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THE EPISTLE OR PREFACE,
TO THE CHRISTIAN READER,
As prefixed to the Edition of the Works of Tindal, Frith, and Barnes, printed A. D. 1573. By JOHN FOX.
As we have great cause to give thanks to the high providence of Almighty God, for the excellent art of printing, most happily of late found out, and now commonly practised every where, to the singular benefit of Christ's church, whereby great increase of learning and knowledge, with innumerable commodities else, have ensued, and daily do ensue to the life of man, and especially to the furtherance of true religión: so again of our part, it is both, of us all in general to be wished, and especially of them to be procured, who occupy the trade thereof, rightly to use the same to the glory of Him which gave it; and to the end wherefore it was ordained, and not to abuse unworthily that worthy faculty, either in thrusting into the world every unworthy trifle that cometh to hand, or having respect more to their own private gain, than regard to the public edifying of Christ's church, or necessary preferment of religion. For therefore I suppose this science of printing first to be set up and sent of God to man's use, not so much for temporal commodity to be taken, or man's glory to be sought thereby, but rather for the spiritual and inward supportation of soul-health, help of religion, restoring of true doctrine, repairing of Christ's church, and repressing of corrupt abuses, which had heretofore overdarkened the doctrine of faith; to revive again the lost light of knowledge to those blind times, by renewing of wholesome and ancient writers: whose doings and teachings otherwise had lain in oblivion, had not the benefit of printing brought them again to light, or us rather to light by them. Wherefore such printers in my
mind, are not to be defrauded of their due commendation, who in pretermitting other light trifling pamphlets of matter unneedful and impertinent, little serving to purpose, less to necessity, do employ their endeavour and workmanship chiefly to restore such fruitful works and monuments of ancient writers, and blessed martyrs: who as by their godly life, and constant death, give testimony to the truth in time wherein they suffered; so by their doctrine and learning, give no less light to all ages and posterity after them.
In the number of whom, may rightly be accounted, and no less recommended to the studious Chris tian reader these three learned fathers of blessed memory, whom the printer of this book hath diligently collected, and in one volume together inclosed their works; I mean, William Tindal, John Frith, and Robert Barnes, chief ringleaders in these latter times of this church of England. Wherein, as we have much to praise God for such good books left to the church, and also for such printers in preserving by their industry and charges such books from perishing: so have I to exhort all studious readers, with like diligence to embrace the benefit of God offered, and seriously to occupy themselves in marking and following both the valiant acts and excellent writings of the said godly persons. Concerning the praise whereof, I shall not need in this place to bestow much commendation; because, neither is it the praise of men, but profit of the godly, that they do seek nor yet the contempt of the ungodly, that they do fear. Moreover, what is to be said or thought of them, rather by their own works, than by other men's words; by reading their books, than by my preface, is to be seen. In pursuing whereof, thou shalt find (gentle reader), whether thou be ignorant, what to learn; or whether thou be learned, what to follow, and what to stick to. Briefly, what
soever thou art, if thou be young, of John Frith : if thou be middle age, of William Tindal: if in elder years, of Dr. Barnes, matter is here to be found, not only of doctrine to inform thee, of comfort to delight thee, of godly ensample to direct thee: but also of special admiration, to make thee to wonder at the works of the Lord, so mightily working in these men, so opportunely in stirring them up, so graciously in assisting them.
Albeit, divers others also beside these, I say not nay, as well before them as after, through the secret operation of God's mighty providence, have been raised up, both famous in learning, flourishing in wit, and stout in zeal, who labouring in the same cause, have no less valiantly and doughtily stood in the like defence of Christ's true religion, against blind error, pestilent superstition, and perilous hypocrisy, namely, against the arch enemy of Christ and his flock, the bishop I mean of Rome, with his tyrannical seat: as namely here in England, John Wickliff, Rigge, Aston, Swinderby, W. Thorpe, Walter Brute, L. Cobham, with the residue of that former age and also after them many other more fresh wits, faithful preachers, and learned writers have sprung up by the Lord of hosts to furnish his field briefly, no age nor time hath ever lacked some or other, still baiting at the beast, but especially now in these our present days, such plenty, yea, whole armies the Lord hath poured upon his church of heavenly soldiers, who not only in number exceeding, but also in knowledge excelling, both by preaching and printing, do so garnish the church in every respect; that it may seem, and so peradventure will be thought, this time of ours to stand now in little need of such books and monuments as these of former antiquity: yet notwithstanding, I am not of that mind so to think. For albeit, increasing of learning of tongues and sciences, with quickness of wit in youth and others, doth marvellously shut up
(as is to be seen), to the sufficient furnishing of Christ's church: yet so it happeneth, I cannot tell how, the farther I look back into those former times of Tindal, Frith, and others like; more simplicity, with true zeal and humble modesty I see, with less corruption of affections in them; and yet with these days of ours, I find no fault. As by reading and conferring their works together may eftsoon appear.
In opening the Scriptures, what truth, what soundness can a man require more, or what more is to be said, than is to be found in Tindal? In his Prologues upon the five books of Moses, upon Jonas, upon the Gospels, and Epistles of St. Paul, particularly to the Romans; how perfectly doth he hit the right sense, and true meaning in every thing? In his Obedience, how fruitfully teacheth he every person his duty! In his Expositions, and upon the parable of the wicked mammon, how pithily doth he persuade; how gradual doth he exhort; how lovingly doth he comfort! Simple without ostentation, vehement without contention. Which two faults, as they commonly are wont to follow the most part of writers, so how far the same were from him, and he from them, his replies and answers to Sir Thomas More, do well declare. In doctrine sound, in heart humble, in life unrebukeable, in disputations modest, in rebuking charitable, in truth fervent, and yet no less prudent in dispensing the same, and bearing with time, and with weakness of men, as much as he might; saving only, where mere necessity constrained him otherwise to do, for defence of truth against wilful blindness and subtle hypocrisy ; as in the Practice of Prelates is notorious to be seen. Briefly, such was his modesty, zeal, charity, and painful travail, that he never sought for any thing less, than for himself: for nothing more, than for Christ's glory, and edification of others: for whose cause not only he bestowed his labours, but his life,
and blood also. Wherefore not unrightly he might be then, as he is yet called, the apostle of England, as Paul calleth Epaphroditus, the apostle of the Philippians, for his singular care and affection towards them. For as the apostles in the primitive age first planted the church in truth of the Gospel: so the same truth being again decayed and defaced by enemies in this our latter time, there was none that travailed more earnestly in restoring of the same in this realm of Englaud, than did William Tindal.
..With which Williain Tindal, no less may be adjoined also John Frith and Dr. Barnes, both for that they, together with him, in one cause, and about one time, sustained the first brunt in this our latter age, and gave the first onset against the enemies : as also for the special gifts of fruitful erudition, and plentiful knowledge, wrought in them by God, and so by them left unto us in their writings. Wherefore, according to our promise in the book of Acts and Monuments, we thought good herein to spend a little diligence in collecting and setting abroad their books together, so many as could be found, to remain as perpetual lamps, shining in the Church of Christ, to give light to all posterity. And although the printer, herein taking great pains, could not peradventure come by all (howbeit, I trust, there lack not inany), yet the Lord be thanked for those which he hath got and here published unto us.)
And, would God, the like diligence had been used of our ancient fore-elders, in the time of Wickliff, Purney, Clerk, Brute, Thorp, Huss, Hierome, and such other, in searching and collecting their works and writings.No doubt but many things had remained in light, which now be left in oblivion. But by reason the art of printing was not yet invented, their worthy books were the sooner abolished. Such was then the wickedness of those days, and the practice of those prelates, then so crafty, that no good book could appear, though it were the