Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
The Lessons of Sedition
By Sir John Cheke (15141557)
From The Hurt of Sedition how grievous it is to a Commonwealth, set out in the year 1549
AMONG so many and notable benefits, wherewith God hath already and plentifully indued us, there is nothing more beneficial than that we have by His grace kept us quiet from rebellion at this time. For we see such miseries hang over the whole state of the commonwealth, through the great misorder of your sedition, that it maketh us much to rejoice, that we have been neither partners of your doings, nor conspirers of your counsels. For even as the Lacedæmonians for the avoiding of drunkenness did cause their sons to behold their servants when they were drunk, that by beholding their beastliness, they might avoid the like vice: even so hath God like a merciful father stayed us from your wickedness, that by beholding the filth of your fault, we might justly for offence abhor you like rebels, whom else by nature we love like Englishmen. And so for ourselves, we have great cause to thank God, by whose religion and holy Word daily taught us, we learn not only to fear Him truly, but also to obey our king faithfully, and to serve in our own vocation like subjects honestly. And as for you, we have surely just cause to lament you as brethren, and yet juster cause to rise against you as enemies, and most just cause to overthrow you as rebels.
For what hurt could be done either to us privately, or to the whole commonwealth generally, that is now with mischief so brought in by you, that even as we see now the flame of your rage, so shall we necessarily be consumed hereafter with the misery of the same. Wherefore consider yourselves with some light of understanding, and mark this grievous and horrible fault, which ye have thus vilely committed, how heinous it must needs appear to you, if ye will reasonably consider that which for my dutys sake, and my whole countrys cause, I will at this present declare unto you. Ye which be bound by Gods Word not to obey for fear like men-pleasers, but for conscience sake like Christians, have contrary to Gods holy will, Whose offence is everlasting death, and contrary to the godly order of quietness set out to us in the kings majestys laws, the breach whereof is not unknown to you, taken in hand uncalled of God, unsent by men, unfit by reason, to cast away your bounden duties of obedience, and to put on you against the magistrates, Gods office committed to the magistrates, for the reformation of your pretenced injuries. In the which doing ye have first faulted grievously against God, next offended unnaturally our sovereign lord, thirdly troubled miserably the whole commonwealth, undone cruelly many an honest man, and brought in an utter misery both to us the kings subjects, and to yourselves being false rebels. And yet ye pretend that partly for Gods cause, and partly for the commonwealths sake, ye do arise, when as yourselves cannot deny; but ye that seek in word Gods cause, do break in deed Gods commandments; and ye that seek the commonwealth have destroyed the commonwealth: and so ye mar that ye would make, and break that ye would amend, because ye neither seek anything rightly, nor would amend anything orderly.
He that faulteth, faulteth against Gods ordinance, Who hath forbidden all faults, and therefore ought again to be punished by Gods ordinance, Who is the reformer of faults. For He saith, Leave the punishment to me, and I will revenge them. But the magistrate is the ordinance of God, appointed by Him with the sword of punishment to look straightly to all evildoers. And therefore that that is done by the magistrate is done by the ordinance of God, whom the Scripture oftentimes doth call God, because he has the execution of Gods office. How then do you take in hand to reform? Be ye kings? By what authority? Or by what occasion? Be ye the kings officers? By what commission? Be ye called of God? By what tokens declare ye that? Gods Word teacheth us, that no man should take in hand any office, but he that is called of God like Aaron. What Moses, I pray you, called you? What Gods minister bade you rise?
Ye rise for religion. What religion taught you that? If ye were offered persecution for religion, ye ought to fly: so Christ teacheth you, and yet you intend to fight. If ye would stand in the truth, ye ought to suffer like martyrs, and you would slay like tyrants. Thus for religion you keep no religion, and neither will follow the counsel of Christ, nor the constancy of martyrs. Why rise ye for religion? Have ye anything contrary to Gods Book? Yea, have ye not all things agreeable to Gods Word? But the new is different from the old, and therefore ye will have the old. If ye measure the old by truth ye have the oldest. If ye measure the old by fancy, then it is hard; because mens fancies change, to give that is old. Ye will have the old still. Will ye have any older than that as Christ left, and His apostles taught, and the first church after Christ did use? Ye will have that the canons do establish. Why that is a great deal younger than that ye have, of later time, and newlier invented. Yet that is it that ye desire. Why then ye desire not the oldest. And do you prefer the bishops of Rome afore Christ, mens inventions afore Gods law, the newer sort of worship before the older? Ye seek no religion, ye be deceived, ye seek traditions. They that teach you, blind you, that so instruct you, deceive you. If ye seek what the old doctors say, yet look what Christ the oldest of all saith. For He saith; Before Abraham was made I am. If ye seek the truest way, He is the very truth; if ye seek the readiest way, He is the very way; if ye seek everlasting life, He is the very life. What religion would ye have other now, than His religion?
You would have the Bibles in again. It is no marvel, your blind guides would lead you blind still. Why, be ye howlets and backs,1 that ye cannot look on the light? Christ saith to every one, Search ye the Scriptures, for they bear witness of Christ. You say, Pull in the Scriptures, for we will have no knowledge of Christ. The apostles of Christ will us to be so ready, that we may be able to give every man an account of our faith. Ye will us not once to read the Scriptures, for fear of knowing of our faith. Saint Paul prayeth that every man may increase in knowledge: ye desire that our knowledge might decay again. A true religion ye seek belike, and worthy to be fought for. For without the sword indeed nothing can help it, neither Christ, nor truth, nor age can maintain it. But why should ye not like that which Gods Word establisheth, the primitive church hath authorised, the greatest learned men of this realm have drawn, the whole consent of the parliament hath confirmed, the kings majesty hath set forth? Is it not truly set out? Can ye devise any truer than Christs apostles used? Ye think it is not learnedly done. Dare ye commons take upon you more learning than the chosen bishops and clerks of this realm have? Think ye folly in it? Ye were wont to judge your parliament wisest, and now will ye suddenly excel them in wisdom? Or can ye think it lacketh authority, which the king, the parliament, the learned, the wise have justly approved? Learn, learn to know this one point of religion, that God will be worshipped as He hath prescribed, and not as we have devised; and that His will is wholly in His Scriptures, which be full of Gods spirit, and profitable to teach the truth, to reprove lies, to amend faults, to bring one up in righteousness, that he that is a Gods man may be perfect and ready to all good works. What can be more required to serve God withal? And thus much for religion, rebels.