Page images
PDF
EPUB

in the morning, perceived that they should have no more than those that had wrought but one hour, they murmured against the householder, saying; “ Shall those, that have laboured but one hour, have as much as we, that have wrought the whole day?!" The householder perceiving their malicious mind, said to one of them, “ Friend, wherefore grudgest thiou ? is it not lawful for me to do with mine own what pleaseth me? have I not given thee what I promised thee? Content thyself, therefore, and go thy way, for it hath pleased me to give unto this man, which hath wrought but one hour, 'as much as unto thee." This is the sum of this parable, which he concludeth with this sentence, « The first shall be last, and the last first.”

First consider, who are these murmurers ? The merit-mongers, which esteem their own works so much, that they think heaven scarce sufficient to recompense their good deeds; namely, for putting themselves to pain, with saying of our Lady's psalter, and gadding on pilgrimage and such-like trifles. These are the murmurers, for they think themselves holier than all the world, and therefore worthy to receive a greater reward than other mon : but such men are much deceived, and are in a false opinion, and if they'abide and continue therein, it will bring them to the fire of hell. For man's salvation cannot be gotten by any work, because the Scripture saith: “ Life everlasting is the gift of God." True it is, that God requireth good works of us, and commandeth us to avoid all wickedness. But for all that, we may not do our good works, to the end to get heaven withal; but rather to shew ourselves thankful for that, which Christ hath done for us, who with his passion hath opened heaven unto all believers, that is, upto all those that put their hope and trust, not in their deeds, but in his death

and passion, and study to live well and godly. And yet not to make merits of their own works, as though they should have everlasting life for them, as our monks and friars, and all our religious persons were wont to do, and therefore may rightly be called murmurers. For they had so great store of merits, that they sold some of them unto other men. And many men spent a great part of their substance to buy their merits, and to be a brother of their houses, or to obtain one of their coats or cowls, to be buried in But there is great difference between the judgment of God and the judginent of this world. They in this world were accounted most holy above all men, and so most worthy to be “ first ;”, but before God they shall be “ last,” when their hypocrisy and wickedness shall be opened. And thus ipuch I thought to say of the murmurers. · Now I will go about to apply all the parts of this parable. Fo., as I said before, it is enough for us, if we know the chief point and scope of the parable, which is, that there shall be one equality in all the things, that appertain to Christ. Insomuch, that the rulers of this realm have no better a God, no better sacraments, and no better a gospel than the poorest in this world, Yea, the poorest man hath as good right to Christ and his benefits, as the greatest man in the world. This is comfortable to every one, and specially to such as are in miseries, poverty, and other calamities; which, if it were well considered, we would not be so desirous to come aloft, and to get riches, honour, aud dignities in this world, as we now are ; nor yet so malicious, one against another, as we be. For we would ever inake this reckoning with ourselves, each man in his vocation. The servant would think thus with him. . self : “ I am a servant poor and miserable, and must live after the pleasure of my inaşter, I may not have

my free will : but what then? I am as sure that I have as good a God, as my master hath, and I am sure, that my service and business pleaseth God as much (when I do it with a good faith), as the preachers, or curates, in preaching or saying of the service,"

For we must understand that God esteemeth not the diversity of the works, but he hath a respect unto the faith. For a poor man, which doth his business in faith, is as acceptable unto God, and hath as good right to the death and inerits of Christ, as the greatest man in the world. So go through all estateș ; whosoever applieth his business with faith, considering that God willeth him so to do; surely the same is most beloved of God. If this were well considered and printed in our hearts, all ambition and desire of promotions, all covetousness and other vices would depart out of our hearts. For it is the greatest comfort that may be unto poor people (specially such as are nothing regarded in this world), if they consider that God loveth them as well as the richest in this world ; it must needs be a great comfort unto them.

But there be some that say, that this sentence, " the first and the last,” is the very substance of the parable. And here you shall understand, that our Saviour Christ took occasion to put forth this parable, when there came a young man demanding of himn in the xixth chapter of this Evangelist, saying, “What shall I do to come to everlasting life ?" Our Saviour, after he had taught him the commandments of God, bade him go and sell all that he had, and give it to the poor, and come and follow him. Hle, hearing this, went away heavily, for his heart was coll, and then our Saviour spake very terribly against rich imen, saying, “ It is more easy for a camel to go tlırough the eye of a needle, than for a rich OF THE ENGLISH CHURCH. man to enter into the kingdom of heaven." A camel is a great cable of a ship, which is more likely than a beast; that is called a camel.

- The disciples, hearing this, said, “ Who then can be saved ?" He made them answer, “ God is Almighty, and that which is impossible to men, is possible with God." Signifying, that he condemneth not all rich men, but only those that set their hearts upon riches, that care not how they get them, and when they have them, they abuse them to the satisfying of their own carnal appetites and fleshly delights and pleasures, and not to the honour of God. And again such riches as are justly, rightly, and godly gotten, those are the good creatures of God, being rightly used to the glory of God and comfort of their neighbours, not hoarding nor keeping them up to make treasures of them. For riches are indifferent, and are not evil of themselves, but they are made evil, when our heart is set upon ther, and that we put hope in them; for that is an abominable thing before the face of God. • Now, after these words, spoken by our Saviour Christ, Peter cometh forth saying, “ Lo, we have forsaken all that we had, what shall be our reward ?" Peter had forsaken all that he had, which was but little in substance, but yet it was a great matter to him, for he had no more but that little. Like to the widow which cast into the treasury two mites, yet our Saviour praised her gift above all, that gave before her. Here thou learnest, that when thou hast but little, yet give of the same little, as Tobias teacheth his son ; for it is as acceptable unto God, as though it were a greater thing.

So Peter in forsaking his old boat and net, was allowed as inuch before God, as if he had forsaken all the riches in the world. Therefore he shall have a great rejvard for his old boat For Christ saith

[ocr errors]

that he shall be one of thein, that shall sit and jadge the twelve tribes of Israel. And to signify them to be more than the other's, he giveth them the naine of judges, ineaning that they shall condemn the world, like as Almighty God speaketh of the queen of Sheba, that in the last day she shall arise and condemn the Jews, that would not hear Christ, and she came so great a journey to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Then he answered and said, * Whosoever leaveth father, or mother, or brethren, for my sake, shall receive an 'hundred fold, and shall inherit everlasting life." Now what is this, to leave father and mother? When my father or mother will hinder or let me in any goodness, or would persuade me from the honouring of God and faith in Christ, then I must forsake, and rather lose the favour and good will of my father and mother, thaa to forsake God and his holy word.. ; . is

And now Christ addeth and saith, “ The first shall be the last, and the last shall be the first;" alluding to Peter's saying, that sounded as though Peter looked for à reward for his deeds; and that is it, which is the let altogether. · If a man come to the gospel and heareth the same, and after hath a respect to reward, such a man shall be ultimus, that is the last. If these sayings were well considered of us, surely we should not have such a number of vain gospelers, as we now have, that seek nothing but their own com. modities, under the name and colour of the gospel. Moreover, he teacheth us to be meek and lowly, and not think much of ourselves : for those that are greatly esteemed in their own eyes, they are the least before God. For 6 he, that humbleth himself shall be exalted," "according to the Scripture which saith, a God resisteth the proud, and advanceth tlie humble and meek.” And this that he saith," the first shall be the last," teacheth us to be careful, and

.

« PreviousContinue »