Now you have heard what is meant by this first card, and how you ought to play with it, I purpose again to deal unto you another card, almost of the same suit; for they be of so nigh affinity, that one cannot be well played without the other. The first card declared, that you should not kill, which might be done divers ways; as being angry with your neighbour, in mind, in countenance, in word, or deed: it declared also, how you should subdue the passions of ire, and so clear evermore yourselves from them. And whereas this first card doth kill in you these stubborn Turks of ire; this second card will not only they should be mortified in you, but that you yourselves shall cause them to be likewise mortified in your neighbour, if that your said neighbour hath been through your occasion moved unto ire, either in countenance, word, or deed. Now let us hear therefore the tenor of this card: |When thou makest thine oblation at mine altar, and there dost remember that thy neighbour hath any thing against thee, lay down there thy oblation, and go first and reconcile thy neighbour, and then come and offer thy oblation.|
This card was spoken by Christ, as testifieth St. Matthew in his fifth chapter, against all such as do presume to come unto the church to make oblation unto God either by prayer, or any other deed of charity, not having their neighbours reconciled. Reconciling is as much to say as to restore thy neighbour unto charity, which by thy words or deeds is moved against thee: then, if so be it that thou hast spoken to or by thy neighbour, whereby he is moved to ire or wrath, thou must lay down thy oblation. Oblations be prayers, alms-deeds, or any work of charity: these be all called oblations to God. Lay down therefore thine oblation; begin to do none of these foresaid works before thou goest unto thy neighbour, and confess thy fault unto him; declaring thy mind, that if thou hast offended him, thou art glad and willing to make him amends, as far forth as thy words and substance will extend, requiring him not to take it at the worst: thou art sorry in thy mind, that thou shouldest be occasion of his offending.
|What manner of card is this?| will some say: |Why, what have I to do with my neighbour's or brother's malice?| As Cain said, |Have I the keeping of my brother? or shall I answer for him and for his faults? This were no reason -- As for myself, I thank God I owe no man malice nor displeasure: if others owe me any, at their own peril be it. Let every man answer for himself!| Nay, sir, not so, as you may understand by this card; for it saith, |If thy neighbour hath anything, any malice against thee, through thine occasion, lay even down (saith Christ) thine oblation: pray not to me; do no good deeds for me; but go first unto thy neighbour, and bring him again unto my flock, which hath forsaken the same through thy naughty words, mocks, scorns, or disdainous countenance, and so forth; and then come and offer thine oblation; then do thy devotion; then do thy alms-deeds; then pray, if thou wilt have me hear thee.|
|O good Lord! this is a hard reckoning, that I must go and seek him out that is offended with me, before I pray or do any good deed. I cannot go unto him. Peradventure he is a hundred miles from me, beyond the seas; or else I cannot tell where: if he were here nigh, I would with all my heart go unto him.| This is a lawful excuse before God on this fashion, that thou wouldest in thy heart be glad to reconcile thy neighbour, if he were present; and that thou thinkest in thy heart, whensoever thou shalt meet with him, to go unto him, and require him charitably to forgive thee; and so never intend to come from him, until the time that you both depart one from the other true brethren in Christ.
Yet, peradventure, there be some in the world that be so devilish, and so hard-hearted, that they will not apply in any condition unto charity. For all that, do what lieth in thee, by all charitable means, to bring him to unity. If he will in no wise apply thereunto, thou mayest be sorrowful in thy heart, that by thine occasion that man or woman continueth in such a damnable state. This notwithstanding, if thou do the best that lieth in thee to reconcile him, according to some doctors' mind, thou art discharged towards God. Nevertheless St. Augustine doubteth in this case, whether thy oblations, prayers, or good deeds, shall avail thee before God, or no, until thy neighbour come again to good state, whom thou hast brought out of the way. Doth this noble doctor doubt therein? What aileth us to be so bold, and count it but a small fault, or none, to bring our neighbour out of patience for every trifle that standeth not with our mind? You may see what a grievous thing this is, to bring another man out of patience, that peradventure you cannot bring in again with all the goods that you have: for surely, after the opinion of great wise men, friendship once broken will be never well made whole again. Wherefore you shall hear what Christ saith unto such persons. Saith Christ, |I came down into this world, and so took on me bitter passion for man's sake, by the merits whereof I intended to make unity and peace in mankind, to make man brother unto me, and so to expel the dominion of Satan, the devil, which worketh nothing else but dissension: and yet now there be a great number of you, that have professed my name, and say you be christian men, which do rebel against my purpose and mind. I go about to make my fold: you go about to break the same, and kill my flock.| |How darest thou,| saith Christ, |presume to come unto my altar, unto my church, or into my presence, to make oblation unto me, that takest on thee to spoil my lambs? I go about like a good shepherd to gather them together; and thou dost the contrary, evermore ready to divide and lose them. Who made thee so bold to meddle with my silly beasts, which I bought so dearly with my precious blood? I warn thee out of my sight, come not in my presence: I refuse thee and all thy works, except thou go and bring home again my lambs which thou hast lost. Wherefore, if thou thyself intend to be one of mine, lay even down by and by thine oblation, and come no further toward mine altar; but go and seek them without any questions, as it becometh a true and faithful servant.|
A true and faithful servant, whensoever his master commandeth him to do any thing, he maketh no stops nor questions, but goeth forth with a good mind: and it is not unlike he, continuing in such a good mind and will, shall well overcome all dangers and stops, whatsoever betide him in his journey, and bring to pass effectually his master's will and pleasure? On the contrary, a slothful servant, when his master commandeth him to do any thing, by and by he will ask questions, |Where?| |When?| |Which way?| and so forth; and so be putteth every thing in doubt, that although both his errand and way be never so plain, yet by his untoward and slothful behaviour his master's commandment is either undone quite, or else so done that it shall stand to no good purpose. Go now forth with the good servant, and ask no such questions, and put no doubts. Be not ashamed to do thy Master's and Lord's will and commandment. Go, as I said, unto thy neighbour that is offended by thee, and reconcile him (as is afore said) whom thou hast lost by thy unkind words, by thy scorns, mocks, and other disdainous words and behaviours; and be not nice to ask of him the cause why he is displeased with thee: require of him charitably to remit; and cease not till you both depart, one from the other, true brethren in Christ.
Do not, like the slothful servant, thy master's message with cautels and doubts: come not to thy neighbour whom thou hast offended, and give him a pennyworth of ale, or a banquet, and so make him a fair countenance, thinking that by thy drink or dinner he will shew thee like countenance. I grant you may both laugh and make good cheer, and yet there may remain a bag of rusty malice, twenty years old, in thy neighbour's bosom. When he departeth from thee with a good countenance, thou thinkest all is well then. But now, I tell thee, it is worse than it was, for by such cloaked charity, where thou dost offend before Christ but once, thou hast offended twice herein: for now thou goest about to give Christ a mock, if be would take it of thee. Thou thinkest to blind thy master Christ's commandment. Beware, do not so, for at length he will overmatch thee, and take thee tardy whatsoever thou be; and so, as I said, it should be better for thee not to do his message on this fashion, for it will stand thee in no purpose. |What?| some will say, |I am sure he loveth me well enough: he speaketh fair to my face.| Yet for all that thou mayest be deceived. It proveth not true love in a man, to speak fair. If he love thee with his mind and heart, he loveth thee with his eyes, with his tongue, with his feet, with his hands and his body; for all these parts of a man's body be obedient to the will and mind. He loveth thee with his eves, that looketh cheerfully on thee, when thou meetest with him, and is glad to see thee prosper and do well. He loveth thee with his tongue, that speaketh well by thee behind thy back, or giveth thee good counsel. He loveth thee with his feet, that is willing to go to help thee out of trouble and business. He loveth thee with his hands, that will help thee in time of necessity, by giving some alms-deeds, or with any other occupation of the hand. He loveth thee with his body, that will labour with his body, or put his body in danger to do good for thee, or to deliver thee from adversity: and so forth, with the other members of his body. And if thy neighbour will do according to these sayings, then thou mayest think that he loveth thee well; and thou, in like wise, oughtest to declare and open thy love unto thy neighbour in like fashion, or else you be bound one to reconcile the other, till this perfect love be engendered amongst you.
It may fortune thou wilt say, |I am content to do the best for my neighbour that I can, saving myself harmless.| I promise thee, Christ will not hear this excuse; for he himself suffered harm for our sakes, and for our salvation was put to extreme death. I wis, if it had pleased him, he might have saved us and never felt pain; but in suffering pains and death he did give us example, and teach us how we should do one for another, as he did for us all; for, as he saith himself, |he that will be mine, let him deny himself, and follow me, in bearing my cross and suffering my pains.| Wherefore we must needs suffer pain with Christ to do our neighbour good, as well with the body and all his members, as with heart and mind.
Now I trust you wot what your card meaneth: let us see how that we can play with the same. Whensoever it shall happen you to go and make your oblation unto God, ask of yourselves this question, |Who art thou?| The answer, as you know, is, |I am a christian man.| Then you must again ask unto yourself, What Christ requireth of a christian man? By and by cast down your trump, your heart, and look first of one card, then of another. The first card telleth thee, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not be angry, thou shalt not be out of patience. This done, thou shalt look if there be any more cards to take up; and if thou look well, thou shalt see another card of the same suit, wherein thou shalt know that thou art bound to reconcile thy neighbour. Then cast thy trump upon them both, and gather them all three together, and do according to the virtue of thy cards; and surely thou shalt not lose. Thou shalt first kill the great Turks, and discomfort and thrust them down. Thou shalt again fetch home Christ's sheep that thou hast lost; whereby thou mayest go both patiently and with a quiet mind unto the church, and make thy oblation unto God; and then, without doubt, he will hear thee.
But yet Christ will not accept our oblation (although we be in patience, and have reconciled our neighbour), if that our oblation be made of another man's substance; but it must be our own. See therefore that thou hast gotten thy goods according to the laws of God and of thy prince. For if thou gettest thy goods by polling and extortion, or by any other unlawful ways, then, if thou offer a thousand pound of it, it will stand thee in no good effect; for it is not thine. In this point a great number of executors do offend; for when they be made rich by other men's goods, then they will take upon them to build churches, to give ornaments to God and his altar, to gild saints, and to do many good works therewith; but it shall be all in their own name, and for their own glory. Wherefore, saith Christ, they have in this world their reward; and so their oblations be not their own, nor be they acceptable before God.
Another way God will refuse thy voluntary oblation, as thus: if so be it that thou hast gotten never so truly thy goods, according both to the laws of God and man, and hast with the same goods not relieved thy poor neighbour, when thou hast seen him hungry, thirsty, and naked, he will not take thy oblation when thou shalt offer the same, because he will say unto thee, |When I was hungry, thou gavest me no meat; when I was thirsty, thou gavest me no drink; and when I was naked, thou didst not clothe me. Wherefore I will not take thy oblation, because it is none of thine. I left it thee to relieve thy poor neighbours, and thou hast not therein done according unto this my commandment, Misericordiam volo, et non sacrificium; I had rather have mercy done, than sacrifice or oblation. Wherefore until thou dost the one more than the other, I will not accept thine oblation.|
Evermore bestow the greatest part of thy goods in works of mercy, and the less part in voluntary works. Voluntary works be called all manner of offering in the church, except your four offering-days, and your tithes: setting up candles, gilding and painting, building of churches, giving of ornaments, going on pilgrimages, making of highways, and such other, be called voluntary works; which works be of themselves marvellous good, and convenient to be done. Necessary works, and works of mercy, are called the commandments, the four offering-days, your tithes, and such other that belong to the commandments; and works of mercy consist in relieving and visiting thy poor neighbours. Now then, if men be so foolish of themselves, that they will bestow the most part of their goods in voluntary works, which they be not bound to keep, but willingly and by their devotion; and leave the necessary works undone, which they are bound to do; they and all their voluntary works are like to go unto everlasting damnation. And I promise you, if you build a hundred churches, give as much as you can make to gilding of saints, and honouring of the church; and if thou go as many pilgrimages as thy body can well suffer, and offer as great candles as oaks; if thou leave the works of mercy and the commandments undone, these works shall nothing avail thee. No doubt the voluntary works be good and ought to be done; but yet they must be so done, that by their occasion the necessary works and the works of mercy be not decayed and forgotten. If you will build a glorious church unto God, see first yourself to be in charity with your neighbours, and suffer not them to be offended by your works. Then, when ye come into your parish-church; you bring with you the holy temple of God; as St. Paul saith, |You yourselves be the very holy temples of God:| and Christ saith by his prophet, |In you will I rest, and intend to make my mansion and abiding-place.| Again, if you list to gild and paint Christ in your churches, and honour him in vestments, see that before your eyes the poor people die not for lack of meat, drink, and clothing. Then do you deck the very true temple of God, and honour him in rich vestures that will never be worn, and so forth use yourselves according unto the commandments: and then, finally, set up your candles, and they will report what a glorious light remaineth in your hearts; for it is not fitting to see a dead man light candles. Then, I say, go your pilgrimages, build your material churches, do all your voluntary works; and they will then represent you unto God, and testify with you, that you have provided him a glorious place in your hearts. But beware, I say again, that you do not run so far in your voluntary works, that ye do quite forget your necessary works of mercy, which you are bound to keep: you must have ever a good respect unto the best and worthiest works toward God to be done first and with more efficacy, and the other to be done secondarily. Thus if you do, with the other that I have spoken of before, ye may come according to the tenor of your cards, and offer your oblations and prayers to our Lord Jesus Christ, who will both hear and accept them to your everlasting joy and glory: to the which he bring us, and all those whom he suffered death for. Amen.