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MILES COVERDALE unto the Christian Reader most heartily wisheth the continual increase of heavenly taste and spiritual sweetness, in the same assured Salvation which cometh only through Jesus Christ.
THE more nigh that men's words and works approach unto the most wholesome sayings and fruitful doings of the old ancient saints and chosen children of God (which love not only to hear his word, but also to live thereafter), the more worthy are they to be esteemed, embraced, and followed. And therefore as we hear and read of many godly, both men and women, whose conversation in old time was beautified with singular gifts of the Holy Ghost (according as the Apostle describeth them in the eleventh to the Hebrews), so have we just cause to rejoice, that we have been familiar and acquainted with some of those, which walked in the trade of their footsteps. For the which cause, it doth us good to read and hear, not the lying legends of feigned, false, counterfeited, and Popish canonized saints, neither the trifling toys and forged fables of corrupted writers; but such true, holy, and approved histories, monuments, orations, epistles, and letters, as do set forth unto us the blessed behaviour of God's dear servants. It doth us good (I say) by such confortable remembrance, conceived by their notable writings, to be conversant with them, at the least in spirit.
St. Hierome, writing to one Nitia, and having occasion to speak of letters and epistles, maketh mention of a certain author named Turpilius, whose words (saith he) are these: "A letter or epistle is the thing alone that maketh men present which are absent. For among those that are absent, what is so present, as to hear and talk with those whom thou lovest?" Also that noble clerk Erasmus, of Rotterdam, commending the book of the epistles or letters which St. Austin did write, saith thus: " 'By some of Augustin's books we may perceive, what manner of man he was, being an infant in Christ, By other some, we may know what manner of one he was, being a young man, and what he was being an old man. But by this only book (meaning the book of the Epistles and Letters) thou shalt know whole Augustin altogether."
And why doth St. Hierome or Erasmus say thus? No doubt even because that in such writings, as in a clear glass, we may see and behold, not only what plentiful furniture and store of heavenly grace, wisdom, knowledge, understanding, faith, love, hope, zeal, patience, meekness, obedience, with the worthy fruits thereof, Almighty God had bestowed upon the same his most dear children: but also what a fatherly care he ever had unto them: how his mighty hand defended them: how his providence kept watch and ward over them: how his loving eye looked unto
them: how his gracious ear heard their prayers: how he was always mindful of them, never forgat them, never failed them, nor forsook them: how the arms of his mercy were stretched out to embrace them, whensoever they faithfully turned unto him: how valiant also and strong in spirit, how joyful under the cross, how quiet and cheerful in trouble he made them: what victory of their enemies, what deliverance out of bonds and captivity, what health from ́ sickness, what recovery from plagues, what plenty from scarceness: to be short, what help at all need and necessity he gave and bestowed upon them..
By such-like monuments also and writings, it is manifest and plain, how the same dear children of God in their time behaved themselves, as well towards him as also towards their friends and foes: yea, what the very thoughts of their hearts were, when they prayed (as their manner was incessantly to do), when they confessed their sins, and complained unto God: when they gave thanks: when they were persecuted and troubled: when they were by the hand of God visited when they felt, not only the horror of death, the grief of sin, and the burden of God's displeasure by reason of the same: but also the sweet taste of his great mercy and eternal comfort through Jesus Christ, in their conscience. Of the which things, like as we may evidently perceive rich and plentiful experience in the heavenly treasury of that most excellent book which we commonly call Da
vid's Psalter; so hath not God now in our days left himself without witness. Yea, no more, than he did in other ages before us: but of his abundant goodness, even when the late persecution was most cruel, and the enemies' rage most extreme, he hath raised up such zealous men and women as (by the won→ derful operation of his holy Spirit) of weak were made so valiant and strong in him (as well against all idolatry, superstition, false doctrine, and corrupted religion, as against their own old blemishes and sins), that they have turned to flight, and confounded the whole rabble of such malicious Papists, as were the persecutors and murderers of them.
Whereby they that list not still to be blind, may plainly behold and see, not only the terrible judgments of God over and against the wicked, but also his wonderful doings mixed with mercy in and towards his chosen unto whom, as unto them that love him, he causeth all things to work for the best. So that with him, by the heavenly light of stedfast faith, they see life even in death: with him, even in heaviness and sorrow, they fail not of joy and comfort with him even in poverty, affliction, and trouble, they neither perish nor are forsaken. How else could they be so patient, so quiet of mind, so cheerful and merry in adversity and strait captivity some being thrown into dungeons, ugsome holes, dark, loathsome, and stinking corners: other some lying in fetters and chains, and loaden with so
many irons, that they could scarcely stir: some tied in the stocks with their heels upwards: some having their legs in the stocks and their necks chained to the wall with gorgets of iron: some both hands and legs in the stocks at once: sometimes both hands in, and both legs out: sometimes the right hand with the left leg, or the left hand with the right leg fastened in the stocks with manacles and fetters, having neither stool nor stone to sit on, to ease their woful bodies withal: some standing in most painful engines of iron with their bodies doubled: some whipped and scourged, beaten with rods, and buffeted with fists some having their hands burned with a candle to try their patience, or force them to relent: some hunger-pined and most miserably famished.
All these torments and many more, even such as cruel Phalaris could not devise worse, were practised by the Papists, the stout sturdy soldiers of Satan, thus delighting in variety of tyranny and torments upon the saints of God, as it is full well and too well known, and as many can testify which are yet alive, and have felt some smart thereof.
Yea, and furthermore, so extremely were these dear servants of God dealt withal, that although they were most desirous by their pen and writings to edify their brethren, other poor lambs of Christ, and one to comfort another in him, yet were they so narrowly watched and straitly kept from all necessary helps, as