere through: for if thou had a gloss in one place, in another it will not serve. And therefore because we be never taught the profession of our baptism we remain always unlearned, as well the spiritualty for all their great clergy and high schools (as we say) as the lay people. And now, because the lay and unlearned people are taught these first principles of our profession, therefore they read the scripture and understand and delight therein. And our great pillars of holy church, which have nailed a veil of false glosses on Moses’s face to corrupt the true understanding of his law cannot come in. And therefore they bark and say the scripture maketh heretics, and it is not possible for them to understand it in the English, because they themselves do not in Latin. And of pure malice that they cannot have their will, they slay their brethren for their faith they have in our Saviour and therewith utter their bloody wolfish tyranny and what they be within and whose disciples. Herewith reader be committed unto the grace of our Saviour Jesus, unto whom and God our Father through him be praise for ever and for ever. Amen.
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This article and excerpts from other writings of William Tyndale can be found in the booklet William Tyndale, Selected Writings, Edited with an introduction by David Daniell (2003, Carcanet Press, Manchester, Great Britain). Other works by William Tyndale are available, titles including The Obedience of a Christian Man, The Parable of the Wicked Mammon, and The Practice of Prelates.
Mr. Tyndale wrote when the Roman Catholic Church was a very powerful religious and political institution that hunted, imprisoned, tortured and executed those who disagreed with its practices or teachings, classing them as “heretics”. The RCC proclaimed Bulls and passed decrees forbidding the rendering of the scriptures in native languages and requiring heretics to be cursed, burned, executed, etc…by secular authorities; executions were always performed by the state at the request of the Church. It hunted Mr. Tyndale down in Antwerp, imprisoned him for 18 months, and then had him strangled and burnt in 1536, when he was about 42 years old. Mr. Tyndale’s crimes of heresy were the translating of the Scriptures into English (he was the 1st to translate the Scriptures from Greek, and his New Testament forms the basis of an estimated 84% of the KJV New Testament, although without credit from the venerable KJV translating committee), and refusing to acknowledge the pope as supreme and the Church as a necessary intermediary between man and God.