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Gildas:  De Excidio Britonum - Concerning the Ruin of Britain

J A Giles edition

The Epistle 40 - 69

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40. Hear now likewise what fell upon the two sacrilegious kings of Israel (even such as ours are), Jeroboam and Baasha, unto whom the sentence and doom of our Lord is by the prophet in this way directed: "For what cause have I exalted thee a prince over Israel, in regard that they have provoked me by their vanities. Behold I will stir up after Baasha and after his house, and I will give over his house as the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. Who so of his blood shall die in the city, the dogs shall eat him, and the dead carcass of him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat." What cloth he also threaten unto that wicked king of Israel, a worthy companion of the former, by whose collusion and his wife's deceit, innocent Naboth was for his father's vineyard put to death, when the holy mouth of Elias, yea, the selfsame mouth that was instructed with the fiery speech of our Lord, thus spake unto him: "Hast thou killed and also taken possession, and after this wilt thou yet add more? Thus saith our Lord, in this very place, wherein the dogs have licked the blood of Naboth, they shall lick up thy blood also." Which fell out afterwards in that very sort, as we have certain proof. But lest perchance (as befell Ahab also) the lying spirit, which pronounceth vain things in the mouths of your prophets may seduce you, hearken to the words of the prophet Micaiah: "Behold God hath suffered the spirit of lying to possess the mouths of all thy prophets that do here remain, and our Lord hath pronounced evil against thee." For even now it is certain that there are some teachers inspired with a contrary spirit, preaching and affirming rather what is pleasing, however depraved, than what is true: whose words are softer than oil, and the same are darts, who say, peace, peace, and there shall be no peace to them, who persevere in their sins, as says the prophet in another place also, "It is not for the wicked to rejoice, saith our Lord."

41. Azarias, also, the son of Obed, spoke unto Asa, who returned from the slaughter of the army of ten hundred thousand Ethiopians, saying, "Our Lord is with you while you remain with him, and if you will seek him out, he will be found by you, and if you will leave him, he will leave you also." For if Jehosaphat for only assisting a wicked king, was thus reproved by the prophet Jehu, the son of Ananias, saying, "If thou givest aid to a sinner, or lovest them whom our Lord doth hate, the wrath of God doth therefore hang over thee," what shall become of them who are fettered in the snares of their own offences? whose sin we must of necessity hate, if not their souls, if we wish to fight in the army of the Lord, according to the words of the Psalmist, "Hate ye evil, who love our Lord." What was said to Jehoram, the son of the above-named Jehosaphat, that most horrible murderer (who being himself a bastard, slew his noble brethren, that he might possess the throne in their place, by the prophet Elias, who was the chariot and charioteer of Israel? "Thus speaketh the Lord God of thy father David. Because thou hast not walked in the way of thy father Jehosaphat, and in the ways of Asa the king of Judah, but hast walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and in adultery according to the behaviour of the house of Ahab, and hast moreover killed thy brethren, the sons of Jehosaphat, men far better than thyself, behold, our Lord shall strike thee and thy children with a mighty plague." And a little afterwards, "And thou shalt be very sick of a disease of thy belly, until thy entrails shall, together with the malady itself, from day to day, tome forth out of thee." And listen also what the prophet Zachariah, the son of Jehoiades, menaced to Joash, the king of Israel, when he abandoned our Lord even as ye now do, and the prophet spoke in this manner to the people: "Thus saith our Lord, Why do ye transgress the commandments of our Lord and do not prosper? Because ye have left our Lord, he will also leave you."


42. What shall I mention of Isaiah, the first and chief of the prophets, who beginneth his prophecy, or rather vision, in this way: "Hear, O ye heavens, and O thou earth conceive in shine ears, because our Lord hath spoken, I have nourished children, and exalted them, but they themselves have despised me. The ox hath known his owner, and the ass his master's crib, but Israel hath not known me, and my people hath not understood." And a little further with threatenings answerable to so great a folly, he saith, "The daughter of Sion shall be utterly left as a tabernacle in the vineyard, and as a hovel in the cucumber garden, and a city that is sacked." And especially, convening and accusing the princes, he saith, "Hear the word of our Lord, O ye princes of Sodom, perceive ye the law of our Lord, O ye people of Gomorrah." Wherein it is to be noted, that unjust kings are termed the princes of Sodom, for our Lord, forbidding sacrifices and gifts to be offered to him by such persons, and seeing that we greedily receive those offerings which in all nations are displeasing unto God, and to our own destruction suffer them not to be bestowed on the poor and needy, speak thus to them who, laden with riches, are likewise given to offend on this head: "Offer no more your sacrifice in vain, your incense is abomination unto me." And again he denounceth them thus: "And when ye shall stretch out your hands, I will turn away mine eyes from you, and when ye shall multiply your prayers, I will not hear." And he declareth wherefore he does this, saying, "Your hands are full of blood." And likewise showing how he may be appeased, he says, "Be ye washed, be ye clean, take away the evil of your thoughts from mine eyes: cease to do evil, learn to do well: seek for judgment, succour the oppressed, do justice to the pupil or orphan." And then assuming as it were the part of a reconciling mediator, he adds, "Though your sins shall be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow: though they shall be as red as the little worm, they shall be as white as wool. If ye shall be willing to hear me, ye shall feed on the good things of the land; but if ye will not, but provoke me unto wrath, the sword shall devour you."

43. Receive ye the true and public avoucher, witnessing, without any falsehood or flattery, the reward of your good and evil, not like the soothing humble lips of your parasites, which whisper poisons into your ears. And also directing, his sentence against ravenous judges, he saith thus: "Thy princes are unfaithful, companions of thieves, all love gifts, hunt after rewards: they do no justice to the orphan, the widow's cause entereth not unto them. For thus saith our Lord God of hosts, the strong one of Israel, Alas, I will take consolation upon my foes, and be revenged upon mine enemies; and the heinous sinners shall be broken to powder, and offenders together with them, and all who have left our Lord, shall be consumed." And afterwards, "The eyes of the lofty man shall be brought low, and the height of men hath bowed down." And again, "Woe be to the wicked, evil befall him, for he shall be rewarded according to his handy-work." And a little after, "Woe be unto you who arise early to follow drunkenness, and to drink even to the very evening, that ye may fume with wine. The harp, and the lyre, and the tabor, and the pipe, and wine are in your banquets, and the work of our Lord ye respect not, neither yet consider ye the works of his hands. Therefore is my people led captive away, because they have not had knowledge, and their nobles have perished with famine, and their multitude hath withered away with thirst. Therefore hath hell enlarged and dilated his spirit, and without measure opened his mouth, and his strong ones, and his people, and his lofty and glorious ones, shall descend down unto him." And afterwards, "Woe be unto you who are mighty for the drinking of wine, and strong men for the procuring of drunkenness, who justify the wicked for rewards, and deprive the just man of his justice. For this cause even as the tongue of the fire devoureth the stubble, and as the heat of the flame burneth up, so shall their root be as the ashes, and their branch shall rise up as the dust. For they have cast away the law of our Lord of hosts, and despised the speech of the holy one of Israel. In all these the fury of our Lord is not turned away, but as yet his hand is stretched out."

44. And further on, speaking of the day of judgment and the unspeakable fears of sinners, he says, "Howl ye, because the day of our Lord is near at hand (if so near at that time, what shall it now be thought to be?) for destruction shall proceed from God. For this shall all hands be dissolved, and every man's heart shall wither away, and be bruised; tortures and dolours shall hold them, as a woman in labour so shall they be grieved, every man shall at his neighbour stand astonished, burned faces shall be their countenances. Behold, the day of our Lord shall come, fierce and full of indignation, and of wrath, and fury, to turn the earth into a desert, and break her sinners in small pieces from off her; because the stars of heaven and the brightness of them, shall not unfold their light, the sun in his rising shall be covered over with darkness, and the moon shall not shine in her season; and I will visit upon the evils of the world, and against the wicked, their own iniquity, and I will make the pride of the unfaithful to cease, and the arrogancy of the strong, I will bring low." And again, "Behold our Lord will disperse the earth, and he will strip her naked, and afflict her face, and scatter her inhabitants; and as the people, so shall be the priest; and as the slave, so shall be his lord; as the handmaid, so shall be her lady; as the purchaser, so shall be the seller; as the usurer, so shall be he that borroweth; as he who demandeth, so shall he be that oweth. With dispersing shall the earth be scattered, and with sacking shall she be spoiled. For our Lord hath spoken this word. The earth hath bewailed, and hath flitted away; the world hath run to nothing, she is weakened by her inhabitants, because they have transgressed laws, changed right, brought to ruin tile eternal truce. For this shall malediction devour the earth."

45. And afterwards, "They shall lament all of them who now in heart rejoice, the delight of the timbrels hath ceased, the sound of the gladsome shall be silent, the sweetness of the harp shall be hushed, they shall not with singing drink their wine, bitter shall be the potion to the drinkers thereof. The city of vanity is wasted, every house is shut up, no man entering in; an outcry shall be in the streets over the wine, all gladness is forsaken, the joy of the land is transferred, solitariness is left in the town, and calamity shall oppress the gates, because these things shall be in the midst of the land, and in the midst of the people." And a little further, "Swerving from the truth, they have wandered out of the right way, with the straggling of transgressors have they gone astray. Fear and intrapping falls, and a snare upon thee who art the inhabitant of the earth. And it shall come to pass: whoso shall flee from the voice of the fear, shall tumble down into the intrapping pit; and whoso shall deliver himself out of the downfall, shall be caught in the entangling snare: because the food-gates from aloft shall be opened, and the foundations of the earth shall be shaken. With bruising shall the earth be broken, with commotion shall she be moved, with tossing shall she be shaken like a drunken man, and she shall be taken away as if she were a pavilion of one night's pitching, and her iniquities shall hang heavy upon her, and she shall fall down, and shall not attempt to rise again. And it shall be, that our Lord in the same day shall look on the warfare of heaven on high, and on the kings of the earth, who are upon the earth, and they shall be gathered together in the bundle of one burden into the lake, and shall there be shut up in prison, and after many days shall they be visited. And the moon shall blush, and the sun be confounded, when our Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Sion and in Jerusalem, and be glorified in the sight of his seniors."

46. And after a while, giving a reason why he threateneth in that sort, he says thus: "Behold the hand of our Lord is not shortened that he cannot save, neither is his ear made heavy that he may not hear. But your iniquities have divided between you and your God, and your offences have hid his face from you, that he might not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity: your lips have spoken lying, and your tongue uttereth iniquity. There is none who calleth on justice, neither is there he who judgeth truly, but they trust in nothing, and speak vanities, and have conceived grief, and brought forth iniquity." And a little after, "Their works are unprofitable, and the work of iniquity is in their hands; their feet run into evil, and make haste that they may shed the innocent blood; their thoughts are unprofitable thoughts, spoil and confusion are in their ways, and the way of peace they have not known, and in their steps there is no judgment, their paths are made crooked unto them, every one who treadeth in them is ignorant of peace; in this respect is judgment removed far off from you, and justice taketh no hold on you." And after a few words, "And judgment hath been turned back, and justice hath stood afar oft, because truth hath fallen down in the streets, and equity could not enter in; and truth is turned into oblivion, and whoso hath departed from evil, hath lain open to spoil. And our Lord hath seen, and it was not pleasing in his eyes, because there is not judgment."

47. And thus far may it suffice among many, to have recited a few sentences out of the prophet Isaiah.

But now with diligent ears hearken unto him, who was foreknown before he was formed in the belly, sanctified before he came out of the womb, and appointed a prophet in all nations: I mean Jeremiah, and hear what he hath pronounced of foolish people and cruel kings, beginning his prophecy in his mild and gentle manner.

"And the word of God was spoken unto me, saying, Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, and thou shalt pronounce, Hear the word of our Lord, thou house of Jacob, and all ye kindred of the house of Israel: Thus saith our Lord; What iniquity have your fathers found in me, who have been far removed from me, and walked after vanity, and are become vain, and have not said, Where is he who made us go up out of the land of Egypt?" And after a few words, "From the beginning of thine age thou hast broken my yoke, violated my bands, and said, I will not serve, I have planted thee my chosen vine, all true seed. How art thou therefore converted into naughtiness? O strange vine! If thou shalt wash thee with nitre, and multiply unto thee the herb borith, thou art spotted in my sight with thine iniquity, saith our Lord." And afterwards, "Why will ye contend with me in judgment? Ye have all forsaken me, saith our Lord in vain have I corrected your children, they have not received discipline. Hear ye the word of our Lord. Am I made a solitariness unto Israel, or a late bearing land! why therefore hath my people said, we have departed, we will come no more unto thee? Doth the virgin forget her ornament, or I the spouse her gorget? my people truly hath forgotten me for innumerable days. Because my people are foolish, they I have not known me, they are unwise and mad children. They are wise to do evil, but to do well they have been ignorant."

48. Then the prophet speaketh in his own person saying, "O Lord thine eyes do respect faith, thou hast stricken them, and they have not sorrowed, thou hast broken them and they have refused to receive discipline, they have made their faces harder than the rock, and will not return." And also our Lord: "Declare ye this same to the house of Jacob, and make it to be heard in Judah, saying, Hear, ye foolish people who have no heart, who having eyes see not, and ears hear not. Will ye not therefore dread me, saith our Lord, and will ye not conceive grief from my countenance, who have placed the sand as the bound of the sea, an eternal commandment which she shall not break, and her waves, shall be moved, and they cannot, and her surge shall swell and yet not pass the same? But to this people is framed an incredulous and an exasperating heart, they have retired and gone their ways, and not in their heart said, Let us fear our Lord God." And again, "Because there are found among my people wicked ones, framing wiles to entangle as if they were fowlers, setting snares and gins to catch men: as a net that is full of birds, so are their houses filled with deceits. Therefore are they magnified and enriched, they are become gross and fat, and have neglected my speeches most vilely, the orphans' cause they have not decided, and the justice of the poor they have not adjudged. What! shall I not visit these men, saith our Lord? or shall not my soul be revenged upon such a nation?"

49. But God forbid that ever should happen unto you, that which followeth, "Thou shalt speak all these words unto them, and they shall not hear thee; and thou shalt call them, and they shall not answer thee; and thou shalt say unto them, This is the nation that hath not heard the voice of their Lord God, nor yet received discipline, faith hath perished, and been taken away from out of their mouth." And after some few speeches, "Whoso falleth doth he not arise again, and whoso is turned away, shall he not return again? why therefore is this people in Jerusalem, with a contentious aversion alienated? they have apprehended lying, and they will not come back again. I have been attentive, and hearkened diligently, no man speaketh what is good. There is none who repenteth of his sin, saying, What have I done? All are turned unto their own course, like a horse passing with violence to battle. The kite in the sky hath known her time, the turtle, and swallow, and stork have kept the season of their coming, but my people hath not known the judgment of God." And the prophet, being smitten with fear at so wonderful a blindness, and unspeakable drunkenness of the sacrilegious, and lamenting them who did not lament themselves (even according to the present behaviour of these our unfortunate tyrants), beseecheth of our Lord, that an augmentation of tears might be granted him, speaking in this manner, "I am contrite upon the contrition of the daughter of my people, astonishment hath possessed me is there no balm in Gilead, or is: there no physician there? Why therefore is not the wound of the daughter of my people healed? Who shall give water unto my head, and to mine eyes a fountain of tears, arid I will day and night bewail the slaughtered of my people? who will grant me in the wilderness the inn of passengers? and I will utterly leave my people, and depart from them; because they are all of them adulterers, a root of offenders, and they have bent their tongue as the bow of lying, and not of truth, they are comforted in the earth, because they have passed from evil to evil, and not known me, saith our Lord." And again: "And our Lord hath said, Because they have forsaken my law, which I have given them, and not heard my voice, nor walked thereafter, and have wandered away after the wickedness of their own heart, in that respect our Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, saith these words, Behold I will feed this people with wormwood, and give them to drink the water of gall." And a little after (speaking in the person of God), "See therefore thou do not pray for this people, nor assume thou for them praise and prayer, because I will not hear in the time of their outcry unto me, and of their affliction."


50. What then shall now our miserable governors do, these few who found out the narrow way and left the large, were by God forbidden to pour out their prayers for such as persevered in their evils, and so highly provoked his wrath, against whom on the contrary side when they returned with all their hearts unto God (his divine Majesty being unwilling that the soul of man should perish, but calling back the castaway that he should not utterly be destroyed) the same prophets could not procure the heavenly revenge, because Jonas, when he desired the like most earnestly against the Ninevites, could not obtain it. But in the meanwhile omitting our own words, let us rather hear what the prophetic trumpet soundeth in our ears speaking thus: "If thou shalt say in thy heart, Why have these evils befallen? For the multitude of thine iniquities. If the Ethiopian can change his skin, or the leopard his sundry spots, ye may also do well when ye have learned evil," ever supposing that ye will not. And afterwards: "These words doth our Lord say to this people, who have loved to move their feet, and have not rested, and not pleased our Lord, Now shall he remember their iniquities, and visit their offences; and our Lord said unto me, Pray thou not for this people to work their good, when they fast, I will not hear their prayers; and if they offer burnt sacrifices and oblations, I will not receive them." And again, "And our Lord said unto me, If Moses and Samuel shall stand before me, my soul is not bent to this people, cast them out away from my face, and let them depart." And after a few words: "Who shall have pity on thee Jerusalem, or who shall be sorrowful for thee, or who shall pray for thy peace? Thou hast left me (saith our Lord) and gone away backward, and I will stretch forth my hand over thee, and kill thee." And somewhat after: "Thus saith our Lord, Behold I imagine a thought against you, let every man return from his evil course, and make straight your ways and endeavours, who said, we despair, we will go after our own thoughts, and every one of us will do the naughtiness of his evil heart. Thus therefore saith our Lord, Ask the Gentiles, who hath heard such horrible matters, which the virgin Israel hath too often committed? Shall there fail from the rock of the field, the snow of Libanus? or can the waters be drawn dry that gush out cold and flowing? because my people hath forgotten me." And somewhat also after this propounding unto them an election, he speaking saith, "Thus saith our Lord, Do ye judgment and justice, and deliver him who by power is oppressed out of the hand of the malicious accuser; and for the stranger, and orphan, and widow, do not provoke their sorrow, neither yet work ye unjustly the grief of others, nor shed ye forth the innocent blood. For if indeed ye shall accomplish this word, there shall enter in through the gates of this house, kings of the lineage of David, sitting upon his throne. But if ye will not hearken unto these words, by myself I have sworn (saith our lord) that this house shall be turned into a desert." And again (for he spoke of a wicked king), "As I live (saith our Lord) if so be that Jechonias shall be a ring on my right hand, I will pluck him away, and give him over into the hands of them who seek his life."

51. Moreover, holy Abraham crieth out, saying, "Woe be unto them who build a city in blood, and prepare a town in iniquities, saying, Are not these things from our almighty Lord? and many people have failed in fire, and many nations nave been diminished." And thus complaining, he begins his prophecy: "How long, O Lord, shall I call, and thou wilt not hear? Shall I cry out unto thee, to what end hast thou given me labours and griefs, to behold misery and impiety?" And on the other side, "And judgment was sat upon, and the judge hath taken in regard hereof, the law is rent in pieces, and judgment is not brought fully to his conclusion, because the wicked through power treadeth the just under foot. In this respect hath passed forth perverse judgment."

52. And mark ye also what blessed Hosea the prophet says of princes: "For that they have transgressed my covenant, and ordained against my law, and exclaimed, we have known thee, because thou art against Israel. They have persecuted good, as if it were evil. They have reigned for themselves and not by me; they have held a principality, neither yet have they acknowledged me."

53. And hear ye likewise the holy prophet Amos, in this sort threatening: "In three heinous offences of the sons of Judah, and in four I will not convert them, for that they have cast away the law of our Lord, and not kept his commandments, but their vanities have seduced them. And I will send fire upon Judah, and it shall eat the foundations of Jerusalem. Thus saith our Lord, In three grievous sins of Israel, and in four I will not convert them, for that they have sold the just for money, and the poor man for shoes, which they tread upon the dust of the earth, and with buffets they did beat the heads of the poor, and have eschewed the way of the humble." And after a few words, "Seek our Lord and ye shall live, that the house of Joseph may not shine as fire, and the flame devour it, and he shall not be, that can extinguish it. The house of Israel hath hated him who rebuketh in the gates, and abhorred the upright word." Which Amos, being forbidden to prophesy in Israel, without any fawning flattery, saith in answer, "I was not a prophet, nor yet the son of a prophet, but a goatherd; I was plucking sycamores and our Lord took me from my herd, and our Lord said unto me, Go thy way and prophesy against my people of Israel: and now hear thou the word of our Lord (for he directed his speech unto the king), thou sayest, do not prophesy against Israel, and thou shalt not assemble troops against the house of Jacob. For which cause our Lord saith thus, thy wife in the city shall play the harlot, and thy sons and daughters shall die by the sword, and thy ground be measured by the cord, and thou in a polluted land shalt end thy life, but for Israel, she shall be led from his own country a captive." And afterwards, "Hear therefore these words, ye who do outrageously afflict the poor, and, practise your mighty power against the needy of the earth, who say, when shall the month pass over that we may purchase, and the sabbaths that we may open the treasuries." And within a few words after, "Our Lord doth swear against the pride of Jacob, if he shall in contempt forget your actions, and if in these the earth shall not be disturbed, and end every inhabitant thereof fall to lamentation, and the final end as a flood ascend, and I will turn your festival days into wailing, and cast haircloth on the loins of every one, and on the head of every man baldness, and make him as the mourning of one over beloved, and those who are with him as the day of his sorrow." And again, "In the sword shall die all the sinners of my people, who say, evils shall not approach nor yet shall light upon us."

54. And listen ye, likewise, what holy Michah the prophet hath spoken, saying, "Hearken, ye tribes. And what shall adorn the city? Shall not fire? and the house of the wicked hoarding up unjust treasures, and with injury unrighteousness? If the wrongful dealer shall be justified in the balance, and deceitful weights in the scales by which they have heaped up their riches in ungodliness."

55. And hear also what threats the famous prophet Zephaniah thundereth out: saith he, "The great day of our Lord is near; it is at hand, and very swiftly approacheth. The voice of the day of our Lord is appointed to be bitter and mighty, that day, a day of wrath, a day of tribulation and necessity, a day of clouds and mist, a day of the trumpet and outcry, a day of misery and extermination, a day of darkness and dirtiness upon the strong cities and high corners. And I will bring men to tribulation, and they shall go as if they were blind, because they have offended our Lord, and I will pour out their blood as dust, and their flesh as the dung of oxen, and their silver and gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of our Lord. And in the fire of his zeal shall the whole earth be consumed, when the Lord shall accomplish his absolute end, and bring solitariness upon all the inhabitants of the earth. Come together and be joined in one, thou nation without discipline, before ye be made as the fading flower, before the wrath of our Lord falleth upon ye."

56. And give ear also unto that which the prophet Haggai speaketh: "Thus saith our Lord, I will once move the heaven, and earth, and sea, and dry land, and I will drive away the thrones of kings, and root out the power of the kings of the Gentiles, and I will chase away the chariots of those who mount upon them."

57. Now also behold what Zacharias the son of Addo, that chosen prophet, said, beginning his prophecy in this manner: "Return to me, and I will return unto you, saith our Lord, and be not like your fathers, to whom the former prophets have imputed, saying, Thus saith our almighty Lord, Turn away from your ways, and they have not marked whereby they might obediently hear me." And afterwards, "And the angel asked me, what dost thou see? And I said, I see a flying scythe, which containeth in length twenty cubits. The malediction which hath proceeded upon the face of the whole earth; because every one of her thieves shall be punished even to the death, and I will throw him away, saith our almighty Lord, and he shall enter into the house of fury, and into the house of swearing falsehood in my name."

58. Holy Malachy the prophet also saith, "Behold, the day of our Lord shall come, inflamed as a furnace, and all proud men, and al workers of iniquity shall be as stubble, and the approaching day of the Lord of hosts shall set them on fire, which shall not leave a root nor a bud of them."

59. And hearken ye also what holy Job debateth of the beginning and end of the ungodly, saying, "For what purpose do the wicked live, and have grown old dishonestly, and their issue hath been according to their own desire, and their sons before their faces, and their houses are fruitful, and no fear nor yet the scourge of our Lord is upon them. Their cow hath not been abortive, their great with young hath brought forth her young ones and not missed, but remaineth as an eternal breed; and their children rejoice, and taking the psaltery and harp, have finished their days in felicity and fallen peaceably asleep down into hell." Doth God, therefore, not behold the works of the wicked? Not so, truly, "But the candle of the ungodly shall be extinguished, and destruction shall fall upon them, and pains as of one in childbirth, shall withhold them from wrath; and they shall be as chaff before the wind, and as the dust which the whirlwind hath carried away. Let all goodness fail his children; let his eyes behold his own slaughter, nor yet by our Lord let him be redeemed." And a little after, he saith of the same men, "Who have ravenously taken the flock with the shepherd, and driven away the beast of the orphans, and engaged the ox of the widow, and deceiving, have declined from the way of necessity. They have reaped other men's fields before the time; the poor have laboured in the vineyards of the mighty without hire and meat, they have made many to sleep naked without garments; of the covering of their life they have bereaved them." And somewhat afterwards, when he had thoroughly understood their works, he delivered them over to darkness. "Let, therefore, his portion be accursed from the earth; let his plantings bring forth witherings; let him for this be rewarded according to his dealings; let every wicked man like the unsound wood be broken in pieces. For arising in his wrath hath he overthrown the impotent. Wherefore truly shall he have no trust of his life; when he shall begin to grow diseased, let him not hope for health, but fall into languishing. For his pride hath been the hurt of many, and he is become decayed and rotten, as the mallows in the scorching heat, or as the ear of corn when it falleth off from its stubble." And afterwards, "If his children shall be many, they shall be turned to the slaughter, and if he gather together silver as if it were earth, and likewise purify his gold as if it were dirt, all these same shall the just obtain."

60. Hear ye moreover what blessed Esdras, that cyclopaedia of the divine law, threateneth in his discourse. "Thus saith our Lord God: My right hand shall not be sparing upon sinners, neither shall the sword cease over them who spill the innocent blood on the earth. Fire shall proceed from out of my wrath, and devour the foundations of the earth, and sinners as if they were inflamed straw. Woe be unto them who offend, and observe not my commandments, saith our Lord, I will not forbear them. Depart from me ye apostatizing children, and do not pollute my sanctuary. God doth know who offend against him, and he will therefore deliver them over to death and to slaughter. For now have many evils passed over the round compass of the earth. A sword of fire is sent out against you, and who is he that shall restrain it? shall any man repulse a lion that hungereth in the wood? or shall any one quench out the fire when the straw is burning? our Lord God will send out evils, and who is he that shall repress them? and fire will pass forth from out of his wrath, and who shall extinguish it? it shall brandishing shine, and who will not fear it? it shall thunder, and who will not shake with dread? God will threaten all, and who will not be terrified? before his face the earth doth tremble, and the foundations of the sea shake from the depths."

61. And mark ye also what Ezechiel the renowned prophet, and admirable beholder of the four evangelical creatures, speaketh of wicked offenders, unto whom pitifully lamenting beforehand the scourge that hung over Israel, our Lord doth say, "Too far hath the iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah prevailed, because the earth is filled with iniquity and uncleanness. Behold I am, mine eyes shall not spare, nor will I take pity." And afterwards, "Because the earth is replenished with people, and the city fraughted with iniquity, I will also turn away the force of their power, and their holy things shall be polluted, prayer shall approach and sue for peace, and it shall not be obtained." And somewhat after, "The word of our Lord, quoth he, was spoken unto me, saying, Thou son of man, the land that shall so far sin against me as to commit an offence, I will stretch forth my hand upon her, and break in pieces her foundation of bread, and send upon her famine, and take away mankind and cattle from her; and if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, be in the midst of her, they shall not deliver her, but they in their justice shall be saved, saith our Lord. If so be that also I shall bring in evil beasts upon the land and punish her, she likewise shall be turned to destruction, and there shall not be one who shall have free passage from the face of the beasts, and although these three men are in the midst of her, as I live, saith our Lord, their sons and daughters shall not be I preserved, but they alone shall be saved, and as for the land it shall fall to confusion." And again, "The son shall not receive the unrighteousness of the father, neither the father the son's unrighteousness. The justice of the just shall be upon himself. And the unjust man, if he turneth him away from all the iniquities which he hath done, and keepeth all my commandments, and doth justice and abundance of mercy he shall live in life and shall not die. All his sins, whatsoever he hath committed, shall have no further being; he shall live the life in his own justice which he hath performed. Do I with my will voluntarily wish the death of the unrighteous, saith our Lord, rather than that he should return from his evil way and live? But when the just shall turn himself away from his justice, and do iniquity, according to all the iniquities which the unrighteous hath committed, all the just actions (which he hath done) shall remain no further in memory. In his offence wherein he hath fallen, and in his sins in which he hath transgressed, he shal1 die." And, within some words afterwards: " And all nations shall understand, that the house of Israel are led captive away for their offences, because they have forsaken me. And I have turned my face from them, and yielded them over into the hands of their enemies, and all have perished by the sword; according unto their unclean sins, and after their iniquities have I dealt with them, and turned my face away from them."

62. This which I have spoken may suffice concerning the threats of the holy prophets: only I have thought it necessary to intermingle in this little work of mine, not only these menaces, but also a few words borrowed out of the wisdom of Solomon, to declare unto kings matters of exhortation or instruction, that they may not say I am willing to load the shoulders of men with heavy and insupportable burdens of words, but not so much as once with mine own finger (that is, with speech of consolation) to move the same. Let us therefore hear what the prophet hath spoken to rule us. "Love justice," saith he, "ye that judge the earth." This testimony alone (if it were with a full and perfect heart observed) would abundantly suffice to reform the governors of our country. For if they had loved justice, they would also love God, who is in a sort the fountain and original of all justice. "Serve our Lord in goodness, and seek him in simplicity of heart." Alas! who shall live (as a certain one before us hath said) when such things are done by our countrymen, if perchance they may be any where accomplished? "Because he is found of those who do not tempt him, he appeareth truly to them who have faith in him." For these men without respect do tempt God, whose commandments with stubborn despite they contemn, neither yet do they keep to him their faith, unto whose oracles be they pleasing, or somewhat severe, they turn their backs and not their faces. "For perverse thoughts do separate from God," and this in the tyrants of our time very plainly appeareth. But why doth our meanness intermeddle in this so manifest a determination? Let therefore him who alone is true (as we have said) speak for us, I mean the Holy Ghost, of whom it is now pronounced, "The Holy Ghost verily will avoid the counterfeiting of discipline." And again, "Because the Spirit of God hath filled the globe of the earth." And afterwards (showing with an evident judgment the end of the evil and righteous) he saith, "How is the hope of the wicked as the down that is blown away with the wind, and as the smoke that with the blast is dispersed, and as the slender froth that with a storm is scattered, and as the memory of a guest who is a passenger of one day. But the just shall live forever, and with God remaineth their reward, and their cogitation is with the Highest. Therefore shall they receive the kingdom of glory, and the crown of beauty from the hand of our Lord. Because with his right hand he will protect them, and with his holy arm defend them." For very far unlike in quality are the just and ungodly, as our Lord verily hath spoken, saying, "Them who honour me I will honour, and whoso despise me shall be of no estimation."

63. But let us pass over to the rest: "Hearken, (saith he) all ye kings, and understand ye; learn, ye judges of the bounds of the earth, listen with your ears who keep multitudes in awe, and please yourselves in the troops of nations. Because power is given unto you from God, and puissance from the highest, who will examine your actions, and sift your thoughts. For that when ye were ministers of his kingdom, ye have not judged uprightly, nor kept the law of justice, nor yet walked according to his will. It shall dreadfully and suddenly appear unto you, that a most severe judgment shall be given on them who govern. For to the meaner is mercy granted, but the mighty shall mightily sustain torments. For he shall have no respect of persons, who is the ruler of all, nor yet shall he reverence the greatness of any one, because he himself hath made both small and great, and care alike he hath of all; but for the stronger is at hand a stronger affliction. Unto you therefore, O kings, are these my speeches, that you may learn wisdom, and not fall away from her. For whoso observeth what things are just shall be justified, and whoso learneth what things are holy, shall be sanctified."

64. Hitherto have we discoursed no less by the oracles of the prophets, than by her own speeches with the kings of our country, being willing they should know what the prophet hath spoken, saying, "As from the face of a serpent, so fly thou from sins: if thou shalt approach unto them they will catch thee, their teeth are the teeth of a lion, such as kill the souls of men." And again, "How mighty is the mercy of our Lord, and his forgiveness to such as turn unto him." And if we have not in us such apostolical zeal, that we may say, "I did verily desire to be anathematized by Christ for my brethren," notwithstanding that we may from the bottom of our hearts speak that prophetic saying, "Alas! that the soul perisheth." And again, "Let us search out our ways, and seek and return unto our Lord: let us lift our hearts together with our hands to God in heaven." And also that of the apostle, "We covet that every one of you should be in the bowels of Christ."

65. And how willingly, as one tossed on the waves of the sea, and now arrived in a desired haven, would I in this place make an end (shame forbidding me further to proceed), did I not behold such great masses of evil deeds done against God by bishops or other priests, or clerks, yea some of our own order, whom as witnesses myself must of necessity first of all stone (according unto the law) with the hard blows of words, lest I should be otherwise reproved for partiality towards persons, and then afterwards the people (if as yet they keep their decrees) must pursue with their whole powers the same execution upon them, not to their corporal death, but to the death of their vices and their eternal life with God. Yet, as I before said, I crave pardon of them, whose lives I not only praise, but also prefer before all earthly treasure, and of the which, if it may be, yet before my death I desire and thirst to be a partaker: and so having both my sides defended with the double shields of saints, and by those means invincibly strengthened to sustain all that arise against me, arming moreover my head in place of a helmet with the help of our Lord, and being most assuredly protected with the sundry aids of the prophets, I will boldly proceed notwithstanding the stones of worldly rioters fly never so fast about me.


66. Britain hath priests, but they are unwise; very many that minister, but many of them impudent; clerks she hath, but certain of them are deceitful raveners; pastors (as they are called) but rather wolves prepared for the slaughter of souls (for they provide not for the good of the common people, but covet rather the gluttony of their own bellies), possessing the houses of the church, but obtaining them for filthy lucre's sake; instructing the laity, but showing withal most depraved examples, vices, and evil manners; seldom sacrificing, and seldom with clean hearts, standing at the altars, not correcting the commonality for their offences, while they commit the same sins themselves; despising the commandments of Christ, and being careful with their whole hearts to fulfil their own lustful desires, some of them usurping with unclean feet the seat of the apostle Peter; but for the demerit of their covetousness falling down into the pestilent chair of the traitor Judas; detracting often, and seldom speaking truly; hating verity as an open enemy, and favouring falsehoods, as their most beloved brethren; looking on the just, the poor, and the impotent, with stern countenances, as if they were detested serpents, and reverencing the sinful rich men without any respect of shame, as if they were heavenly angels, preaching with their outward lips that alms are to be disbursed upon the needy, but of themselves not bestowing one halfpenny; concealing the horrible sins of the people, and amplifying injuries offered unto themselves, as if they were done against our Saviour Christ; expelling out of their houses their religious mother, perhaps, or sisters, and familiarly and indecently entertaining strange women, as if it were for some more secret office, or rather, to speak truly, though fondly (and yet not fondly to me, but to such as commit these matters), debasing themselves unto such bad creatures; and after all these seeking rather ambitiously for ecclesiastical dignities, than for the kingdom of heaven; and defending after a tyrannical fashion their achieved preferments, nor even labouring with lawful manners, to adorn the same; negligent and dull to listen to the precepts of the holy saints (if ever they did so much as once hear that which full often they ought to hear), but diligent and attentive to the plays and foolish fables of secular men, as if they were the very ways to life, which indeed are but the passages to death; being hoarse, after the fashion of bulls, with the abundance of fatness, and miserably prompt to all unlawful actions; bearing their countenances arrogantly aloft, and having nevertheless their inward senses, with tormenting and gnawing consciences; depressed down to the bottom or rather to the bottomless pit; glad at the gaining of one penny, and at the loss of the like value sad; slothful and dumb in the apostolical decrees (be it for ignorance or rather the burden of their offences), and stopping also the mouths of the learned, but singularly experienced in the deceitful shifts of worldly affairs; and many of this sort and wicked conversation, violently intruding themselves into the preferments of the church; yea, rather buying the same at a thigh rate, than being any way drawn thereunto, and moreover as unworthy wretches, wallowing, after the fashion of swine, in their old and unhappy puddle of intolerable wickedness, after they have attained unto the seat of the priesthood or episcopal dignity (who neither have been installed, or resident on the same), for usurping only the name of priesthood, they have not received the orders or apostolical preeminence; but how can they who are not as yet fully instructed in faith, nor have done penance for their sins, be any way supposed meet and convenient to ascend unto any ecclesiastical degree (that I may not speak of the highest) which none but holy and perfect men, and followers of the apostles, and, to use the words of the teacher of the Gentiles, persons free from reprehension, can lawfully and without the foul offence of sacrilege undertake.

67. For what is so wicked and so sinful as after the example of Simon Magus (even if with other faults he had not been defiled before), for any man with earthly price to purchase the office of a bishop or priest, which with holiness and righteous life alone ought lawfully to be obtained; but herein they do more wilfully and desperately err, in that they buy their deceitful and unprofitable ecclesiastical degrees, not of the apostles or their successors, but of tyrannical princes, and their father the devil; yea, rather they raise this as a certain roof and covering of all offences, over the frame of their former serious life, that being protected under the shadow thereof, no man should lightly hereafter lay to their charge their old or new wickedness; and hereupon they build their desires of covetousness and gluttony, for that being now the rulers of many they may more freely make havoc at their pleasure. For if truly any such offer of purchasing ecclesiastical promotions were made by these impudent sinners (I will not say with St. Peter), but to any holy priest, or godly king, they would no doubt receive the same answer which their father Simon Magus had from the mouth of the apostle Peter, saying: "Thy money be with thee unto thy perdition." But, alas! perhaps they who order and advance these ambitious aspirers, yea, they who rather throw them under foot, and for a blessing give them a cursing, whilst of sinners they make them not penitents (which were more consonant to reason), but sacrilegious and desperate offenders, and in a sort install Judas, that traitor to his Master, in the chair of Peter, and Nicholas, the author of that foul heresy, in the seat of St. Stephen the martyr, it may be at first obtained their own priesthood by the same means, and therefore do not greatly dislike in their children but rather respect the course, that they their fathers did before follow. And also, if finding resistance, in obtaining their dioceses at home, and some who severely renounce this chaffering of church-livings, they cannot there attain to such a precious pearl, then it doth not so much loath as delight them (after they have carefully sent their messengers beforehand) to cross the seas, and travel over most large countries, that so, in the end, yea even with the sale of their whole substance, they may win and compass such a pomp, and such an incomparable glory, or to speak more truly, such a dirty and base deceit and illusion. And afterwards with great show and magnificent ostentation, or rather madness, returning back to their own native soil, they grow from stoutness to stateliness, and from being used to level their looks to the tops of the mountains, they now lift up their drowsy eyes into the air, even to the highest clouds, and as Novatus, that foul hog, and persecutor of our Lord's precious jewel, did once at Rome, so do these intrude themselves again into their own country, as creatures of a new mould, or rather as instruments of the devil, being even ready in this state and fashion to stretch out violently their hands (not so worthy of the holy altars as of the avenging flames of hell) upon Christ's most holy sacrifices.

68. What do you therefore, O unhappy people! expect from such belly beasts? (as the apostle calleth them). Shall your manners be amended by these, who not only do not apply their minds to any goodness, but according to the upbraiding of the prophet, labour also to deal wickedly? Shall ye be illuminated with such eyes as are only with greediness cast on those things that lead headlong to vices (that is to say), to the gates of hell? Nay truly, if according to the saying of our Saviour, ye flee not these most ravenous wolves like those of Arabia, or avoid them as Lot, who ran most speedily from the fiery shower of Sodom up to the mountains, then, being blind and led by the blind, ye will both together tumble down into the infernal ditch.


69. But some man perchance will objecting say, that all bishops or all priests (according to our former exception), are not so wickedly given, because they are not defiled with the infamy of schism, pride, or unclean life, which neither we ourselves will deny, but albeit we know them to be chaste, and virtuous, yet will we briefly answer.

What did it profit the high-priest Hely, that he alone did not violate the commandments of our Lord, in taking flesh with forks out of the pots, before the fat was offered unto God, while he was punished with the same revenge of death wherewith his sons were? What one, I beseech you, of them, whose manners we have before sufficiently declared, hath been martyred like Abel, from malicious jealousy of his more acceptable sacrifice, which with the heavenly fire ascended up into the skies, since they fear the reproach even of an ordinary word? Which of them "hath hated the counsel of the malicious, and not sat with the ungodly," so that of him as a prophet, the same might be verified which was said of Enoch, "Enoch walked with God and was not to be found" in the vanity (forsooth) of the whole world, as then leaving our Lord, and beginning to halt after idolatry? Which of them, like Noah in the time of the deluge, hath not admitted into the ark of salvation (which is the present church) any adversary unto God, that it may be most apparent that none but innocents or singular penitents, ought to remain in the house of our Lord? Who is he that offering sacrifice like Melchisedeck, hath only blessed the conquerors, and them who with the number of three hundred (which was in the sacrament of the Trinity) delivering the just man, have overthrown the deadly armies of the five kings, together with their vanquishing troops, and not coveted the goods of others? Which of them hath like Abraham, at the commandment of God freely offered his own son on the altar to be slain, that he might accomplish a precept of Christ, agreeable to this saying, Thy right eye, if it cause thee to offend, ought to be pulled out; and another of the prophet, That he is accursed who withholdeth his sword from shedding blood? Who is he that like Joseph, hath rooted out of his heart the remembrance of an offered injury? Who is he that like Moses, speaking with our Lord in the mountain, and not there terrified with the sounding trumpets, hath in a figurative sense presented unto the incredulous people the two tables, and his horned face which they could not endure to see, but trembled to behold ? Which of them, praying for the offences of the people, has from the very bottom of his heart cried out, like unto him, saying: "O Lord this people hath committed a grievous sin, which if thou wilt forgive them, forgive it; otherwise blot me guilty out of thy book?"

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