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HOME > Library > Books > The Prophet Jonah with An Introduction by William Tyndale

"The Prophet Jonah with an Introduction"

by William Tyndale

MARTYR, 1536

Published (originally) in 1531

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Martyrdom of William Tyndale by strangulation and burning at the stake, 1536, Foxe's Acts & Monuments

William Tyndale (1494-1536 ad) Protestant Reformer, Bible Translator and Martyr, 1536

"The scripture contains three things in it: first the law to condemn all flesh: secondarily, the Gospel that is to save, promises of mercy for all that repent and acknowledge their sins at the preaching of the law and consent in their hearts that the law is good and submit themselves to be scholars to learn to keep the law and to learn to believe the mercy that is promised them: and thirdly, the stories and lives of those scholars both what chances fortuned them and also by what means their schoolmaster taught them and made them perfect and how he tried the true from the false."

William Tyndale

"The Prophet Jonah with an Introduction
by William Tyndale"


"The prophet Jonah with an introduction before teaching to understand him and the right use also of all the scripture and why it was written, and what is therein to be sought and shown wherewith the scripture is locked up that he which reads it cannot understand it though he study therein never so much: and again with what keys it is so opened that the reader can be stopped out with no subtle or false doctrine of man from the true sense and understanding thereof."

by William Tyndale

MARTYR, 1536

Originally published: 1531

Edited and Updated:

HAIL & FIRE, 2009


Introduction by William Tyndale

The Story of the Prophet Jonah


William Tyndale unto the Christian Reader.

As the envious Philistines stopped the wells of Abraham and filled them up with earth to put the memorial out of mind to the intent that they might challenge the ground: even so the fleshly minded hypocrites stop up the veins of life which are in the scripture with the earth of their traditions, false similitudes, and lying allegories: and that of like zeal to make the scripture their own possession and merchandise: and so shut up the kingdom of heaven which is God’s Word neither entering in themselves nor suffering them that would.

The scripture has a body without and within a soul, spirit and life. It has without a bark, a shell and as it were a hard bone for the fleshly minded to gnaw upon. And within it has pit, kernel, merry and all sweetness for God’s elect, which he hath chosen to give them his Spirit and to write his law and the faith of his Son in their hearts.

The scripture contains three things in it: first, the law to condemn all flesh: secondly, the Gospel that is to save, promises of mercy for all that repent and acknowledge their sins at the preaching of the law and consent in their hearts that the law is good and submit themselves to be scholars to learn to keep the law and to learn to believe the mercy that is promised them: and thirdly, the stories and lives of those scholars both what chances fortuned them and also by what means their schoolmaster taught them and made them perfect and how he tried the true from the false.

When the hypocrites come to the law, they put glosses to and make no more of it than of a worldly law which is satisfied with the outward work and which a Turk may also fulfill. When yet God’s law never ceases to condemn a man until it be written in his heart and until he keep it naturally without compulsion and all other respect save only of pure love to God and his neighbor as he naturally eats when he is hungry without compulsion and all other respect save to slake his hunger only.

And when they come to the Gospel there they mingle their leaven and say God now receives us no more to mercy but of mercy receives us to penance, that is, to wit, holy deeds that make them fat bellies and us their captives both in soul and body. And yet they feign their idol, the Pope, so merciful that if you make a little money glister in his Balaam’s eyes there is neither penance nor purgatory nor any fasting at all but to fly to heaven as swift as a thought and at the twinkling of an eye.

And the life stories and deeds of men that are contained in the bible they read as things no more pertaining unto them than to think of Robin Hood and as things they know not to what end they serve save to feign false discourse and juggling allegories to establish their kingdom withal. And one, the chiefest and fleshliest study they have, is to magnify the saints above measure and above the truth, and with their poetry to make them greater than ever God made them. And if they find any infirmity or sin ascribed unto the saints, that they excuse with all diligence, diminishing the glory of the mercy of God and robbing wretched sinners of all their comfort, and think thereby to flatter the saints and to obtain their favor and to make special advocates of them: even as a man would obtain the favor of worldly tyrants: as they also feign the saints much more cruel than ever was any heathen man and more violent and vengeful than the poets feign their gods or their furies that torment the souls in hell if their feasts be not kept with fasting and their images visited and saluted with a Pater Noster (which prayer only our lips are acquainted with - our hearts understanding not at all) and worshipped with a candle and the offering of devotion in the place which they have chosen to hear the supplications and make petitions of their patrons therein.

But you, reader, think of the law of God how that it is all together spiritual and so spiritual that it is never fulfilled with deeds or works until they flow out of your heart with as great love toward your neighbor for no deserving of his, yea, though he be your enemy, as Christ loved you and did for you for no deserving of your own, but even when you were his enemy. And in the mean time, throughout all our infancy and childhood in Christ till we are grown up into perfect men in the full knowledge of Christ and full love of Christ again and of our neighbor for his sake, after the example of his love to us, remember that the fulfilling of the law is a lively faith in Christ’s blood, coupled with our profession and submitting ourselves to learn to do better.

And of the Gospel or promises which you meet in the scripture, believe surely that God will fulfill them unto you and that, unto the utmost portion at the repentance of your heart when you turn to him and forsake evil, even of his goodness and fatherly mercy unto you, and not for your flattering him with hypocritical works of your own feigning. So that a lively faith only without respect of all works is the forgiveness both of the sin which we did in time of ignorance with lust and consent to sin and also of all the sin which we do by chance and of frailty after we have come to knowledge and have professed the law from our hearts. And all deeds serve only to help our neighbor and to tame our flesh that we fall not to sin again and to exercise our souls in virtue and not to make satisfaction to Godward for the sin that is once past.

And all other stories of the bible without exception are the practicing of the law and of the Gospel, and are true and faithful examples and sure earnest that God will even so deal with us as he did with them in all infirmities, in all temptations, and in all like cases and chances. Wherein you see, on the one side, how fatherly and tenderly and with all compassion God entreats his elect, which submit themselves as scholars to learn to walk in the ways of his laws and to keep them of love. If they forgot themselves at a time and went astray, he sought them out and set them again with all mercy. If they fell and hurt themselves, he healed them again with all compassion and tenderness of heart. He has often brought great tribulation and adversity upon his elect: but all out of fatherly love only to teach them and to make them see their own hearts and the sin that there lay hid, that they might afterward feel his mercy. For his mercy waits upon them to rid them out again (that is, to rid sin out again – H&F), as soon as they had learned and come to the knowledge of their own hearts: so that he never cast man away how deep soever he had sinned, save them only which had first cast the yoke of his laws from their necks with utter defiance and malice of heart.

Which examples, how comfortable are they for us when we be fallen into sin and God is come upon us with a scourge that we despair not, but repent with full hope of mercy after the examples of mercy that are gone before: and therefore they were written for our learning, as testifies Paul, Rom. 15, to comfort us that we might the better put our hope and trust in God, when we see how merciful he has been in times past unto our weak brethren that are gone before, in all their adversities, need, temptations, yea, and horrible sins into which they now and then fell.

And on the other side you see how they that hardened their hearts and sinned of malice and refused mercy that was offered them, and had no power to repent, perished at the later end with all confusion and shame mercilessly. Which examples are very good and necessary to keep us in awe and dread in time of prosperity as you may see by Paul, 1 Cor. 10, that we abide in the fear of God and wax not wild and fall to vanities, and so sin and provoke God and bring wrath upon us.

And thirdly, you see in that practice how, as God is merciful and longsuffering, even so were all his true prophets and preachers, bearing the infirmities of their weak brethren and their own wrongs and injuries with all patience and longsuffering, never casting any of them behind their back until they sinned against the Holy Spirit, maliciously persecuting the open and manifest truth: contrary unto the example of the Pope, which, in sinning against God and to quench the truth of his Holy Spirit, is ever chief captain and trumpet-blower to set other to work and seeks only his own freedom, liberty, privilege, wealth, prosperity, profit, pleasure, pastime, honor, and glory with the bondage, thralldom, captivity, misery, wretchedness, and vile subjection of his brethren: and in his own cause is so fervent, so stiff and cruel that he will not suffer one word spoken against his false majesty, wily inventions and juggling hypocrisy to be unavenged though all Christendom should be set together by the ears and should cost he cared not how many hundred thousand of their lives.

Now that you may read Jonah fruitfully and not as a poet’s fable but as an obligation between God and your soul, as an earnest penny given you of God, that he will help you in time of need if you turn to him and, as the Word of God, the only food and life of your soul, this mark and note. First, count Jonah the friend of God and a man chosen of God to testify his name unto the world: but yet a young scholar, weak and rude, after the fashion of the Apostles while Christ was yet with them bodily, which, though Christ taught them ever to be meek and to humble themselves, yet often strove among themselves who should be greatest. The sons of Zebedee would sit, the one on the right hand of Christ and the other on the left. They would pray that fire might descend from heaven and consume the Samaritans.

When Christ asked,” who say men that I am,” Peter answered, “thou art the Son of the living God,” as though Peter had been as perfect as an angel. But immediately after, when Christ preached unto them of his death and passion, Peter was angry and rebuked Christ and thought earnestly that he had raved and not known what he said: as at another time when Christ was so fervently busied in healing the people that he had not leisure to eat, they went out to hold him, supposing that he had been beside himself. And one that cast out devils in Christ’s name they forbade because he waited not on them, so glorious were they yet.

And though Christ taught always to forgive, yet Peter, after long going to school, asked whether men should forgive seven times, thinking that seven times had been too much. And, at the last supper, Peter would have died with Christ, but yet within a few hours after, he denied him both cowardly and shamefully. And after the same manner, though he had so long heard that no man might avenge himself, but rather turn the other cheek too than to smite again, yet when Christ was being taken, Peter asked whether it were lawful to smite with the sword and tarried no answer, but laid on rashly. So that, though when we come first unto the knowledge of the truth and peace is made between God and us, and we love his laws and believe and trust in him as in our father, and have good hearts unto him, and be born anew in the Spirit: yet we are but children and young scholars, weak and feeble, and must have leisure to grow in the Spirit, in knowledge, love, and in the deeds thereof, as young children must have time to grow in their bodies.

And God our father and schoolmaster feeds us and teaches us according unto the capacity of our stomachs, and maketh us to grow and wax perfect, and refines us and tries us as gold in the fire of temptations and tribulations. As Moses witnesses, Deut. 8, saying: “Remember all thy ways by which the Lord thy God carried thee this forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee and to tempt or prove thee, that it might be known what were in thine heart. He brought thee into adversity and made thee an hungered, and then feed thee with manna which neither thou nor yet thy fathers ever knew of, to teach thee that a man liveth not by bread only, but by all that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” For the promises of God are life unto all that cleave unto them, much more than is bread and bodily sustenance: as the journey of the children of Israel out of Egypt into the land promised them, ministers the notable examples and that abundantly, as does all the rest of the Bible also. How be it, it is impossible for flesh to believe and to trust in the truth of God’s promises, until he has learned it in much tribulation, after God has delivered him out thereof again.

God, therefore, to teach Jonah and to show him his own heart and to make him perfect and to instruct us also by his example, sent him out of the land of Israel where he was a prophet, to go among the heathen people and to the greatest and mightiest city of the world then, called Nineveh: to preach that within forty days they should all perish for their sins, and that the city should be overthrown. Which message the free will of Jonah had as much power to do as the weakest hearted woman in the world has power, if she were commanded to leap into a tub of lying snakes and adders: as happily if God had commanded Sara to have sacrificed her son Isaac, as he did Abraham, she would have disputed with him before she had done it or though she were strong enough, yet many an holy saint could not have found in their hearts but would have disobeyed and have run away from the presence of the commandment of God with Jonah if they had been so strongly tempted.

For Jonah thought of this manner: Lo, I am here a prophet unto God’s people, the Israelites, which, though they have God’s Word testified unto them daily, yet despise it and worship God under the likeness of calves and after all manner of fashions save after his own Word, and, therefore, are, of all nations, the worst and most worthy of punishment. And yet God, for love of few that are among them and for his name’s sake, spares them and defends them. How then should God take so cruel vengeance on so great a multitude of them to whom his name was never preached to and therefore are not the tenth part so evil as these? If I shall therefore go preach, so shall I lie and shame myself and God thereto, and make them the more to despise God and set the less by him, and to be the more cruel unto his people.

And upon that imagination he fled from the face or presence of God: that is, out of the country where God was worshipped in and from prosecuting of God’s commandment, and thought, I will get me another way among the heathen people and be no more a prophet, but lie at rest and out of all encumbrance. Nevertheless, the God of all mercy which cared for his elect children and turns all unto good to them and smites them to heal them again, and killeth them to make them alive again, and plays with them (as a father does sometimes with his young ignorant children), and tempts them and proves them to make them see their own hearts, provided for Jonah how all things should be.

When Jonah was entered into the ship, he laid him down to sleep and to take his rest: that is, his conscience was tossed between the commandment of God which sent him to Nineveh and his fleshly wisdom that dissuaded and counseled him the contrary, and at the last prevailed against the commandment and carried him another way, as a ship caught between two streams and as poets feign the mother of Meliager to be between divers affections while to avenge her brother’s death she sought to slay her own son. Whereupon, for very pain and tediousness, he lay down to sleep for to put the commandment, which so gnawed and fretted his conscience out of mind, as the nature of all the wicked are when they have sinned in earnest, to seek all means with riot, revel and pastime, to drive the remembrance of sin out of their thoughts or as Adam did, to cover their nakedness with aprons of Pope-holy works. But God awoke him out of his dream and set his sins before his face.

For when the lot had caught Jonah then be sure that his sins came to remembrance again and that his conscience raged no less than the waves of the sea. And then he thought that he only was a sinner and the heathen that were in the ship none in respect of him, had thought also, as verily as he was fled from God that as verily God that had cast him away: for the sight of the rod makes the natural child not only to see and to acknowledge his fault but also to forget all his father’s old mercy and kindness. And then he confessed his sin openly and had yet thought it preferable to perish alone than that the other should have perished with him for his sake: and so, of very desperation to have lived any longer bad, cast him into the sea before it was too late, except they would be lost also.

To speak of lots, how far they are lawful is a light question. First, to use them for the breaking of strife, as when partners, their goods as equally divided as they can, take every man his part by lot, to avoid all suspicion of deceitfulness: and as the Apostles in the first chapter of the Acts, when they sought another to succeed Judas the traitor, and two persons were present, then to break strife and to satisfy all parties, did cast lots which one should be admitted, desiring God to teper [1] them and to take whom he knew most meet, saying that they knew not which to prefer or haply could not all agree on either, is lawful in all like cases. But to abuse them unto the tempting of God and to compel him therewith to utter things whereof we stand in doubt when we have no commandment of him so to do, as these heathen here did though God turned it unto his glory, cannot be but evil.

The heathen seamen astonished at the sight of the miracle, feared God, prayed to him, offered sacrifice and vowed vows. And I doubt not but that some of them or haply all came thereby unto the true knowledge and true worshiping of God and were won to God in their souls. And thus God, who is infinitely merciful in all his ways, wrought their souls health out of the infirmity of Jonah, even of his good will and purpose and love wherewith he loved them before the world was made and not of chance, as it appears unto the eyes of the ignorant.

And that Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of his fish: we cannot thereby prove unto the Jews and infidels or unto any man that Christ must therefore die and be buried and rise again. But we use the example and likeness to strengthen the faith of the weak. For he that believes the one cannot doubt in the other: inasmuch as the hand of God was no less mighty in preserving Jonah alive against all natural possibility and in delivering him safe out of his fish, then in raising up Christ again out of his sepulcher. And we may describe the power and virtue of the resurrection thereby, as Christ himself borrows the similitude thereto, Matt. 12, saying unto the Jews that came about him and desired a sign or a wonder from heaven to certify them that he was Christ: this evil and wedlock-breaking nation (which break the wedlock of faith wherewith they be married unto God, and believe in their false works) seek a sign, but there shall no sign be given them save the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, even so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Which was a watchword, as we say, and a sharp threatening unto the Jews and as much to say as thus, “ye hard hearted Jews seek a sign: lo, this shall be your sign,” as Jonah was raised out of the sepulcher of his fish and then sent unto the Ninevites to preach that they should perish, even so shall I rise again out of my sepulcher and come and preach repentance unto you. See therefore when you see the sign that you repent or else you shall surly perish and not escape. For though the infirmities which you now see in my flesh be a lett [2] unto your faith, you shall yet then be without excuse, when you see so great a miracle and so great power of God shed out upon you. And so Christ came again after the resurrection in his spirit and preached repentance unto them by the mouth of his Apostles and disciples, and with miracles of the Holy Spirit. And all that repented not perished shortly after and were for the most part slain with sword and the rest carried away captive into all quarters of the world for an example, as you see unto this day.

And in like manner, since the world began, wheresoever repentance was offered and not received, there God took cruel vengeance immediately: as you see in the flood of Noah, in the overthrowing of Sodom and Gomorra and all the country about: and as you see of Egypt of the Amorites, Canaanites, and afterward of the very Israelites, and then at the last of the Jews too, and of the Assyrians and Babylonians and so throughout all the empires of the world.

Gildas preached repentance unto the old Britons that inhabited England: they repented not and therefore God sent in their enemies upon them on every side and destroyed them up and gave the land unto other nations. And great vengeance hath been taken in that land for sin since that time.

Wycliffe preached repentance unto our fathers not long since: they repented not for their hearts were indurate and their eyes blinded with their own Pope-holy righteousness wherewith they had made their souls gay against the receiving again of the wicked spirit that brings seven worse than himself with him and makes the later end worse than the beginning: for in open sins there is hope of repentance, but in holy hypocrisy none at all. But what followed? They slew their true and right king and set up three wrong kings in a row, under which all the noble blood was slain and half the commons thereto, what in France and what with their own sword, in fighting among themselves for the crown and the cities and towns decayed and the land brought half into a wilderness in respect of that it was before.

And now Christ, to preach repentance, is risen yet once again out of his sepulcher in which the Pope had buried him and kept him down with his pillars and poleaxes and all disguising of hypocrisy, with guile, wiles, and falsehood, and with the sword of all princes which he had blinded with his false merchandise. And, as I doubt not of the examples that are past, so am I sure that great wrath will follow, except repentance turn it back again and cease [3] it.

When Jonah had been in the fish’s belly a space and the rage of his conscience was somewhat quieted and swaged [4] and he come to himself again and had received a little hope, the qualms and pangs of desperation which went over his heart, half overcome, he prayed, as he makes mention in the text saying: “Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the belly of the fish.” But the words of that prayer are not here set. The prayer that here stands in the text is the prayer of praise and thanksgiving which he prayed and wrote when he was escaped and past all jeopardy.

In the end of which prayer he says, “I will sacrifice with the voice of thanksgiving and pay that I have vowed that saving cometh of the Lord.” For verily to confess out of the heart that all benefits come of God, even out of the goodness of his mercy and not deserving of our deeds, is the only sacrifice that pleases God. And to believe that God only is the Savior is the thing that all the Jews vowed in their circumcision, as we in our baptism. Which vow Jonah - now taught with experience, promises to pay. For those outward sacrifices of beasts unto which Jonah had haply ascribed too much before, were but feeble and childish things and not ordained that the works, of themselves, should be a service unto God, but unto the people, to put them in remembrance of this inward sacrifice of thanks and of faith to trust and believe in God the only Savior. Which signification, when it was lost, they were abominable and devilish idolatry and image-service: as our ceremonies and sacraments are become now to all that trust and believe in the work of them and are not taught the significations to edify their souls with knowledge and the doctrine of God.

When Jonah was cast upon land again then his will was free and had power to go whither God sent him and to do what God bade - his own imaginations laid apart. For he had been at a new school, yea, and in a furnace where he was purged of much refuse and dross of fleshly wisdom, which resisted the wisdom of God, and which led Jonah’s will contrary unto the will of God. For as far as we be blind in Adam, we cannot but seek and will our own profit, pleasure and glory. And as far as we be taught in the Spirit, we cannot but seek and will the pleasure and glory of God only.

And as for the three days journey of Nineveh, whether it were in length or to go round about it or through all the streets, I commit unto the discretion of other men. But I think that it was then the greatest city of the world.

And that Jonah went a day’s journey in the city, I suppose he did it not in one day: but went fair and easy preaching here a sermon and there another and rebuked the sin of the people for which they must perish.

And when you are come unto the repentance of the Ninevites, there have you sure earnest that howsoever angry God is, yet he remembers mercy unto all that truly repent and believe in mercy. Which example our Savior Christ also castes in the teeth of the indurate Jews saying: the Ninevites shall rise in judgment with this nation and condemn them, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold a greater then Jonah is here - meaning of himself. At whose preaching yet, though it were never so mighty to pierce the heart and for all his miracles thereto, the hard hearted Jews could not repent: when the heathen Ninevites repented at the bare preaching of Jonah rebuking their sins without any miracle at all.

Why? For the Jews had leavened the spiritual law of God and with their glosses had made it altogether earthy and fleshly, and so had set a veil or covering on Moses’ face to shadow and darken the glorious brightness of his countenance. It was sin to steal: but to rob widow’s houses under a color of long prayers, and to poll [5] in the name of offerings, and to snare the people with intolerable constitutions against all love, to snatch their money out of their purses was no sin at all.

To smite father and mother was sin: but to withdraw help from them in their need, for blind zeal of offering, unto the profit of the holy Pharisees, was then as meritorious as it is now to let all your kin chose whether they will sink or swim while you build and make goodly foundations for holy people, which you have chosen to be your Christ, for to supple your soul with the oil of their sweet blessings and to be your Jesus for to save your soul from the purgatory of the blood that only purges sin, with their watching, fasting, wolward [6] going and rising at midnight etc. wherewith yet they purge not themselves from their covetousness, pride, lechery, or any vice that you see among the lay people.

It was great sin for Christ to heal the people on the Sabbath day unto the glory of God his father, but none at all for them to help their cattle unto their own profit.

It was sin to eat with unwashed hands or on an unwashed table or out of an unwashed dish: but to eat out of that purified dish that which came of bribery, theft and extortion was no sin at all.

It was exceeding meritorious to make many disciples: but to teach them to fear God in his ordinances had they no care at all.

The high prelates so defended the right of Holy Church and so feared the people with the curse of God and terrible pains of hell that no man durst leave the vilest herb [7] in his garden untithed. And the offering and things dedicated unto God for the profit of his holy vicars were in such estimation and reverence that it was much greater sin to swear truly by them than to forswear thyself by God: what vengeance then of God and how terrible and cruel damnation think ye preached they to fall on them that had stolen such holy things? And yet, says Christ, that righteousness and faith in keeping promise, mercy and indifferent judgment were utterly trodden underfoot and clean despised of those blessed fathers which so mightily maintained Aaron’s patrimony and had made it so prosperous and environed it and walled it about on every side with the fear of God that no man durst touch it.

It was great holiness to garnish the sepulchers of the prophets and to condemn their own fathers for slaying of them: and yet were they themselves, for blind zeal of their own constitutions, as ready as their fathers to slay whosoever testified unto them the same truth which the prophets testified unto their fathers. So that Christ compared all the righteousness of those holy patriarchs unto the outward beauty of a painted sepulcher full of stench and all uncleanness within.

And on the other side, they had set up a righteousness of holy works, to cleanse their souls withal: as the Pope sanctifies us with holy oil, holy bread, holy salt, holy candles, holy-dome ceremonies and holy-dome blessings, and with whatsoever holiness you will, save with the holiness of God’s Word, which only speaks unto the heart and shows the soul her filthiness and uncleanness of sin, and leads her by the way of repentance unto the fountain of Christ’s blood to wash it away through faith, by the reason of which false righteousness they were disobedient unto the righteousness of God, which is the forgiveness of sin in Christ’s blood, and they could not believe it. And so, through fleshly interpretation of the law and false imagined righteousness, their hearts were hardened and made as stony as clay in a hot furnace of fire that they could receive neither repentance nor faith or any moisture of grace at all.

But the heathen Ninevites, though they were blinded with lusts in earnest, yet were in those two points uncorrupt and unhardened, and therefore, with only the preaching of Jonah came unto the knowledge of their sins and confessed them and repented truly and turned every man from his evil deeds and declared their sorrow of heart and true repentance with their deeds which they did out of faith and hope of forgiveness, chastening their bodies with prayer and fasting, and with taking all pleasures from the flesh: trusting, as God was angry for their wickedness, even so should he forgive them of his mercy, if they repented and forsook their mis-living.

And in the last end of all, you have yet a goodly example of learning, to see how earthy Jonah is still for all his trial [9] in the whale’s belly. He was so sore displeased because the Ninevites perished not, that he was weary of his life and wished after death for very sorrow and pain that he had lost the glory of his prophesying in that his prophesy came not to pass. But God rebuked him with a likeness saying: it grieves your heart for the loss of a vile shrub or spray [10] whereon thou bestowed no labor or cost, neither was it your handwork. How much more then should grieve my heart, the loss of so great a multitude of innocents as are in Nineveh, which are all my handwork. Nay Jonah, I am God overall, and father as well unto the heathen as unto the Jews, and merciful to all and warn ere I smite: neither threat I so cruelly by any prophet, but that I will forgive if they repent and ask mercy: neither on the other side, whatsoever I promise will I fulfill it, save for their sakes only which trust in me and submit themselves to keep my laws of very love, as natural children.


On this manner, to read the scripture is the right use thereof, and why the Holy Spirit caused it to be written. That is that you first seek out the law, what God will have you to do, interpreting it spiritually without gloss or covering the brightness of Moses’ face, so that you feel in your heart how that it is damnable sin before God not to love your neighbor that is your enemy as purely as Christ loved you, and that not to love your neighbor in your heart is to have committed already all sin against him. And therefore until that love be found in you, you must acknowledge unfeignedly that there is sin in the best deed you do. And it must earnestly grieve your heart and you must wash all your good deeds in Christ’s blood, ere they can be pure and an acceptable sacrifice unto God, and you must desire God the father, for his sake, to take your deeds at worth and to pardon the imperfectness of them, and to give you power to do them better and with more fervent love.

And on the other side, you must search diligently for the promises of mercy which God has promised you again. Which two points, that is, to wit, the law spiritually interpreted, how that all is damnable sin that is not unfeigned love out of the ground and bottom of the heart after the example of Christ’s love to us, because we be all equally created and formed of one God our father, and indifferently bought and redeemed with one blood of our Savior Jesus Christ: and that the promises be given unto a repenting soul that thirsts and longs after them, of the pure and fatherly mercy of God through our faith only without all deserving of our deeds or merits of our works, but for Christ’s sake alone and for the merits and deservings of his works, death and passions that he suffered altogether for us and not for himself: which two points I say, if they be written in your heart, are the keys which so open all the scripture unto you that no creature can lock you out and with which you shall go in and out and find pasture and food everywhere. And if these lessons be not written in your heart, then is all the scripture shut up, as a kernel in the shell, so that you may read it and comen [11] of it and rehearse all the stories of it and dispute subtly and be a profound sophister, and yet understand not one jot thereof.

And thirdly, that you take the stories and lives which are contained in the bible, for sure and undoubted examples, that God so will deal with us unto the world’s end.

Herewith Reader farewell and be commended unto God and unto the grace of his Spirit. And first see that you stop not your ears unto the calling of God and that you harden not your heart beguiled with fleshly interpreting of the law and false imagined and hypocritical righteousness, and so the Ninevites rise with you at the day of judgment and condemn you.

And secondarily, if you find ought amiss when you see yourself in the glass of God’s Word, think it compendious wisdom to amend the same in good time, admonished and warned by the example of other men, rather than to tarry until you be beaten also.

And thirdly, if it shall so chance that the wild lusts of your flesh shall blind you and carry you clean away with them for a time: yet at the later end, when the God of all mercy shall have compassed you in on every side with temptations, tribulations, adversities, and encumbrances, to bring you home again unto your own heart and to set your sins which you would so feign cover and put out of mind with delectation of voluptuous pastimes, before the eyes of your conscience: then call the faithful example of Jonah and all like stories unto your remembrance, and with Jonah turn unto your father that smote you: not to cast you away, but to lay a corroding and a fretting plaster unto the pock that lay hid and fret inward, to draw the disease out and to make it appear, that you might feel your sickness and the danger thereof and come and receive the healing plaster of mercy.

And forget not that whatsoever example of mercy God has showed since the beginning of the world, the same is promised you if you will in like manner turn again and received it as they did. And with Jonah be aware of your sin and confess it and acknowledge it unto your father.

And, as the law, which frets your conscience, is in your heart and is no outward thing, even so seek within in your heart the plaster of mercy, the promises of forgiveness in our Savior Jesus Christ, according unto all the examples of mercy that are gone before.

And with Jonah let them that wait on vanities and seek God here and there and in every temple save in their hearts, go and seek you the testament of God in your heart. For in your heart is the Word of the law and in your heart is the Word of faith in the promises of mercy in Jesus Christ. So that if you confess with a repenting heart and knowledge, and surely believe that Jesus is Lord over all sin, you are safe.

And finally, when the rage of your conscience is ceased and quieted with lively faith in the promises of mercy, then offer with Jonah the offering of praise and thanksgiving, and pay the vow of your baptism that God only saves and only of his mercy and goodness: that is, believe steadfastly and preach constantly that it is God only that smites and God only that heals: ascribing the cause of your tribulation unto your own sin, and the cause of your deliverance unto the mercy of God.

And beware of the leaven that says we have power in our free will before the preaching of the Gospel to deserve grace, to keep the law of congruity or God to be unrighteous. And say with John in the first chapter, that, as the law was given by Moses, even so grace to fulfill it is given by Christ. And when they say our deeds with grace deserve heaven, say you with Paul, Rom. 6, that everlasting life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord, and that we be made sons by faith, John 1, and therefore heirs of God with Christ, Rom. 8. And say that we receive all of God through faith that follows repentance, and that we do not our works unto God, but either unto ourselves to slay the sin that remains in the flesh and to wax perfect either unto our neighbors which do as much for us again in some other things. And when a man exceeds in gifts of grace, let him understand that they be given him, as well for his weak brethren, as for himself: as though all the bread be committed unto the one who pants after it, yet for his fellows with him, which give the thanks unto their Lord and recompense the one who pants again with other kind service in their offices.

And when they say that Christ has made no satisfaction for the sin we do after our baptism: you say with the doctrine of Paul that in our baptism we receive the merits of Christ’s death through repentance and faith of which two (things) baptism is the sign. And though when we sin of frailty after our baptism, we receive the sign no more, yet we be renewed again through repentance and faith in Christ’s blood, which twain, the sign of baptism ever contained among us in baptizing our young children, does ever keep in mind and call us back again unto our profession if we be gone astray and promise us forgiveness.

Neither can actual sin be washed away with our works, but with Christ’s blood: neither can there be any other sacrifice or satisfaction to Godward for them, except Christ’s blood. For as much as we can do no works unto God, but receive only of his mercy with our repenting faith, through Jesus Christ our Lord and only Savior: unto whom and unto God our father through him and unto his Holy Spirit, that only purges, sanctifies, and washes us in the innocent blood of our redemption, be praise forever, AMEN.

"The Story of the Prophet Jonah"

The First Chapter

The Word of the Lord came unto the prophet Jonah the son of Amithai saying: Rise and get thee to Nineveh that great city and preach unto them how that their wickedness is come up before me.

And Jonah made him ready to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppe, and found there a ship ready to go to Tarshish and paid his fare, and went aboard to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.

But the Lord hurled a great wind into the sea so that there was a mighty tempest in the sea: insomuch that the ship was likely to go to pieces. And the mariners were afraid and cried every man unto his god, and cast out the goods that were in the ship into the sea to lighten it of them. But Jonah was under the hatches and laid him down and slumbered. And the master of the ship came to him and said unto him, Why slumbered thou? Up! And call unto thy God that God may think on us that we perish not.

And they said one to another, Come and let us cast lots to know for whose cause we are thus troubled. And they cast lots. And the lot fell upon Jonah.

Then they said unto him, Tell us for whose cause we are thus troubled: What is thine occupation? Whence comest thou? What is thy country called and of what nation art thou?

And he answered them, I am an Hebrew: and the Lord God of heaven, which made both sea and dry land, I fear. Then were the men exceedingly afraid and said unto him, Why did thou so? For they knew that was fled from the presence of the Lord because he had told them.

Then they said unto him, What shall we do unto thee that the sea may cease from troubling us? For the sea wrought and was troublous. And he answered them, Take me and cast me into the sea and so shall it let you be in rest: for I know it is for my sake that this great tempest is come upon you. Nevertheless the men assayed with rowing to bring the ship to land: but it would not be, because the sea so wrought and was so troublous against them. Wherefore they cried unto the Lord and said: O Lord let us not perish for this man’s death, neither lay innocent blood unto our charge: for thou Lord, even as thy pleasure was, so thou hast done.

And then they took Jonah and cast him into the sea, and the sea left raging. And the men feared the Lord exceedingly: and sacrificed sacrifice unto the Lord: and vowed vows.

The Second Chapter

But the Lord prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And so was Jonah in the bowels of the fish three days and three nights. And Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the bowels of the fish.

And he said: In my tribulation I called unto the Lord and he answered me: out of the belly of hell I cried and thou heardest my voice. For thou had cast me down deep in the midst of the sea: and the flood compassed me about: and all thy waves and rolls of water went over me: and I thought that I had been cast away out of thy sight. But I will yet again look toward thy holy temple. The water compassed me even unto the very soul of me: the deep lay about me: and the weeds were wrapped about mine head. And I went down unto the bottom of the hills and was barred in with earth on every side forever. And yet thou Lord my God brought up my life again out of corruption. When my soul fainted in me, I thought on the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee even into thy holy temple. They that observe vain vanities have forsaken him that was merciful unto them. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving and will pay that I have vowed that saving cometh of the Lord.

And the Lord spoke unto the fish: and it cast out Jonah again upon the dry land.

The Third Chapter

Then came the Word of the Lord unto Jonah again saying: up and get thee to Nineveh that great city and preach unto them the preaching which I bade the. And he arose and went to Nineveh at the Lord’s commandment. Nineveh was a great city unto God, containing three days journey.

And Jonah went to and entered into the city even a day’s journey and cried saying: There shall not pass forty days but Nineveh shall be overthrown.

And the people of Nineveh believed God and proclaimed fasting and arrayed themselves in sackcloth, as well the great as the small of them.

And the tidings came unto the king of Nineveh, which arose out of his seat and did his apparel off and put on sackcloth and sat him down in ashes. And it was cried and commanded in Nineveh by the authority of the king and of his lord’s saying: see that neither man or beast, ox or sheep taste ought at all, and that they neither feed or drink water.

And they put on sackcloth both man and beast and cried unto God mightily, and turned every man from his wicked way, and from doing wrong in which they were accustomed, saying: who can tell whether God will turn and repent, and cease from his fierce wrath that we perish not? And when God saw their works, how they turned from their wicked ways, he repented on the evil which he said he would do unto them, and did it not.

The Fourth Chapter

Wherefore Jonah was sore discontent and angry. And he prayed unto the Lord and said: O Lord, was not this my saying when I was yet in my country? And therefore I hasted rather to flee to Tarshish: for I knew well enough that thou wast a merciful God, full of compassion, long ere thou be angry and of great mercy and repentest when thou art come to take punishment. Now therefore take my life from me, for I had rather die than live. And the Lord said unto Jonah, art thou so angry?

And Jonah gat him out of the city and sat him down on the east side thereof, and made him there a booth and sat thereunder in the shadow till he might see what should chance unto the city.

And the Lord prepared, as it were, a wild vine which sprang up over Jonah that he might have shadow over his head to deliver him out of his pain. And Jonah was exceeding glad of the wild vine.

And the Lord ordained a worm against the spring of the morrow morning which smote the wild vine that it withered away. And as soon as the sun was up, God prepared a fervent east wind: so that the sun beat over the head of Jonah that he fainted again and wished unto his soul that he might die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.

And God said unto Jonah, Art thou so angry for thy wild vine? And he said, I am angry a good, even unto the death. And the Lord said, Thou hast compassion on a wild vine, whereon thou bestowedest no labor nor madest it grow, which sprang up in one night and perished in another: and should not I have compassion on Nineveh that great city, wherein there is a multitude of people, even above an hundred thousand that know not their right hand from the left, besides much cattle?



[1] ‘teper:’ possibly ‘temper,’ as to soothe or satisfy them by choosing between the two (H&F).

[2] lett: that is, let; a hindrance or obstruction (H&F).

[3] cease it: stop it (H&F).

[4] swaged: sunk down (H&F).

[5] poll: to shear off or to plunder (H&F).

[6] wolward or “woolward,” a reference to the wearing of coarse or woolen garments next to the skin as an act of penance (H&F).

[7] vilest herb: least esteemed, smallest (H&F).

[8] cauteles: cautionary statements or warnings (H&F).

[9] trial: that is, of faith (H&F).

[10] spray: a sprig or shoot (H&F).

[11] comen: perhaps comment (H&F).

"So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them." Jonah 3:5 KJV
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