Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
Duties and Respect of Judges
By Hugh Latimer (c. 14851555)
I WILL tell you my Lords Judges, if ye consider this matter well, ye should be more afraid of the poor widow, than of a nobleman with all the friends and power that he can make. But now-a-days the Judges be afraid to hear a poor man against the rich, insomuch, they will either pronounce against him, or so drive off the poor mans suit, that he shall not be able to go through with it. The greatest man in a realm can not so hurt a Judge as the poor widow, such a shrewd turn she can do him. And with what armour I pray you? She can bring the Judges skin over his ears, and never lay hands upon him. And how is that? Lacrimæ miserorum descendant ad maxillas, the tears of the poor fall down upon their cheeks, et ascendunt ad cælum, and go up to heaven, and cry for vengeance before God, the judge of widows, the father of the widows and orphans. Poor people be oppressed even by laws. Væ iis qui condunt leges iniquas. Woe worth to them that make evil laws. If woe be to them that make laws against the poor, what shall be to them that hinder and mar good laws? Quid facietis in die ultionis? What will ye do in the day of vengeance, when God will visit you? He saith, he will hear the tears of poor women when he goeth on visitation. For their sakes he will hurt the judge, be he never so high. Dens transfert regna. He will for widows sakes change realms, bring them into subjection, pluck the judges skins over their heads.
Cambyses was a great Emperor, such another as our master is; he had many Lord deputies, Lord presidents, and Lieutenants under him. It is a great while ago sith I read the history. It chanced he had under him in one of his dominions a briber, a gift taker, a gratifier of rich men, he followed gifts, as fast as he that followed the pudding, a hand maker in his office, to make his son a great man, as the old saying is, Happy is the child whose father goeth to the Devil.
The cry of the poor widow came to the Emperors ear, and caused him to flay the judge quick, and laid his skin in his chair of judgement, that all judges, that should give judgement afterward, should sit in the same skin. Surely it was a goodly sign, a goodly monument, the sign of the judges skin: I pray God we may once see the sign of the skin in England. Ye will say peradventure that this is cruelly and uncharitably spoken: no, no, I do it charitably for a love I bear to my country. God saith, Ego visitabo, I will visit. God hath two visitations. The first is, when he revealeth his word by preachers and where the first is accepted, the second cometh not. The second visitation is vengeance. He went a visitation, when he brought the judges skin over his ears. If his word be despised he cometh with his second visitation with vengeance.
Noah preached Gods word an hundred years, and was laughed to scorn, and called an old doating fool. Because they would not accept this first visitation, God visited the second time: he poured down showers of rain till all the world was drowned.
Lot was a visitor of Sodom and Gomorrah, but because they regarded not his preaching, God visited them the second time, and brent them all up with brimstone saving Lot. Moses came first a visitation into Egypt with Gods word, and because they would not hear him, God visited them again, and drowned them in the Red Sea. God likewise with his first visitation, visited the Israelites by his prophets, but because they would not hear his prophets, he visited them the second time, and dispersed them in Assyria and Babylon.
Germany was visited twenty years with Gods word, but they did not earnestly embrace it, and in life follow it, but made a mingle mangle and a hotchpotch of it, I can not tell what, partly popery, partly true religion mingled together. They say in my country, when they call their hogs to the swine trough, Come to thy mingle mangle, come pyr, come pyr: even so they made mingle mangle of it.
They could clatter and prate of the Gospel, but when all cometh to all, they joined popery so with it, that they marred all together, they scratched and scraped all the livings of the church, and under a colour of religion turned it to their own proper gain and lucre. God, seeing that they would not come unto his word, now he visiteth them in the second time of his visitation with his wrath. For the taking away of Gods word, is a manifest token of his wrath. We have now a first visitation in England: let us beware of the second. We have the ministration of his word, we are yet well, but the house is not clean swept yet.
God has sent us a noble King in this his visitation, let us not provoke him against us, let us beware, let us not displease him, let us not be unthankful, and unkind, let us beware of bywalking and contemning of Gods word, let us pray diligently for our king, let us receive with all obedience and prayer, the word of God. A word or two more and I commit you to God. I will monish you of a thing. I hear say ye walk inordinately, ye talk unseemly other ways than it becometh Christian subjects. Ye take upon you to judge the judgments of judges. I will not make the king a Pope, for the Pope will have all things that he doth, taken for an Article of our faith. I will not say but that the king, and his council may err, the Parliament houses both the high and low may err. I pray daily that they may not err. It becometh us whatsoever they decree to stand unto it, and receive it obediently, as farforth as it is not manifestly wicked, and directly against the word of God; it pertaineth unto us to think the best, though we can not tender a cause for the doing of every thing. For Caritas omnia credit, omnia sperat, Charity doth believe and trust all things. We ought to expound to the best all things, although we can not yield a reason.
Therefore I exhort you good people pronounce in good part all the facts and deeds of the magistrates and judges. Charity judgeth the best of all men, and specially of magistrates. St. Paul saith, Nolite judicare ante tempus donec dominus advenerit, Judge not before the time of the lords coming. Pravum cor hominis, Mans heart is unsearchable, it is a ragged piece of work, no man knoweth his own heart, and therefore David prayeth and saith Ab occultis meis munda me, Deliver me from my unknown faults. I am a further offender than I can see. A man shall be blinded in love of himself, and not see so much in himself as in other men, let us not therefore judge judges. We are comptable to God, and so be they. Let them alone, they have their counts to make. If we have charity in us we shall do this. For Caritas operatur, Charity worketh. What worketh it? marry Omnia credere, omnia sperare, to accept all things in good part. Nolite judicare ante tempus, Judge not before the Lords coming. In this we learn to know Antichrist, which doth elevate himself in the church, and judgeth at his pleasure before the time. His canonizations and judging of men before the Lords judgment, be a manifest token of Antichrist. How can he know Saints? He knoweth not his own heart, and he can not know them by miracles. For some miracle workers shall go to the devil. I will tell you what I remembered yester night in my bed. A marvellous tale to perceive how inscrutable a mans heart is. I was once at Oxford, (for I had occasion to come that way, when I was in my office,) they told me it was a gainer way, and a fairer way, and by that occasion I lay there a night. Being there I heard of an execution that was done upon one that suffered for treason. It was (as ye know) a dangerous world, for it might soon cost a man his life for a words speaking. I can not tell what the matter was, but the judge set it so out that the man was condemned. The twelve men came in, and said guilty, and upon that, he was judged to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. When the rope was about his neck, no man could persuade him that he was in any fault, and stood there a great while in the protestation of his innocency. They hanged him and cut him down somewhat too soon afore he was clean dead, then they drew him to the fire, and he revived, and then he coming to his remembrance confessed his fault, and said he was guilty. O a wonderful example! It may well be said, pravum cor hominis et inscrutabile, a crabbed piece of work and unsearchable. I will leave here, for I think you know what I mean well enough.