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like to be thrust into the pond of the people that came unto him. Why, our Saviour Christ might have withstood them, he was strong enough to have kept himself from thrusting into the water. He was stronger than they all, and if he had listed he might have stood on the water, as well as he walked on the water. Truth it is, so might he have done indeed. But as it was sometimes his pleasure to shew the power of his godhead, so he declared now the infirmity and imbecility of his manhood.
Well, he comes to Simon's boat. And why rather to Simon's boat than another? I will answer, as I find in experience in myself. I came hither to-day from Lambeth in a wherry; and when I came to take boat, the watermen came about me, as the manner is, and he would have me, and he would have me: I took one of them. Now ye will ask me why I came in that boat rather than another? Because I would go into that that I see stand next me; it stood more commodiously for me. And so did Christ by Simon's boat: it stood nearer for him, he saw a better seat in it. A good natural reason.
Now come the papists, and they will make a mystery of it: they will pick out the supremacy of the bishop of Rome in Peter's boat. We may make allegories enough of every place in
Scripture: but surely it must needs be a simple matter that standeth on so weak a ground.
It followeth in the text, "Sedens docebat de navi." He taught sitting. Preachers, belike, were sitters in those days, as it is written in another place, "Sedent in cathedrâ Mosis," They sit in the chair of Moses.
I would our preachers would preach sitting or standing, one way or other. It was a goodly pulpit that our Saviour Christ had gotten him here; an old rotten boat; and yet he preached his Father's will, his Father's message out of this pulpit. He cared not for the pulpit,← so he might do the people good. Indeed, it is to be commended for the preacher to stand or sit, as the place is; but I would not have it so superstitiously esteemed, but that a good preacher may declare the word of God sitting on a horse, or preaching in a tree.* And yet if this should be done, the unpreaching prelates would laugh it to scorn. And though it be good to have the pulpit set up in churches, that the people may resort thither, yet I would not have it so superstitiously used, but that in a
*In the time of Ket's rebellion in Norfolk, Dr. Matthew Parker, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, got up into the oak that was called the tree of reformation, and preached a sermon to the insurgents, 'exhorting them to return to their duty.
profane place the word of God might be preached sometimes; and I would not have the people offended withal, no more than they be with our Saviour Christ's preaching out of a boat. And yet to have pulpits in churches, it is very well done to have them; but they would be occupied, for it is a vain thing to have them as they stand in many churches.
I heard of a bishop of England that went on visitation, and as it was the custom, when the bishop should come, and be rung into the town, the great bell's clapper was fallen down, the tyall was broken, so that the bishop could not be rung into the town. There was a great matter made of this, and the chief of the parish were much blamed for it in the visitation. The bishop was somewhat quick with them, and signified that he was much offended. They made their answers, and excused themselves, as well as they could: It was a chance, said they, that the clapper brake, and we could not get it mended by and by, we must tarry till we can have it done. It shall be amended as shortly as may be.
Among the other, there was one wiser than the rest, and he comes me to the bishop. "Why" my lord, saith he, "doth your lordship make so great a matter of the bell that lacketh his clapper? Here is a bell, saith he,
and pointed to the pulpit, that hath lacked a clapper this twenty years. We have a parson that fetcheth out of this benefice fifty pounds every year, but we never see him."
I warrant you the bishop was an unpreaching prelate. He could find fault with the bell that wanted a clapper to ring him into the town, but he could not find any fault with the parson that preached not at his benefice. Ever this office of preaching hath been least regarded, it hath scant had the name of God's service. They must sing "Salve, festa dies," about the church, that no man was the better for it, but to shew their gay coats and garments.
I came once myself to a place, riding on a journey homeward from London, and I sent word over night into the town that I would preach there in the morning, because it was holyday, and methought it was a holyday's work. The church stood in my way, and I took my horse and my company, and went thither. I thought I should have found a great company in the church, and when I came there, the church door was fast locked. I tarried there half an hour and more; at last the key was found, and one of the parish comes to me and says, "Sir, this is a busy day with us, we cannot hear you; it is Robin Hood's day. The parish are gone abroad to gather for Rob
BELL WITHOUT A CLAPPER.
in Hood: I pray you let them not." I was fain there to give place to Robin Hood. I thought my rochet should have been regarded, though I were not. But it would not serve, it was fain to give place to Robin Hood's men.
It is no laughing matter, my friends, it is a weeping matter, a heavy matter; under the pretence of gathering for Robin Hood, a traitor, and a thief, to put out a preacher, to have his office less esteemed, to prefer Robin Hood before the ministration of God's word. And all this hath come of unpreaching prelates. This realm hath been ill provided for, that it hath had such corrupt judgments in it, to prefer Robin Hood to God's word. If the bishops had been preachers, there should never have been any such thing. But we have a good hope of better. We have had a good beginning, I beseech God to continue it. But I tell you, it is far wide that the people have such judg ments; the bishops they could laugh at it. What was that to them? They would have them to continue in their ignorance still, and themselves in unpreaching prelacy.