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EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL
PHILIPPIANS, For the Instruction of them that be unlearned in Tongues, gathered out of Holy Scriptures, and of the old Catholic Doctors of the Church, and of the best Authors that pow-a-days do write ;
BY LANCELOT RIDLEY,
This Tract is printed entire from an original Copy in the public
Library of the University of Cambridge,
Ver. 1, 2. Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints which are at Philippi, with the bishops and ministers : Grace be with you, and peace from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Saint Paul, writing to the Philippians this Epistle, first salutes them with a Christian salutation, and then sheweth the matter that he would have them to know. And in this salutation, first he sheweth the names of them that wrote this Epistle, inspired with the Holy Ghost, as were all they that wrote the holy Scriptures (2 Peter, i.); that this Epistle should be the better esteemed and received, knowing it to be sent to them from their well-beloved friend-, Paul and Timothy ; by whom they had received many benefits of God, and were made the well-beloved children of God, which before were the children of the ire, wrath, and indignation of God; and were justified and made righteous, which before were sinners and wicked, bound to sin, death, and hell; but now, being deJivered from all captivity of the devil, sin, and death, have obtained grace, mercy, and forgiveness of sins by the grace of the Gospel which Paul and Timothy preached unto them, as it is written Acts, xvi, And therefore, letters sent from Paul and Timothy were welcome to them and thankful, and very comfortable, as are letters sent from one hearty friend to another.
Secondly, in this salutation he sheweth to whom this Epistle was written ; that it was written to all the saints and holy men that were faithful, and had received the true faith of Jesus Christ. For such are called saints of Saint Paul, and oftentimes in the holy Scriptures, that we should not think that none others are to be called saints in the holy Scriptures but such as bishops of Rome, well paid for their pains, have canonized and sanctified for saints : although sometimes it is uncertain unto us whether they were saints, sanctified by Christ's blood, or not. For they are the true saints before God that be sanetified by Christ and by his blood, whether they be dead or alive, sanctified or canonized by the bishop of Rome, or not.
Saint Paul dedicated this Epistle to the saints at Philippi, that is to say, to the faithful men that were at Philippi living, to whom he would have this Epistle read, that from the reading of it they might have much profit and spiritual food. Then it is evident, he dedicated not this Epistle to the dead saints which could not read this Epistle, nor hear it read, nor yet take
any fruit of it: but to those that were living saints, that is, to the faithful in Christ, as Chrysostom saith (Rom. i.).
And therefore, let it be known to all men, that those that live well and in the faith of Jesus Christ here in this present world, are called saints in the Scriptures, as well as those that be departed this present life. The ignorance of this thing hath been the cause of much false trust, vain hope, idolatry, and superstition ; and that some men have inade Creators of creatures, and have desired of inen that which was only to be desired of God. They have prayed to saints departed as to God; put trust and confidence in them as in God; yea, I will not say in their images ; such was their ignorance and blindness, and have asked of them such things as should be asked only of God; as health of body, deliverance from perils and jeopardies by water and by land, from the power of the devil, from lightnings, tempests, fire, water, and all sudden death.
And some had one patron, some another of the saints, so called ; yea, had their images, whom they called upon before God, and above God. . As some called upon Saint Anthony for their swine ; upon Saint Mudwyne for their kine ; upon Saint Loy for their horse ; upon Saint Roche for the pestilence : upon Saint John Shorn for the ague; upon Saint Apolyne for the tooth-ach ; upon Saint Blaize for a bone in a man's throat. Our Lady's girdle was a full remedy for a woman that laboured of child-birth, that she should be delivered without pain, and the child be sure to be christened, such was the trust that many had in our Lady's girdle. And this was a marvel that learned prelates and bishops would suffer, so long, the people thus to be blinded, and to have such false trusts, vain hopes, and so to dishonour God: giving to saints that honour and glory, trust and confidence, that should only be given and ascribed to God, the giver of all goodness, pertaining to the body or soul.
The saints and their images are not the givers of good things that we have need of, and that we desire in our prayers : but all goodness cometh of God the Father. (Jam. i.)
With the bishops and ministers. He sheweth this Epistle to be written, not only to the saints that live at Philippi, that is, to the faithful congregation of Christians, of the people whom he would have to read this Epistle, and to take comfort and profit of it when read: but also it was dedicated to the bishops and deacons that were there, from the which it is evident that there were divers ministers in the church of Philippi ; as bishops to teach and instruct them in the law of God, to feed them with spiritual food ; which is as necessary to feed the soul, as meat and drink tu feed the body, and more to be desired of Christian men, than corporeal food for the body; forasmuch as the soul is a more precious thing than the body is. But would to God, we were as desirous of the food of the soul as of the body! Then learned men in God's word, and sincere preachers of it, should be more regarded and esteemed; bishops should preach oftener than they do, they should desire more learned men to be about them, and in their dioceses, and make more of them than they do. Then the people should better esteem and regard God's word, which now in a manner is contemned and despised of the most part of the people, and counted as a thing of little price or value, because bishops do not preach themselves ; or if they preach, it is very seldom, and they do not prefer God's word before ceremonies or traditions of men.
Negligence in setting forth of God's word in them, to whom it pertaineth to be setters forth of it, is a great cause why it is so little regarded ; why there is so great 'ignorance and blindness, so many evil opinions, preposterous judgments, false trusts, vain hopes, idolatry, and so much superstition as hath been, and yet is in some parts of this realm, and not as yet fully plucked away by the verity of God's holy word. For there are very few sincere preachers of it, and fewer like to be, if God do not provide by some good persuasion to the high powers and rulers, to whom it pertaineth to provide that their subjects perish not for lack of spiritual food of their souls: for if they lack it, it must needs follow, that the people shall run headlong into errors, heresies, idolatry, and many false trusts and vain hopes, and call that which is good, evil; and evil, good ; light, darkness; and darkness, light; sweet to be sour ; and sour, sweet ; and so condemn what is good and godly doctrine, for heresy; and in so doing condemn themselves to everlasting death and damnation. As Isaiah saith (Isa. V.),
- Woe be to