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took his staff, and went till he came to Alexandria, where he found the cobbler. The cobbler was astonished to see so reverend a father come to his house. Then Anthony said unto him, Come and tell me thy whole conversation, and how thou spendest thy time. Sir, said the cobbler, as for me, good works have I
my life is but simple and slender. I am but a poor cobbler. In the morning when I rise, I pray for the whole city wherein I dwell, specially for all such neighbours and poor friends as I have. After, I set me at my labor, where I spend the whole day in getting my living, and I keep me from all falsehood, for I hate nothing so much as I do deceitfulness : wherefore, when I make to any man a promise, I keep it and perform it truly. And thus I spend my time poorly, with my wife and children, whom I teach and instruct, as far as my wit will serve me, to fear and dread God. And this is the sum of my simple life.
In this story, you see how God loveth those that follow their vocation and live uprightly, without any falsehood in their dealing. This Anthony was a great holy man, yet this cobbler was as much esteemed before God as he.
Now by this occasion, as I told you, namely, to shew themselves obedient, came Joseph and Mary unto Bethlehem, a long journey, and poor folks, and peradventure on foot: for we read of no great horses that she had, as our great ladies have now-a-days. Now he that would shew the good behaviour that was between them two, he must surely have much time. We read of no falling out between them, or any ill behaviour on either side. Wherefore all husbands may learn by Joseph, to do their duties toward their wives, and again all wives may learn by her.
And as touching his nativity, the gospel tells us how he was born in a stable among beasts, lacking all manner of necessary things which appertained to young children ; insomuch that he had never a cradle. Wherefore Mary his mother wrapped him, as it is most like, in her own apparel; and laid him in a manger, where he was shewed, not to the rulers of this world, neither to kings, potentates or bishops; but rather to simple shepherds and poor servants, keeping their sheep in the field. To these poor wretches the angel of God was sent which proclaimed these great things unto them ; say
ing, “Be not afraid, for behold I bring you tidings of great gladness that shall come to all people ; for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
And thus his first coming is but very poorly, without any jollity or pomp; but his second coming (as I have told you many a time before) shall be a glorious coming, a beautiful coming. For he shall come accompanied with all his angels; he shall come with such clearness, that the sun and the moon shall be darkened at his coming. Not that the sun itself of his substance shall be darkened. No, not so; for it shall give his light; but it shall not be seen for this great light and clearness, wherein our Saviour shall appear. Now at the first he is come, not with glory or majesty, but with great poverty and misery, which he hath sustained for our sakes.
Now some will say, when they hear what poverty our Saviour suffered, and how Mary his mother was compelled to take a stable for lack of a better lodging, O what a wicked city was this! What a company of cruel people were these! But when we consider all things well, we shall find that we be even as wicked as they were. For are not we given now-a-days to covetousness, so that we regard not the poor,
needy, and miserable people? Seek we not our own commodities, and despise and neglect
? Therefore if thou wilt cry out upon the Bethlehemites, then cry out on thyself, for thou art as wicked, yea, more wicked than they were. For the most part of all Bethlehem knew nothing of our Saviour Christ that he was born ; but we know it, therefore we are inexcusable. God hath sent unto us his preachers, which teach us the way to heaven, they shew us wherein standeth our redemption, they exhort us to godliness, to do good works, to be pitiful, and liberal unto the poor, to help them, and comfort them. But what do we ? Marry, we despise the preachers, we abhor their doctrine, and so consequently refuse Christ himself; for he saith, “Qui vos suscipit, me suscipit,” He that receiveth you receiveth me. (Matt. x.) This Christ speaketh by his preachers. Therefore, as I said before, we need not to cry out against Bethlehem, but let us cry out on ourselves, for we are as ill in all points as they were.
But I warrant you, there was many a jolly damsel at that time in Bethlehem; yet amongst
them all there was not one found that would humble herself so much, as once to go see poor Mary in the stable, and to comfort her. No, no; they were too fine to take so much pains. I warrant you they had their bracelets, and vardingals,* and were trimmed with all manner of fine and costly raiment, like as there be many now-a-days amongst us which study nothing else but how they may devise fine raiment; and in the mean season, they suffer poor Mary to lie in the stable ; that is to say, the poor people of God they suffer to perish for lack of necessaries.
But what was her swaddling clothes wherein she laid the king of heaven and earth ? No doubt it was poor gear; peradventure it was her kercher which she took from her head, or such like
gear; for I think Mary had not much fine linen, she was not trimmed up as our women be now-a-days. I think indeed Mary had never a vardingal, for she used no such superfluities as our fine damsels do now-a-days: for in the old time women
content with honestá and single garments. Now they have found out these roundabouts, they were not invented then, the devil was not so cunning to make such
* These were hoops round the lower garments of the ladies, which were sometimes of an enormous magnitude.