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HOME > Library > Books > "The Catechism of Thomas Becon With Other Pieces Written by Him in the Reign of King Edward VI" (1844 Parker Society Edition)
by Thomas Becon
(1512-1567ad, Prebendary of Canterbury,
The Parker Society, 1844 Edition
~ The Catechism ~
"Suffer the children to come unto me: forbid them not. For unto such doth the kingdom of God appertain." Mark 10
The First Part of the Catechism: OF REPENTANCE
The Second Part of the Catechism: OF FAITH
A NEW CATECHISM
The Third Part of the Catechism
OF THE LAW
The Fourth Commandment.
"Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath-day. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work. But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. In it shalt thou do no manner of work, neither thou, nor thy son, nor thy servant, nor thy maid, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it." Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5.
Father. What is the will of God in this commandment? Son. God in this his law requests of us two things: First, that we keep holy the sabbath-day. Secondly, that on the seventh day we rest from all worldly and bodily business, labors, and works, that we may the more freely serve the Lord our God, and consider the things which appertain unto the salvation of our souls.
Father. What signifieth this word sabbath? Son. Rest, and ceasing from servile labor and outward works.
Father. What is it to sanctify the sabbath-day? Son. Not to pass over that day idly in lewd pastimes, in banqueting, in dicing and carding, in dancing and bear-baiting, in bowling and shooting, in laughing and whoring, and in such like beastly and filthy pleasures of the flesh; nor yet in bargaining, buying and selling, as they do which run to fairs and markets on the sabbath-day and on other holy and feast days (for this is not to sanctify, but to profane, not to hallow, but to defile the sabbath-day); but, all such madness and wickedness laid aside, and the mind utterly sequestered from all worldly things, and the body free from all servile works, to address ourselves, and to apply our whole mind and body unto godly and spiritual exercises; as unto the consideration of the mighty power of God in creating all things both in heaven and in earth, yea, and that of nothing, through his word, for the wealth and commodity of man: again, unto the consideration of God's unspeakable goodness in preserving and maintaining those his creatures for the use and profit of man. Item, unto the humble and reverent hearing or reading of God's holy word; unto the faithful and diligent calling on the name of God by fervent prayer; unto the unfeigned and hearty thanksgiving to God for his benefits no less diversely than plenteously declared unto us; unto the worthy receiving of the holy mysteries of the body and blood of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus; unto the visiting, counseling, comforting, and helping of the poor and miserably afflicted persons; unto the utter giving over of all the studies, devices, and works of the old man; unto the earnest embracing of the fruits of the Spirit; and in fine, unto the whole giving over of ourselves unto the good will of God, to work in us by his Holy Spirit whatsoever his blessed pleasure shall be, that he alone may live, rule, reign, and triumph in us.
Father. Are there any sentences in the Holy Scripture, which confirm this law of the sabbath-day? Son. Yea, many and divers. Father. Rehearse part of them.
Son. God said to Moses: "Speak unto the children of Israel, and say: Keep my sabbath; for it is a token between me and you and your posterities, that ye may know how that I am the Lord which halloweth you: therefore keep my sabbath; for it shall be holy unto you. Whoso unhalloweth it shall die the death. For whoso doeth any work therein shall be rooted out from among his people. Six days shall men work; but upon the seventh day is the sabbath, that is to say, the holy rest of the Lord. Whoso doeth any work upon the sabbath-day shall die the death. Therefore shall the children of Israel keep the sabbath, that they may keep it also among their posterities for an everlasting covenant. An everlasting token is it between me and the children of Israel. For in six days made the Lord heaven and earth, but upon the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed." Again he saith unto Moses: "Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: These are the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall call holy days. Six days shalt thou work; but the seventh day is the rest of the sabbath, and shall be called holy. Ye shall do no work therein; for it is the sabbath of the Lord, wheresoever ye dwell."
By the prophet Isaiah God also saith: "Keep equity, and do right, &c. Blessed is the man that doth this, and the man's child, which keepeth the same; even he that taketh heed that he unhalloweth not the sabbath, that is, he that keepeth himself that he do no evil, &c. Unto them that keep my sabbath, and hold greatly of the thing that pleaseth me, and keep my covenant, will I give in my household and within my walls a better heritage and name, than if they had been called sons and daughters. I will give them an everlasting name that shall not perish, &c. All they which keep themselves, that they unhallow not the sabbath, namely, that they fulfill my covenant; them will I bring unto my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer." Again, God by the same prophet saith: "If thou on the sabbath-day turnest thy foot away from doing thine own will and pleasure in my holy day, then shalt thou be called unto the pleasant, holy, and glorious sabbath of the Lord, where thou shalt be in honour; so that thou do not after thine own imagination, neither seek thine own will, nor speak thine own words. Then shalt thou have thy pleasure in the Lord, which shall carry thee high above the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father; for the Lord's own mouth hath so promised."
By the prophet Jeremiah God speaketh also on this manner: "Take heed for your lives, that ye carry no burden upon you in the sabbath-day, to bring it through the gates of Jerusalem: ye shall bear no burden also out of your houses in the sabbath. Ye shall do no labour therein, but hallow the sabbath, as I commanded your fathers. Howbeit, they obeyed me not, neither hearkened they unto me, but were obstinate and stubborn, and neither obeyed me, nor received my correction. Nevertheless if ye will hear me, saith the Lord, and bear no burden into the city through this gate upon the sabbath; if ye will hallow the sabbath, so that ye do no work therein; then shall there go through the gates of this city kings and princes, that shall sit upon the seat of David, &c. But if ye will not be obedient unto me, to hallow the sabbath, so that ye will bear your burdens through the gates of Jerusalem upon the sabbath; then shall I set fire upon the gates of Jerusalem, and it shall burn up the houses of Jerusalem, and no man shall be able to quench it."
Again, by the prophet Ezekiel he saith: "Walk not in the statutes of your forefathers: keep not their ordinances, and defile not yourselves with their idols; for I am the Lord your God. But walk in my statutes: keep my laws and do them: hallow my sabbaths; for they are a token betwixt me and you, that ye may know how that I am the Lord."
Father. Are the Christians also no less bound unto the observation and keeping of the sabbath-day than the Jews were in times past? Son. As concerning the seventh day, which was the Jews' sabbath, wherein they were commanded to rest and cease from all outward labor, we be free from that law, and are no more bound to the restful keeping thereof than of any other day. In consideration whereof, the godly fathers of Christ's church turned the Jews' sabbath-day into the Sunday, which is now called the sabbath of the Christians, to declare, that we Christians are free from the keeping of the aforesaid Jewish sabbath, and that it is in the liberty of the Christian magistrates to appoint what day they will to be the sabbath of the Christians; and therefore we shall note, that the law concerning the sabbath-day is partly ceremonial, and partly moral. It is ceremonial, as touching the external rest, and the self seventh day, which now is abrogated with all the other Mosaical ceremonies through the coming of Christ; so that in this behalf we be free from that law. Notwithstanding, as touching the keeping of the public ministry, I mean, the Christians to repair together unto their temples on some certain day in the week at the appointment of the godly Christian rulers, to pray unto God, to give thanks to God for his benefits, to hear God's word, to receive the holy mysteries of the body and blood of our Savior Christ, &c., and, that they may do those things the more conveniently, to sequester both their bodies and minds from all worldly things and servile works, &c.; in this behalf this law concerning the sabbath abideth moral, and is to be observed also of the Christians, not only spiritually, but also corporally, except some grave, weighty, urgent, and necessary cause persuadeth to the contrary, that by this means they may learn the better to exercise themselves in matters of God and godliness, and seek by that temporal rest, how they may attain unto the perpetual rest of the world to come.
Father. Declare to me by the word of God, that the Christians are free from the sabbath of the Jews. Son. Our Savior Christ said unto the Pharisees (when they found fault with his disciples, because that "they being hungry plucked of the ears of the corn, and did eat on the sabbath-day, saying unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath), Have ye not read, what David did, when he was hungry, and they also that were with him? How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the show-breads, which were not lawful for him to eat, neither for them that were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that the priests in the temple break the sabbath, and yet are blameless? But I say unto you, that there is one here greater than the temple. But if ye knew what this were, I have pleasure in mercy and not in sacrifice, ye would not have condemned innocents. For the Son of man is Lord even over the sabbath." In another place he also saith: "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath. Therefore is the Son of man Lord even over the sabbath." St Paul also saith: "Seeing ye now know God (yea, rather are known of God), how is it that ye turn you back again unto the weak and beggarly traditions, whereunto ye desire again afresh to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am in fear of you, lest I have bestowed labour on you in vain." Again: "Let no man trouble your consciences about meat, or drink, or for a piece of an holy day, as the holy day of the new moon, or of the sabbath-days, which are the shadow of the things that were to come." Item: "Bodily exercise profiteth little; but godliness is profitable unto all things, as a thing which hath promises of the life that now is, and of the life to come."
Father. It appeareth by the words of the apostle in his epistle to the Hebrews, that we Christians have also a sabbath. Son. What are those words?
Father. Thus saith he : "There remaineth yet a sabbath or rest unto the people of God. For he that is entered into the rest of God ceaseth from his works, as God doth from his. Let us make haste, therefore, to enter into that rest, lest that any man fall after the same example of unbelief."
Son. This sabbath or rest, whereof the apostle here speaketh, is not corporal, but spiritual; not worldly, but ghostly; not outward, but inward; consisting rather in the quietness or rest of the mind than of the body, being a very figure of that godly and everlasting quietness and rest, which through Christ we shall have after this life in the kingdom of God the Father. For a Christian man being at quiet with God in his conscience, by ceasing from doing evil works, and by conforming of himself unto the will of God, even in this world hath heaven in his breast, as I may so speak: even as the faithful man, which believeth in Christ, hath everlasting life even in this world, as it is written: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." The sabbath therefore of the Christians is spiritual and everlasting, not to be observed one day in the week only, after the manner of the Jews, but every day so long as we live, by ceasing to do evil, and by studying to do good, as it is written: "There shall be a new moon for the other, and a new sabbath for the other; and all flesh shall come to worship before me, saith the Lord."
Father. Notwithstanding these things, which thou hast spoken of the spiritual, inward, and everlasting sabbath of the Christians, thou dost not take away the sabbaths and feast days, which are appointed of the rulers of Christ's church to be observed of their subjects, that they may the more quietly give themselves to spiritual and godly exercises. Son. God forbid. For so should I sin both against faith and charity. Against faith: because I should directly strive against God's word, which commandeth not to resist but humbly to obey the godly and righteous ordinances of the high powers, forasmuch as "there is no power but of God;" and "he that resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God, and purchaseth to himself everlasting damnation." Against charity: because I should transgress and break that good and godly order, which is both confirmed by public authority, and also received with the common consent of all faithful congregations, advancing greatly both the glory of God, and making not a little to the increase of our knowledge in the mysteries of our salvation through the blood of Christ.
Father. And is it lawful for us upon our sabbaths and feast days in any case to labor? Son. "It is lawful," as our Savior Christ saith, "to do good even on the sabbath-day." We read, that on the sabbath-day Christ healed divers persons that were diseased, and restored them to their health, to give us an example to do the like, when either faith, charity, or necessity requires. For to the true godly, every day is the sabbath-day; forasmuch as they spend every day in holy works, and have nothing to do with such deeds as be uncomely to be done of true Christians; forasmuch also as every day they lift up their minds unto God, call on his holy name by fervent prayer, praise his glorious majesty, and have their meditation in the law of the Lord, yea, and that in the midst of their godly travails and labors. Notwithstanding, except great necessity or urgent causes do require that we should work on the sabbath-day, or on other feast days appointed by public authority unto holy exercises, we ought not to break that godly quietness on such holy days, but diligently apply our minds (all worldly business set apart) unto such heavenly and godly studies and actions, as the solemnity of those feasts requires. If any man without necessary cause attempts the contrary, he greatly offends, as I have heretofore said.
Father. But wherefore doth God in this law make mention of labor, commanding us to work six days in the week, and to rest on the seventh? Son. God at the beginning, so soon as man had transgressed and broken his holy commandment in paradise, and had eaten of the forbidden fruit, enjoined Adam, and in him all his posterity, this penance, that in the sweat of his brows and in the labor of his hands he should eat his bread, and get his living, until he returned into the earth: for earth he was, and unto earth he should return. Therefore, whereas the Lord our God had from the beginning laid this yoke of labor upon all men's neck, commanding them to work and to travail for their living so long as they remained in this vale of misery, no day excepted, and is now determined to erect and set up a comely order in the public weal of the Israelites, wherein he will have his wonderful works considered, his word preached, his glorious name called upon and praised, his people brought unto the knowledge of his holy will, matters of their soul-health regarded, spiritual exercises practiced, &c.; he renews here his former penance of labor laid upon man for his disobedience, commanding him not to live idly, dissolutely, and slothfully, but diligently to travail by all lawful means to get his living with the labor of his hands and the sweat of his brows, yea, and that six days in the week: notwithstanding, that such godly exercises, whereof I have tofore spoken, may the more conveniently be brought to pass, he exempts man from labor and servile occupations on the sabbath-day, commanding him on that day to rest, and to give himself to corporal quietness, that he may the more freely give his mind to spiritual and godly things, and on that day no less to seek after things pertaining unto the salvation of his soul, than he the six days past labored for the things which concern the health and preservation of his body. And to provoke man the more earnestly both unto labor and also unto the hallowing of the sabbath-day, God sets forth himself an example unto us of them both, that is to say, of labor on the six days, and of rest on the sabbath, which is the seventh day; affirming that "in six days he made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is, and rested on the seventh day," so that "he blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it."
Father. We are then commanded of God in this precept two things: first, six days to labor; secondly, to rest from labor on the seventh day, yea, and that unto this end, that we may pass over that day in godly and spiritual exercises. Son. So is it.
Father. Are there any other places of the Holy Scripture, which command us to labor with our hands, and to get our living with the sweat of our brows? Son. We have plenty, both of sentences and of examples. God said unto Adam immediately after his fall: "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread, until thou dost return unto the earth, out of the which thou art taken. For earth thou art, and to earth shalt thou return." The psalmograph saith: "Thou shalt eat the labours of thy hands: so shalt thou be blessed, and it shall go well with thee." That mirror of patience saith : "A man is born to labour, and a bird to fly." The wise man saith: "Go to the emmet, thou sluggard, consider her ways, and learn to be wise. She hath no guide, nor overseer, nor ruler; yet in the summer she provideth her meat, and gathereth her food together in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, thou sluggish man? When wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yea, sleep on still a little; slumber a little; fold thine hands together yet a little, that thou mayest sleep: so shall poverty come unto thee, as one that travelleth by the way, and necessity like a weaponed man." But if thou be not slothful, thy harvest shall come as a springing well, and poverty shall flee far from thee. Again: "Whoso gathereth in summer is wise; but he that is sluggish in harvest bringeth himself to confusion." "An idle hand maketh poor; but a quick labouring hand maketh rich." Also in another place: "Whoso is slothful and slack in his labour is the brother of him that is a waster." Item: "Delight not thou in sleep, lest thou come unto poverty; but open thine eyes, that thou mayest have bread enough." "A slothful body will not go to plough for cold of the winter: therefore shall he go a begging in summer, and have nothing."
St Paul also saith: "Let him that stole steal no more, but let him rather labour with his hands the thing which is good, that he may give unto him that needeth." Again: "We beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more, and that ye study to be quiet, and to meddle with your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; that ye may behave yourselves honestly toward them that are without, and that nothing be lacking unto you." Item: "When we were with you, this we warned you of, that if any would not work, the same should not eat. For we have heard say, that there are some which walk among you inordinately, working not at all, but being busy-bodies. Them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that they work with quietness, and eat their own bread."
Father. Rehearse some examples of labor out of the Holy Scripture. Son. Adam, even in paradise, was commanded of God to keep and to till the garden. Cain was a plowman. Abel was a shepherd. Tubal exercised music. Tubal-cain was a worker in brass and iron. Noah was a husbandman, and planted a vineyard. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and many of the ancient patriarchs were keepers of sheep. Joseph was a magistrate and ruler in the commonweal. Moses was a shepherd, and afterward a governor in the public weal of Israel. The children of Israel laboured painful in the land of Egypt. David kept sheep, and afterward was king over Israel. The prophet Elijah was a plowman and tilled the earth. The prophet Amos was a shepherd and kept sheep.
Joseph, the husband of Mary the virgin was a carpenter. Christ likewise was a carpenter, and labored for his living, till he came to the office of preaching. Many of Christ's disciples were fishermen. Matthew the evangelist was a custom-gatherer. Luke the evangelist was a physician. Tabitha, otherwise called Dorcas, made coats and garments with her own hands for the poor people. A certain godly and religions woman, called Lydia, was a seller of purple. Aquila and Priscilla his wife were makers of tents: of the which occupation St Paul also was, which lived not idly, nor yet of the sweat of other men's brows, but got his living with the labors of his own hands, because he would be chargeable to no man, as these his words do manifestly declare: "We labour and work with our own hands." Again: "Ye yourselves know how ye ought to follow us. For we behaved not ourselves inordinately among you: neither took we bread of any man for nought; but wrought with labour and sweat night and day, because we would not be chargeable to any of you: not but that we had authority, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you, to follow us. For when we were with you, this we warned you of, that if any would not work, the same should not eat." Also in another place he saith: "I have desired no man's silver, gold, or vesture: yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me."
Father. Is it not lawful then for Christian men to cease from work on those six days, seeing that God saith, "Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work"? Son. Even as on the sabbath-day, wherein we are commanded to cease from bodily labor, it is lawful, when charity or necessity requireth, to work, as we have tofore heard; so likewise is it lawful on the other six days to abstain also from labor, when the glory of God, or any other necessary cause, doth require.
Father. As God sets forth himself unto us an example of labor for six days; so doth he of rest for the seventh day. "For in six days the Lord made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is, and rested on the seventh day." Son. Truth it is.
Father. Of the sabbath-day and of the sanctifying thereof, we have tofore sufficiently heard. Rehearse therefore the next commandment.
The Fifth Commandment.
"Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land, which the Lord thy God giveth thee." Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5.
Father. This commandment pertains not unto the person of God, as the other four, which we have tofore heard. Son. No, verily. For the law of God was written with the finger of God in two tables of stone. The first table contains four commandments, and those pertain unto the worshipping and honoring of God. The other table comprehends six, and those concern our duty toward our neighbor. Of the which six this is the first, which I have now rehearsed.
Father. Why is the commandment concerning our duty toward our parents set next in order to the precepts, which concern our office and duty toward God? Son. To declare that, next unto God, we owe the chief honor, worship, and reverence to our father and mother.
Father. What is it to "honour thy father and thy mother"? Son. Not only to give them outward reverence, to rise up unto them, to give them place, to put off our caps, to kneel unto them, to ask them blessing, &c., but also honorably to esteem them, godly to think of them, heartily to love them, humbly to obey them, diligently to pray for them, charitably to conceal and hide their faults, in all honest things to gratify them, in their need to help and succor them, and in fine, at all times to do all good things for them, whatsoever lieth in our power.
Father. Are there other testimonies contained in the Holy Scripture, which also require this duty of us toward our parents? Son. Yea, very many.
Father. Rehearse some of them. Son. Moses saith: "Let everyone reverence his father and mother." Jesus, the son of Syrach, writeth on this manner: "Hear me, your father, O my dear children, and do thereafter, that ye may be safe. For the Lord will have the father honoured of the children; and look, what a mother commandeth her children to do, he will have it kept. Whoso honoureth his father, his sins shall be forgiven him; and he that honoureth his mother is like one that gathereth treasure together. Whoso honoureth his father shall have joy of his own children; and when ho maketh his prayer, he shall be heard. He that honoureth his father shall have long life; and he that is obedient for the Lord's sake, his mother shall have joy of him. He that feareth the Lord honoureth his father and mother, and doeth them service, as it were to the Lord himself Honour thy father in deed, in word, and in all patience, that thou mayest have God's blessing; and his blessing shall abide with thee forever. The blessing of the father buildeth up the houses of the children; but the mother's curse rooteth out the foundations. Rejoice not when thy father is reproved; for it is not honour unto thee, but a shame. For the worship of a man's father is his own worship; and where the father is without honour, it is the dishonesty of the son. My son, make much of thy father in his age, and grieve him not as long as he liveth. And if his understanding fail, have patience with him, and despise him not in thy strength. For the good deed that thou shewest to thy father shall not be forgotten; and when thou thyself wantest, it shall be rewarded thee (and for thy mother's offences thou shalt be recompensed with good, yea, it shall be found for thee in righteousness), and in the day of trouble thou shalt be remembered. Thy sins also shall melt away, like as the ice in the fair warm weather. But he that forsaketh his father shall come to shame, and he that despiseth his mother is cursed of God." Again he saith: "Honour thy father from thy whole heart; and forget not the sorrowful travail that thy mother had with thee. Remember that thou was born through them; and how canst thou recompense them the things that they have done for thee?" Old Toby said to his son: "Hold thy mother in honour all the days of thy life. For thou oughtest to remember what and how great perils she suffered for thee in her womb." Our Savior Christ also hath these words in the gospel: "God commandeth, saying, Honour father and mother; and he that curseth father and mother, let him die the death." St Paul likewise saith: "Ye children, obey your fathers and mothers in the Lord; for that is right. Honour thy father and mother (the same is the first commandment in the promise); that thou mayest prosper, and live long on earth." Again: "Ye children, obey your fathers and mothers in all things; for that is well-pleasing unto the Lord."
Father. Are there any ensamples contained in the Holy Scriptures of such as practiced this obedience toward their parents? Son. Yea, verily.
Father. Recite part of them. Son. Isaac showed such obedience to his father Abraham, that when he at the commandment of God should have been offered for a sacrifice unto the Lord, he did not once resist his father, but willingly suffered himself to be bound, and to be laid on the altar above upon the wood, being ready also to be slain of his father, if God had not otherwise provided. Likewise read we of young Tobias, which, when his father sent him unto a far country about certain businesses of his, refused not. to take so great a journey upon him, but meekly answered his father, and said: "Father, all that thou hast commanded me will I do, and that diligently." As I may let pass the other examples; have we not Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior a perfect example in this behalf? First, in as much as he is the only-begotten Son of God, he so obeyed the good will and pleasure of his heavenly Father, that "when he was God and equal with God, he made himself of no reputation, taking on him the shape of a servant, and became like unto men, and was found in his apparel as a man. He humbled himself and became obedient unto the death, even the death of the cross." Again, in that he is man, and the son of Mary the virgin, read we not, that he, being a child, was obedient to Mary his mother, and to Joseph her husband? Are not these the words of blessed Luke ? "Jesus went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was obedient unto them."
Father. Owe we such honor and obedience to our fathers and mothers, that we are bound by the commandment of God to obey them in all things, and to do whatsoever they command us? Son. The honor and obedience is great, I confess, which the children owe to their parents: notwithstanding, if they command anything contrary to the word of God, in this behalf they are not to be obeyed. The honor due unto parents is so far to be executed, as it may stand with the honor of God. If it doth in any point obscure that, then is it utterly to be rejected and cast away. And we may right well and with a good conscience say: "We must obey God more than men." Therefore the apostle saith very aptly: "Ye children, obey your fathers and mothers in the Lord; for that is right." Fathers and mothers are none otherwise to be obeyed, than in the Lord, that is to say, than their obedience may stand with the Lord's pleasure and with his holy word. If they command contrary to this, they are by no means to be obeyed. The Father of the spirit and of the new man is more to be honored and obeyed, than the father of the flesh and of the old man. The honor and obedience toward God, which the law of the first table requireth of us, is more to be regarded, than the honor and obedience toward man, which the law of the second table requireth of us.
Father. Give me an ensample of such things, as wherein we may not obey our parents. Son. Let it so be, that our parents were so wicked and ungodly, that they would command us to forsake the true living God and his pure religion, and to follow strange gods, and the trifling traditions of men: in this behalf they are not to be obeyed, but we must rather obey God, which saith by Moses his servant, "Thou shalt honour the Lord thy God, and him alone shalt thou serve." Again: "That I command thee, do that only to the Lord: look thou neither put ought thereunto, nor pluck anything from it." Moreover, let this be the case, that some evil-disposed father and mother would entice their daughter for lucre's sake to play the whore, and to make her body common to other: in this behalf she may by no means obey the commandment of her parents, but she must rather obey God, which saith, "Thou shalt not play the whore: there shall be no whoremonger among the sons of Israel, nor no whore among the daughters of Israel."
Father. Prove by the word of God, that the wicked commandments of ungodly parents are not to be obeyed. Son. God saith by the prophet: "Walk not in the commandments of your fathers: keep not their ordinances, and defile not yourselves with their idols; for I am the Lord your God. But walk in my statutes: keep my laws, and do them." Again he saith by another prophet: "Be ye not like your fathers, unto whom the prophets cried aforetime, saying, Thus saith the Lord God of hosts: Turn you from your evil ways and from your wicked imaginations. But they would not hear, nor regard me, saith the Lord." Hereto pertains the saying of that most noble and virtuous king Hezekiah: "Be not ye like your fathers and your brethren, which trespassed against the Lord God of their fathers, which gave them up to be destroyed, as ye see. And now be not ye stiff-necked, like as were your fathers, but yield yourselves unto the Lord, and enter into his holy place, which he hath sanctified forever, and serve the Lord your God; and the fierceness of his wrath shall turn away from you." Our Savior Christ saith also: "Think not that I am come to send peace into the earth. I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man's foes shall be they that are of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me."
Father. Hitherto hast thou right well declared, what it is to honor father and mother, and how far honor and obedience is to be showed unto them. Now declare unto me what is meant by the words that follow: "That thy days may be long in the land, which the Lord thy God giveth thee." Son. That we, which of ourselves and of our own nature are too much ingrate, unthankful, ungentle, unkind, yea, churlish, and very unmindful of benefits, those specially, which come from our parents, whom we think to do too little for us, when they be most beneficial toward us, may be provoked, moved, and stirred the more diligently to satisfy this commandment, I mean, to honor our father and mother, God adds to this his precept a pleasant, bounteous, and liberal promise; which is this, that such as honor their parents from the bottom of their heart, and seek to pleasure them to the uttermost of their power, shall have in this world many good and cheerful days, long, yea, and that quiet and joyful life, good success in all their affairs, abundance of worldly substance, health, peace, rest, comfort, joy, glory, honor, &c. and see their children's children unto the third and fourth generation, as it is written: "Behold, thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord. The Lord from out of Zion shall so bless thee, that thou shalt see Jerusalem in prosperity all thy life long; yea, that thou shalt see thy children's children, and peace upon Israel."
Father. And shall all these good things chance to those children also, that irreverently behave themselves toward their parents? Son. Nothing less. For of such children saith the Holy Scripture on this manner. First, God the Father saith: "If any man hath a son, that is stubborn and disobedient, that he will not hearken unto the voice of his father and the voice of his mother, and they have chastened him, and he would not hearken unto them; then shall his father and his mother take him, and bring him out to the elders of that city, and unto the gate of the same place, and say unto the elders of the city, This our son is stubborn and disobedient, and will not hearken unto our voice; he is a rioter, and a drunkard. And all the men of that city shall stone him with stones unto death. And thou shalt put evil away from thee; and all Israel shall hear and fear." Again: "Whosoever he be, that curseth his father or his mother, let him die; for he that curseth his father and mother, his blood be upon him." And again: "He that smiteth his father or mother, let him be slain for it." Also in another place: "Cursed be he that curseth his father and his mother; and all the people shall say, Amen."
The wise man also saith: “He that hurteth his father, and shutteth out his mother, is a shameful and an unworthy son." "Whoso curseth his father and mother, his light shall be put out in the midst of darkness." "Whoso laugheth his father to scorn, and setteth his mother's commandment at nought; the ravens pick out his eyes in the valley, and devoured be he of the young eagles." What miserable end abideth those children which dishonor and disobey their parents, the histories of Eli the priest's children, and of Absolom, David's son, do sufficiently declare.
Father. It is good therefore, my dear child, that all children give ear to this admonition of the wise man: "Be obedient to thy father that begot thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old." "Do so that thy father and mother may be glad of thee; and that she that bare thee may rejoice."
But come off, tell me, doth this fifth commandment of God bind us only unto the honor, reverence, service, and obedience of our parents? Son. Our schoolmaster, and also our catechist, taught us that this commandment of God doth not only require of us honor and obedience toward our fathers and mothers, but also toward the temporal magistrates, and the ministers of God's word, and toward our elders and all such as be our superiors and governors. For if it be meet and convenient, that we should honor and obey them which are the parents of this our body; is it not also seemly, that we do honor and obey the temporal magistrates, through whose benefit this our body is well governed and enjoy peace and quietness? Again, that we reverence the spiritual magistrates, I mean the preachers of God's word, which beget us anew, not with mortal and corruptible seed, but with immortal and incorruptible seed, I mean, the precious word of God, that word of life and everlasting salvation? Is it not also comely, that we honor and reverence such as excel us, not only in age, but also in learning, wisdom, knowledge, counsel, experience, &c.? All these aforesaid to honor, reverence, and obey, this commandment of God binds us: which thing to neglect is great wickedness.
Father. Prove by the word of God, that we ought to honor and obey the temporal magistrates, no less than our carnal parents. Son. Solomon saith: "My son, fear thou the Lord and the king, and keep no company with them that slide back from his fear." Moses saith: "Thou shalt not rail upon the gods (he means the magistrates, which exercise the office of God in the commonweal, and represent the majesty of God), neither blaspheme the ruler of the people." Our Savior Christ saith: "Give the temporal ruler the things that appertain unto the temporal ruler."
St. Paul saith: "Let every soul submit himself unto the authority of the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God. But they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation, &c. Wherefore ye must needs obey, not only for fear of vengeance, but also because of conscience. And even for this cause pay ye tribute. For they are God's ministers, serving for the same purpose. Give to every man therefore his duty; tribute, to whom tribute belongeth; custom, to whom custom is due; fear, to whom fear belongeth; honour, to whom honour pertaineth." Again he saith: "Warn them that they submit themselves to rule and power, that they obey the officers," &c. St Peter also saith: "Submit yourselves unto all manner ordinance of man, for the Lord's sake; whether it be unto the king, as unto the chief head; either unto rulers, as unto them that are sent of him for the punishment of evil-doers, but for the praise of them that do well." Again: "Fear God, honour the king."
Father. Have we any examples in the Holy Scripture of this honor and obedience toward the higher powers? Son. Very many, both in the Old and New Testament. The Israelites, specially such as were the faithful people of God, were obedient always to Moses their magistrate, and to the other rulers appointed by him, not only men of the temporality, but also of the spirituality, as they say; I mean, the priests and the Levites. When Joshua, in Moses' stead, was appointed ruler by God over the Israelites and commanded them to do certain things at the appointment of God, they answered all with one voice and said: "All that thou hast commanded us, we will do; and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go. Even as we obeyed Moses in all things, so will we obey thee: only the Lord thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses. And whosoever he be, that doth disobey thy mouth, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, let him die. Only be strong and of a good courage." And as the Israelites obeyed Moses and Joshua, so likewise did they obey the judges and kings that succeeded them according to the law of God.
And this obedience toward the higher powers, as I said before, was not only practiced of the temporality, but also of the spirituality, to declare that all degrees of estates owe obedience to the temporal power; for Aaron the high priest was obedient to Moses, whom God appointed ruler over his people, and did whatsoever he commanded him. Achimelech, the high priest, and all the other priests of the Lord were obedient to king Saul and called themselves his servants, and him their lord, not once resisting the fury of the most furious king, but rather choosing to suffer death patiently under so great a tyrant, than once to resist him disobediently. What shall I speak of David, Solomon, Hezekiah, Josaphat, Josias, &c., which had the bishops, priests, and Levites and other spiritual ministers always humble subjects and obedient unto them without any resistance?
As I may at the last come to the New Testament: did not Mary, the mother of Christ, and Joseph, her husband, obey the commandment of Augustus the emperor, when the whole world should be taxed, and went into their city Bethlehem? Did not Christ teach obedience toward the high powers? Did he not pay tribute? Was not he content to die under the temporal rulers and confess that their power was given them from above? Did not the apostles of Christ so in like manner both teach and do? Did not Paul willingly ever obey the public magistrates, Festus and Felix, with such like? These histories do sufficiently declare what honor, reverence, and obedience we owe to the temporal rulers.
Neither lack we in the Holy Scriptures histories also, which do manifestly declare what a great sin disobedience is and how grievously God has punished it. To whom are the histories of Dathan and Abiron, of Zamri and Baasa unknown, of the which, the two first, for their sedition, conspiracy, and disobedience against the higher powers, were swallowed up alive of the earth with all that ever they had, so that they went down quick unto hell; the other two most miserably perished. I pass over the histories of Miriam, Aaron's sister, of Theudas, and of Judas Galileus and such like, whom God, for their disobedience toward the higher powers, suffered not to escape unpunished. It is good to follow the example of David, which showed such honor and reverence to king Saul, being both a wicked ruler and also his mortal enemy, that he would not once hurt him, nor yet suffer any other to do it, although he had sufficient opportunity and occasion at divers times to have slain him, if he had been minded. "The Lord forbid," saith he, "that I should lay my hand on him." Again: "Kill him not. For who," saith he, "shall lay hands on the Lord's anointed, and be not guilty? The Lord liveth, he dieth not, except the Lord smite him or that his day be come to die, or else go to battle and there perish."
Father. What if the princes be wicked, and command us to do wicked things? Shall we then also obey them? Son. In this behalf we owe them no honor, no reverence, no obedience. So long as they are the ministers of God, that is to say, seek the glory of God, the advancement of his holy religion, the increase of virtue, and the suppression of vice, we are bound by the commandment of God to obey them, not only for fear of punishment but also for conscience sake: but if they cease to be the ministers of God, the promoters of his true religion, the advancers of virtue, and the suppressors of vice, we owe them no honor, no reverence, no obedience in this behalf; but with a good conscience we may say unto them with the apostles: "We must obey God more than men."
Father. How provest thou by the Word of God that magistrates commanding wicked things are not to be obeyed? Son. God is the highest magistrate and his will is to be tendered before the fancy of any inferior magistrate. Therefore if the inferior magistrate commands anything that is contrary to the commandment of the highest magistrate, I mean God, it is not to be obeyed, but utterly to be rejected and cast away, as these examples of the Holy Scripture do manifestly prove.
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"Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them" Eph 5:11 KJV
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