Thomas Lever (1521–1577) on Redeemed Souls Perishing

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in For Whom did Christ Die?


Redeemed souls perishing:

1) As for example of ryche men, loke at the merchauntes of London, and ye shall see, when as by their honest vocacion, and trade of marchandise god hath endowed them with great abundaunce of ryches, then can they not be content with the prosperous welth of that vocacion to satisfye theym selues, and to helpe other, but their riches muste abrode in the countrey to bie fermes [farms] out of the handes of worshypfull gentlemen, honeste yeomen, and pore lahorynge husbandes. Yea nowe also to bye personages, and benefices, where as they do not onelye bye landes and goodes, but also lyues and soules of men, from God and the comen wealth, vnto the deuyll and theim selues. A myscheuouse marte of merchandrie is this, and yet nowe so comenly vsed, that therby shepeheardes be turned to theues, dogges into wolues, and the poore flocke of Christ, redemed wyth his precious bloud, moste miserablye pylled, and spoyled, yea cruelly deuoured. Be thou marchaunt of the citye, or be thou gentleman in the contrey, be thou lawer, be you courtear, or what maner of man soeuer thou be, that can not, yea yf thou be mailer doctor of diuinitie, that wyl not do thy duety, it is not lawfull (or the to haue personage, benefice, or any suche liuyng, excepte thou do fede the flocke spiritually wyth goddes worde, and bodelye wyth honeste hospitalitye. I wyll touch diuerse kyndes of ryche men and rulers, that ye maye se what harme some of theim do wyth theyr ryches and authoritye. And especiallye I wyll begynne wyth. theym that be best learned, for they seme belyke to do moste good wyth ryches and authoritie unto theim committed. If I therefore beynge a yonge simple scholer myghte be so bolde, I wolde alke an auncient, wyse, and well learned doctor of diuinitie, whych cometh not at hys benefice, whether he were bounde to fede hys flocke in teachynge of goddes worde, and kepyng hospitalitie or no? He wold answere and saye: syr my curate supplieth my roume in teachynge, and my farmer in kepynge of house. Yea but master doctor by your leaue, both these more for your vauntage then for the paryshe conforte: and therfore the mo suche seruauntes that ye kepe there, the more harme is it for your paryshe, and the more synne and shame for you. Ye may thynke that I am sumwhat saucye to laye synne and shame to a doctor of diuinitie in thys solemne audience, for some of theim vse to excuse the matter, and saye: Those whych I leaue in myne absence do farre better then I shoulde do, yf I taryed there my selfe. Thomas Lever, Sermons,  (London: Bloomsbury,1871), 29-30. [Original spelling retained;  italics original; some bracketed words inserted; and underlining mine; the archaic font character for “s” substituted with the modern s.]

2) The filthye gredye puttockes, wylde haukes, and rauenyng kytes be fupersticious papistes, carnall gospellers, and sedicious rebelles, which as ye haue seene, by late experience, haue moil cruelly caught, spoyled, and deuoured the lambes, the chekynnes, the chyldren of God, redemed and boughte with Christes bloude. Wherfore as Christ in his owne persone dyd once lament and bewayle Ierusalem, so dothe he nowe many tymes in the persons of his propheticall Preachers, lament and bewayl Englande, saying: O England, howe ofte wolde I haue gathered thy chyldren, as a hen gathereth her chikens vnder her wynges, and thou woldest not. Euen with the same affeccion that the shepherde cryeth, seeyng the wolfe le[e]ryng towardes the shepe, and with the same affeccion that the hen clocketh and calleth, spyeng the kyte houeryng ouer her chekyns: with the same affeccion it behoueth the minister and preacher of God, seeyng vntollerable vengeaunce hangynge ouer Englande, to aye, to call, and to geue warnyng vnto the people, saying as [it] is written In the first of Esay: If ye willyngly wyl heare and obeye, ye shall eate the good comfortable frutes of the earthe: but if ye wyll not, and prouoke me vnto angre, the swoorde shall deuoure you: Quia os Domini locutum.1 For it is the mouth of the lord that hath spoken.

Now your reuerende maiestie, most gracious kyng, and you honourable wyse godly counsellers, you are the chiefe shepherdes, you are the most reuerende fathers in Christe, hauynge the wynges of power and authoritie, to shadow, saue, and keepe these lambes of god, these [the] chekens of Christ, and these chyldren of the heauenly father, redemed with Christes bloude, and committed vnto your handes, to be saued, kepte, and prouyded for.

God be praysed, with thankful obedience, and louynge reuerence dewe to your gracious maiestye and honorable counsell, whiche haue surely wysely prouyded for, diligently kept, and charitably saued this realme, by driuyng away the wylde [wilie] foxe of papisticall supersticion, and by castynge out the vncleane spirit of ignorance, to gods glorye, your honour. and our comfort.

But alas most gracious Kyng and godly gouemors, for the tender mercyes of God, in our Sauiour Iesu Christ, take good and diligent heede when ye be charyng the wylde [wilie] fox of papisticall supersticion, that the greedye wolfe of couetous ambicion, do not creepe in at your backes: For surely he wyll doo more hanne in a weeke, then the foxe dyd in a yere.

Take heede, that the vncleane spirite of ignoraunce, returynge with. vii. other worse then himself, fynde no place vnwarded, where he may creepe in agayne. For if he retumyng with his felowes, enter in agayne, then wyll he make the ende of this generacion to bee worse then the begynnyng. Thomas Lever, Sermons, ed. Edward Arber (London: Bloomsbury,1871), 56-58. [Original spelling retained;  italics original; some bracketed words inserted; and underlining mine; the archaic font character for “s” substituted with the modern s.]

3) If I were in anye other place in all Englande, I could and wolde vse an other trade of preachynge afore an other audience: but beyng called of God by your appoyntement vnto this place at this tyme, my conscience doth compell me to vse this trade and no other, afore this solemne audience. Wherfore with dreede and feare of God, with charitable pitie of the people, with most reuerende loue and homage vnto your honors, I must needes crye with the prophet Esaie: Prinapes Sodomoe, populus Gomorroe:2 Heare the woorde of the Lorde ye Princes of Sodome, ye people of Gomorra: Quomihi mullitutio victimarum vestrarum:3 What care I for the great nombre of your sacrifyces, Dicit Dominus, sayth the lord: rebukynge all the sacrifices, ceremonies, and feastes of the Iewes, which he himselfe had commaunded to be obserued and kepte: by the which thyng left in writynge, he doth teache and commaunde me howe to speake of your wel doyng here in England. Heare therfore ye Princes of Sodome, and ye people of Gomor, thus sayth the Lord. What pleasure haue I, yea what care I for al your Englishe Bibles, Homilies, and all youre other bookes: set furthe no more godly seruyce to honor me with: I hate them all with my herte, they are greuous vnto me, I am wery of them: Yea, it is a great payne for me to suffer them. Why, o lord, these be good, these be godly, and these be necessary thynges.

Truth it is, the faulte is not in the thynges that be fet furthe, but in you that haue set them furthe. Manus enim vestrae plenoe sunt sanguine:4 For your handes are ful of blood.

Your handes, your seruyces [services] and your houses be ful of persons lyuynges, Preachers huynges, and offycers liuynges. And by you, the persone hath his dispensacion, the preacher is put to scilence, and the offycer vnpunyshed, for neclectynge of his dutye. And so through the negligence of the kepers, [(]good order, which is the pale of the parke of this commune welth dekayed [)], the dere therof, most dearly bought with Christes bloude, haue strayed oute of theire owne feedynge, to distroy the corne of all mens liuynges: Where as very necessytie hath compelled you with such force to driue them backe, as must needes distroye manye of those dere. Those people I mean, which you haue cheryshed and kept, and as yet doo loue and pitie aboue all other iewels, commodities and pleasures. Alas, these that take the liuynges, and doo not the dutyes of Persons, Preachers, landlordes, Bailyes, and of other officers: These flatterers, these wolfes in lambes skyns, these deuyls in mens vysers haue caused you to be thought and taken as cruell oppressers of those [these] people, whose furious wylde rage ye dyd suppresse and keepe ynder, of yeraye charitable pitie towardes them, and all other, whiche with that rebellious rage, shulde haue be all togither distroied, if the help of your power and aucthoritie had ben anye longer differed. Thomas Lever, Sermons, ed. Edward Arber (London: Bloomsbury,1871), 67-68. [Original spelling retained;  italics original; some bracketed words inserted; and underlining mine; the archaic font character for “s” substituted with the modern s.]

4) These be al Wolfes, and the names and tytles [titles] that you gyue them, be nothyng els but sheepe skynnes. Some saye, they wyll take better heede here after, but that which is now past, can not nowe be called backe, and amended. Yea, and it were great pitie, seeyng that they haue payed the fyrst fruites vnto the Kynges Magestie, and no small reward vnto other men, perchaunce bought their offices dearely, now to put them out of those liuyngs, with the losse of all those charges, whiche they haue bestowed in rewardes, as otherwayes, to gette suche liuynges.

Wo, wo, wo vnto you hipocrites that stumble at a strawe, and leape ouer a blocke, that strayne out a gnat, and swalowe vp a camell, that pitye more the losse of mens bribrye, which was geuen to corrupt some men, than the treding vnder fote of Christes blood, which was shead, to saue all men, that dooe imagen it pitie to driue the theues, murtherers and wolfes from amongest the lambes of God, redemed with Christes precious blood, and committed vnto your gouernaunce and kepynge.

As God shal help me, I speake with feare, pitie, and reuerence: if you do not rather pulle the shepes skines ouer the wolfes eares, and hange their carkases vpon the pales, than suffer them to contynewe styll, God wyll plucke you doune with some sodeyn mischief, rather than mainteyn or suffer you in so hygh aucthoritie, to vse such vncharitable, vngodly, and cruel pitie. You knowe that some of them haue bought their benefices, haue bought theire offyces, than must ye nedes knowe, that eyther Christ is a lyer, orels that they be entered in as theeues, to spoyle, murther, and to destroye.

If you suffer theeues, murtherers, and wolfes, to take their plesures amongest Gods lambes, I tell you playn, God wyll not long suffer you to be ye hed-shepherds, and gouernors and feders of his lambes. Thomas Lever, Sermons, ed. Edward Arber (London: Bloomsbury,1871), 85-86. [Original spelling retained;  italics original; some bracketed words inserted; and underlining mine; the archaic font character for “s” substituted with the modern s.]

Of related interest:

5) Therfore yf thyroume be benefyce, prebende, offyce or authorytie in a christen comminaltye wythin Gods house,

and yf thou be brought in at the doore of ordynarye and lawefull callynge, by paynefull dyligence to do good, thou mayest be a faythfull stewarde in that place: but yf thou be broughte in ouer and besydes all ordinarye and lawfull callynge, by couetous ambycyon to get gaynes, then must thou nedes be a these and a robber: for Chryste whyche so sayth can be no lyer. I meane yf thou by money or fryndishyp haue boughte eyther benefyce or offyce, thou canst not be of Christes institucion, but of the Dyuylles intrusion, not a fayethful dysposer, but a theuysh extorcioner of Gods gyfts. For Christ sayth playnely that he whyche entereth not in at the doore, but clymeth ouer an other way, is a thefe and a robber, and the these commeth not but to steale, murther, and to destroy.

The doore whyche is Christe hym selfe, can neuer be entred in at by eyther frendshyp or money. Sum perauenture wyl be offended not because I speake agaisnt the biinge of benefices, whyche be spirituall charges, but for that I also include the bying and sellynge of offyces, whych as they saye, be temporall promocions. As for benefyces ye knowe so well, that I neede not to stand about the declaracion or prose in theym.

No, I am sure that ye perceyue howe that through the abuse of one benefyce, the Deuyll ofte tymes is sure to have many soules.

Fyrfte the patron for hys presentacion, then the Byshoppe for admission, the person for hys vnworthyness, and a greate manye of the paryshe that be loft for lacke of a good Persons dutye.

But now as concemyng the biynge of offyces, to come thereby vnto the roume of an auditour, Surueiour, Chauncelloure, or anye suche lyke, surelye no man wyll attempt it, but he whyche is so couetouse and ambyciousse that he dooeth neytber dread God nor loue man. Whereof commeth the byinge of offyces but of couetousness? howe then canne that be a good fruyte whyche spryngeth oute of the roote of all euyll? Is not euerye Chrysten common wealtbe the folde of Christes shepe, the house of hys famylye? be not then all offycers in a Chrysten common wealthe named by Goddes woorde sheppeherdes of the fold, and stewardes of the famylye of Chryste? O Lorde what shall wee then saye to excuse theim that by and sel offyces wythyn England? Shall we say those offyces be no roumes and places ordeyned of god for hys faythefull stewardes, therein to dyspose hys treasures and benefytes? or that the vile slaues of wycked Mammon for their brybery may lawfully be promoted vnto those roumes whyche be ordeyned of God to hys holy seruauntes for theyr fydelytye? If we saye that the offyces be not meete for Gods seruauntes, then we confes that the offycers whyche be in theim be gods ennemyes. If we saye that they be ordeyned for the fayethfull seruauntes of god, how can we thynkethat they maye be brought [bought] vnto the brybynge seruauntes of wycked mammon? Lette vs not seeke excuses to cloke synne, no let euerye manne be knowen to be a lyer and specyallye, they that fay: One Manne can serue twoo maysters, Mammon in geuynge or takynge of brybes, and GOD in faythfull dooynge of duty. Let god be iustifyed when ye fynde hys worde true, whyche plainly affyrmeth that they whyche clyme into a common offyce of Chrystes fold by the help of Mammon in at the wyndowe of bryberye be theues and robbers, commyng to steal, murder and destroye. Thomas Lever, Sermons, ed. Edward Arber (London: Bloomsbury,1871), 109-111. [Original spelling retained;  italics original; some bracketed words inserted; and underlining mine; the archaic font character for “s” substituted with the modern s.]

6) What maruell is it then thoughe the vengeaunce of God be poured forth amongs them of such iniquitie, yea and most abundantly when as hys word playnely preached, is of theym moste wickedly abused and shamefully

slandered, whych say: Lorde, Lorde, and do not as they be commaunded of the Lord. Wherfore let vs fay: Non nobis domine, non bobis. Not vnto vs O Lord, not vnto vs, but vnto thy name geue glorye, not for that we by oure dedes haue deferued, but yat [that] thy name O Chryste amongest vs christians may be honored, pardon our fauts, amende our liues, and indue vs with grace, that the lyghte of oure good workes afore men vpon the earthe, may cause thee to be gloryfyed O Lorde in heauen. Dearlye beloued in Christe for the tender mercyes of god, when as ye se carnall gospellers, couetous ydolaters, greuyng youre consciences, slaunderynge Christes religion, and damnynge theyr owne soules, do not of malyce contempne disdayne and reuyle them, but of charitable pitye, lament, sorow, and pray for theim, whyche blynded wyth ygnoraunce know not theim selues, deceyued wyth the deuyll, be drawen from Christe, comforte and saluacion, vnto euerlastynge deathe and damnacion. Say and pray for them: O lorde suffer not the enemye thus to lede into captiuitye owre felowes thy seruauntes, oure brethren thy chyldren, O Chryst restore unto lyberty them that you hast redemed wythe thy precious blud, so yat we may altogether drawen of ye father, receyued of the sonne, and gided of the holy gost, be ministers of Chryst in libertye of the gospell, delyuered from synne frelye to delyte and take pleasure in a godly conuersacion all the dayes of our lyfe. Nowe let vs after thys takynge of the mynisterye of Chryste, w[h]yich perteineth generally vnto all christians, speake of the dysposers of Gods mysteryes, wherein we maye consider seuerally euery mans vocacion.

Paule dyd dyspose the secretes of God by the preachynge of the Gospell, whych was euer secretly hydde from the wyttye, wyse, and learned in the worlde. Other men in other vocacions must dyspose other treasures of God by other meanes. As the magistrate by authorytye must dyspose the punyshmente of vyce, and the mayntenaunce of vertue. 105-106. [Original spelling retained;  italics original; some bracketed words inserted; and underlining mine; the archaic font character for “s” substituted with the modern s.]

[Notes: 1) For more on the use of the language of ‘redeemed souls perishing,’ see, Tyndale, Luther, CalvinGualther, Latimer, and Vermigli and Charnock’s implied used of it. 2)  Jonathan Moore also documents Preston’s use of the language in his English Hypothetical Universalism: John Preston and the Softening of Reformed Theology, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2007).]

11s. i. 20.

2Isa. i. 10-11.

3Isa. i. 10-11.

4lsa. i. 15

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