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things be handled, that at length it might happen so here. And verily they look (far as they be yet from the power) for it, and some of them have not hesitated to say this, and some to write it, too. For I read the letter myself which was cast into the palace of the Right Reverend Father in God, Cuthbert, now Bishop of Durham, but then Bishop of London, in which among other bragging word . . . were these words contained: 'There will once come a day.' And out of question that day they long for but also daily look for, and would, if they were not too weak, not fail to find it. And they have the greater hope because . . . they see that it begins to grow into a custom that among good Catholic folk they are suffered to talk unchecked." For good men in their own minds indeed think the Catholic faith so strong that heretics with all their babbling will never be able to vanquish it, "and in this undoubtedly their mind is not only good, but also very true. But they do not look far enough. For as the sea will never surround and overwhelm all the land, and yet has eaten it in many places, and swallowed whole countries up and made many places sea, which sometime were well-inhabited lands, and has lost part of its own possession again in other places, so, though the faith of Christ shall never be overwhelmed with heresy, nor the gate of hell prevail against Christ's Church, yet as in some places it winneth in new peoples, so by negligence in some places the old may be lost."1
Sir Thomas More is all for vigilance on the part of the authorities. He likens those who are in power and office to the guardians of a fertile field who are bound to prevent the sowing of tares on their master's land; and the multiplication of evil books and their circulation among the people, cannot, in his opinion, have any other effect than to prevent the fertilisation of the good seed of God's word in the hearts of many. "These new teachers," he says,
1 English Works, p. 921.
"despise Christ's Sacraments, which are His holy ordinances and a great part of Christ's New Law and Testament. Who can place less value on His commandments than they who, upon the boldness of faith only, set all good works at naught, and little consider the danger of their evil deeds upon the boldness that a bare faith and slight repentance, without shrift or penance, suffices, and that no vow made to God can bind a man to live chastely or hinder a monk from marriage. All these things, with many pestilent errors beside, these abominable books of Tyndale and his fellows teach us. Of these books of heresies there are so many made within these few years, what by Luther himself and by his fellows, and afterwards by the new sects sprung out of his, which, like the children of Vippara, would now gnaw out their mother's belly, that the bare names of those books were almost enough to make a book. Some of every sort of those books are brought into this realm and kept in 'hucker mucker' by some shrewd masters who keep them for no good. Besides the Latin, French, and German books of which these evil sects have put forth an innumerable number, there are some made in the English tongue. First, Tyndale's English Testament, father of them all by reason of his false translating, and after that, the Five Books of Moses translated by the same man; we need not doubt in what manner and for what purpose. Then you have his Introduction to Saint Paul's Epistle, with which he introduces his readers to a false understanding of Saint Paul, making them believe, among many other heresies, that Saint Paul held that faith only was always sufficient for salvation, and that men's good works were worth nothing and could not deserve thanks or reward in heaven, although they were done in grace. . . . Then we have from Tyndale The Wicked Mammona, by which many a man has been beguiled and brought into many wicked heresies, which in good faith would be to me a matter of no little wonder, for there was never a more foolish frantic book, were it not that the devil is ever ready to put out the eyes of those who are content to become blind. Then we have Tyndale's Book of Obedience, by which we are taught to disobey the teaching of Christ's Catholic Church and set His holy Sacraments at naught. Then we have from Tyndale the First Epistle of Saint John, expounded in such wise that I dare say that blessed Apostle had rather his Epistle had never been put in writing than that his holy words should be believed by all Christian people in such a sense. Then we have the Supplication of Beggars, a piteous beggarly book, in which he would have all the souls in Purgatory beg all about for nothing. Then we have from George Joye, otherwise called Clarke, a Goodly Godly Epistle, wherein he teaches divers other heresies, but specially that men's vows and promises of chastity are not lawful, and can bind no man in conscience not to wed when he will. And this man, considering that when a man teaches one thing and does another himself, the people set less value by his preaching, determined therefore with himself, that he would show himself an example of his preaching. Therefore, being a priest, he has beguiled a woman and wedded her; the poor woman, I ween, being unaware that he is a priest. Then you have also an Exposition on the Seventh Chapter of Saint Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians, by which exposition also priests, friars, monks, and nuns are taught the evangelical liberty that they may run out a-caterwauling and wed. That work has no name of the maker, but some think it was Friar Roy who, when he had fallen into heresy, then found it unlawful to live in chastity and ran out of his Order. Then have we the Examinations of Thorpe put forth as it is said by George Constantine (by whom I know well there has been a great many books of that sort sent into this realm). In that book, the heretic that made it as (if it were) a communication between the bishop and his chaplains and himself, makes all the parties speak as he himself likes, and sets down nothing as spoken against his heresies, but what he himself would seem solemnly to answer.
When any good Christian man who has either learning or any natural wit reads this book, he shall be able not only to perceive him for a foolish heretic and his arguments easy to answer, but shall also see that he shows himself a false liar in his rehearsal of the matter in which he makes the other part sometimes speak for his own convenience such manner of things as no man who was not a very wild goose would have done.
"Then have we Jonas made out by Tyndale, a book that whosoever delight therein shall stand in such peril, that Jonas was never so swallowed up by the whale, as by the delight of that book a man's soul may be so swallowed up by the devil that he shall never have the grace to get out again. Then, we have from Tyndale the answer to my Dyalogue. Then, the book of Frith against Purgatory. Then, the book of Luther translated into English in the name of Brightwell, but, as I am informed, it was translated by Frith; a book, such as Tyndale never made one more foolish nor one more full of lies. . . . Then, we have the Practice of Prelates, wherein Tyndale intended to have made a special show of his high worldly wit, so that men should have seen therein that there was nothing done among princes that he was not fully advertised of the secrets. Then, we have now the book of Friar Barnes, sometime a doctor of Cambridge, who was abjured before this time for heresy, and is at this day come under a safe conduct to the realm. Surely, of all their books that yet came abroad in English (of all which there was never one wise nor good) there was none so bad, so foolish, so false as his. This, since his coming, has been plainly proved to his face, and that in such wise that, when the books that he cites and alleges in his book were brought forth before him, and his ignorance showed him, he himself did in divers things confess his oversight, and clearly acknowledged that he had been mistaken and wrongly understood the passages.
"Then, we have besides Barnes's book, the ABC for children. And because there is no grace therein, lest we should lack prayers, we have the Primer and the Ploughman's Prayer and a book of other small devotions, and then the whole Psalter too. After the Psalter, children were wont to go straight to their Donat and their Accidence, but now they go straight to Scripture. And for this end we have as a Donat, the book of the Pathway to Scripture, and for an Accidence, the Whole sum of Scripture in a little book, so that after these books are learned well, we are ready for Tyndale's Pentaieuchs and Tyndale's Testament, and all the other high heresies that he and Joye and Frith and Friar Barnes teach in all their books. Of all these heresies the seed is sown, and prettily sprung up in these little books before. For the Primer and Psalter, prayers and all, were translated and made in this manner by heretics only. The Psalter was translated by George Joye, the priest that is wedded now, and I hear say the Primer too, in which the seven Psalms are printed without the Litany, lest folks should pray to the saints; and the Dirge is left out altogether, lest a man might happen to pray with it for his father's soul. In their Calendar, before their devout prayers, they have given us a new saint, Sir Thomas Hytton, the heretic who was burned in Kent. They have put him in on St. Matthew's Eve, by the name of St. Thomas the Martyr.
"It would be a long work to rehearse all their books, for there are yet more than I have known. Against all these the king's high wisdom politically provided, in that his proclamation forbade any manner of English books printed beyond the sea to be brought into this realm, or any printed within this realm to be sold unless the name of the printer and his dwelling-place were set upon the book. But still, as I said before, a few malicious, mischievous persons have now brought into this realm these ungracious books full of pestilent, poisoned heresies that have already in other realms killed, by schisms and war, many thousand bodies, and by sinful errors and abominable heresies many more thousand souls.