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SERMONS, DIVIDED INTO
FIVE DECADES CONTAINING THE
of the Church of TYGVRE in
WHEREVNTO ARE ADDED CER-
WITH A TRIPLE OR THREE-FOLD
Translated out of Latine into English, by
This is my beloved Sonne in whom I am well pleased: Heare him. Imprinted at London by Ralph Newberie, dwelling in Fleete street a little aboue the Conduit,
Cum gratia & priuilegio Regiae Maiestatis.
[N.B. Notwithstanding what is here stated, the edition of 1587
has not this Table prefixed to it.]
TO THE MINISTRY OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND, AND
THAT just cause there is that all spiritual shepherds, and specially these of our time, should see carefully to the feeding of the flocks committed to their charge, may easily appear to him that shall but a little stay his consideration upon this matter. For first, the commandments of the Almighty touching this thing are very earnest, the authority of which should greatly enforce. Secondly, the rewards which he proposeth to vigilant and careful pastors are large and bountiful, the sweetness of which should much allure. Thirdly, the plagues and heavy judgments, which he denounceth against slothful and careless shepherds, are grievous and importable', the terror whereof should make afraid. Then the nature and condition of the sheep over whom they watch, the vigilancy of the wolf against whom they watch, the conscience in taking the fleece for which they watch, and this time and age wherein they watch, being rightly considered, will give them to understand sufficiently, that they have good occasion to watch.
How earnestly God commandeth, appeareth, Esay lviii. where he saith, "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, shew my people their transgressions, and the Isai. Iviii. house of Jacob their sins." And Esay lxii. "I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Hierusalem, which all the day Isai. Ixii. and all the night continually shall not cease: ye that are mindful of the Lord, keep not silence." And John xxi. "Feed my lambs, feed my sheep, and if ye love me, feed.” And John xxi. 2 Tim. iv. "Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season, improve2, rebuke, exhort, &c." How sweetly with 2 Tim. iv. rewards he allureth, doth appear in the xii. of Daniel: "They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, Dan xii. [1i. e. unsupportable: "importable power."-Spenser. P.]
[2 i. e. reprove.]
1 Tim. iv.
1 Cor. ix.
and they that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever." And 1 Tim, iv. "Take heed to thyself and to doctrine; in them occupy thyself continually. For in so doing thou shalt save thyself and them which hear thee." How fiercely also he urgeth and driveth on the sluggish and careless shepherds with terrible plagues and whips threatened unto them, appeareth, Ezechiel iii., where he saith, "Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word of my mouth, and give them warning from me: when I shall say unto the wicked, thou shalt surely die, and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to admonish the wicked of his wicked way that he may live; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at thy hand.” And Ieremie i. ver. 17: "Thou therefore, truss up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not afraid of their faces, lest I destroy thee before them." And 1 Cor. ix. ver. 16: "Though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to rejoice of1; for necessity is laid upon me, and woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel: for if I do it willingly, I have a reward: but if I do it against my will, notwithstanding the dispensation is committed unto me."
Now the sheep, whereof spiritual shepherds have undertaken charge, are not beasts, but men: the very images of God himself endued with everliving souls, citizens with the saints and blessed angels, clothed with God's livery, beautified with his cognizance and all the badges of salvation, admitted to his table, and to no meaner dishes than the body and blood of the undefiled Lamb Christ Jesus; bought also and redeemed out of the wolf's chawes with no less price than of that same blood more precious than any gold or silver. Sheep also of that nature they are, that, being carefully fed and discreetly ordered, they prove gentle and loving towards their shepherds, and serviceable towards the chief Shepherd Jesus Christ: but being neglected and left to themselves, they degenerate into bloody wolves, watching ever opportunity when they may rent in pieces their shepherds, and all other sheep which are not degenerated into their wolfish nature.
As for the spiritual wolf, against whom they watch, which [1 So Tyndale's Versions, and Cranmer's Bible, 1539.]
[2 Chawes: jaws. P.]
is Satan, "He," as the apostle Peter witnesseth, 1 Epistle, 1 Pet. v. cap. v. "never resteth, but as a roaring lion walketh about, seeking ever whom he may devour." And for that cause also
is he called, Apoc. xx. ver. 2, "a dragon," which beast is Rev. xx. naturally very malicious crafty, and watchful: so then, if the spiritual shepherd must watch whiles the spiritual wolf doth wake, he can promise unto himself no one moment of security, wherein he may be careless.
God by his prophet Ezechiel, cap. xxxiv. saith: "Woe Ezek. xxxiv. be unto the shepherds of Israel that feed themselves: should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool; ye kill them that are fed, but ye feed not the sheep." This sentence should awake the sleepy and careless consciences of many shepherds. For as the priest that serveth the altar is worthy to live upon the offerings, and the soldier that ventureth is worthy his wages, and the husbandman that toileth is worthy the harvest, and the shepherd that feedeth the flock is worthy to be fed with the milk, and clothed with the wool; so, questionless, the priest that serveth not is worthy no offerings, the soldier that fighteth not is worthy no wages, the husbandman that loitereth is worthy of weeds, and the shepherd that feedeth not can with no good conscience require either the milk or the fleece but his due reward and just recompence is punishment, for that through his default the sheep are hungerstarved and destroyed of the wolf.
But let the ministers of our time well weigh the condition and manner of the time; and then, no doubt, they shall see that it is high time to bestir them to the doing of their duties. This time succeedeth a time, wherein was extreme famine of all spiritual food, so that the sheep of this time can never recover themselves of that feebleness whereinto they were brought, but by some great and extraordinary diligence. This time succeedeth a time, wherein the multitude of wolves and ravenous beasts was so great, and their rage and fury so fell in every sheepfold, that the good shepherds were either put to flight, or pitifully murdered; so that the sheep, being committed to wolves, did either perish, or degenerate into wolves so that to regenerate them again into sheep requireth no small labour. The church in this time is like land that hath lain, time out of mind, unmanured, uncompassed, untilled;