Mr. Noel’s Sermon at the Parliament Before the Queen’s Majestie

[The Parliament met on 11th January 1563.]

DAVID being troubled with the insurrection of his own son Absolom, who, although he were of so goodly personage and beauty as none was in all Israel, as appeareth in the 2 Kings xiv.; meet (as the common saying is) for a kingdom; yet, he being greedy of honour, wholly given to ambition, by sundry ways, and false subtle crafty and politic persuasions, attempts, and means, as appeareth 2 Kings v.; ungodlily stirred up the subjects against their godly prince, yea, most unnaturally against his own father: which said Absolom, although in years young, yet got unto him, for the better accomplishment of his enterprise, grave, sage, and politic counsellors, as Achithophel one of his father’s own old sage counsellors; by which means, and others, he encouraged himself, thinking his enterprise to be half achieved; but, on the other side, although David saw his own servants, subjects, and counsellors, to depart from him, and therefore forced to fly over Jordan for fear of falling into the hands of his ambitious son, yet he despaired not, but encouraged himself, not only saying, “Offer ye the sacrifice of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord,” and so forth, as in the 4th Psalm, but also prayed that God would destroy the counsel of Achithophel: as 2 Kings xv. Which former words, as they were spoken by him being a prince, yet a remembrance to princes and nobles that as they do excel other in nobility, even so ought they to excel other in wisdom and virtue. For as the “beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord,” so is the trusting in him the finishing thereof; who is the only giver of all goodness and wisdom. And this Absolom is ungrate both to the Lord for his manifold benefits and mercies shewed unto him, and so ungrate to his own father, having obtained such an army, and wise counsellors, thinking all the same to come of himself, and to be so noble that no hands durst lay hold on him, yet all being without the Lord, was but a puddle of mischief. For notwithstanding that he was so ungrate by subtil means to win away the hearts of the people from their prince, and made this unnatural rebellion: yet his godly father, David, so dearly loved him, that at such time as his army went forth to battle against him, commanded them to use and intreat him gently for his sake. Whereupon, after the battle, considering the love the king, his father, bare him, no man durst scarce lay hands upon him. Yet God clean overthrew him, and turned all upside down, and hanged him up without man’s aid; yea, even by the yellow locks, as appeareth 2 Kings xviii. And his chief counsellor Achitophel, seeing his counsel took no effect, hanged himself, as in 2 Kings xvii. And thus, by them may be seen that, not trusting in the Lord, but in themselves, they came to ruin; and so shall all the like do. And, on the contrary side, David, trusting only in God, prospered; and so shall all other the like do. And although David did only so trust, yet he refused not to do his endeavour, but used the ordinary and reasonable means which God hath ordained by the wisdom of man given of God for that purpose. And they that will not so do, neither fear nor trust aright in God, but contemn and tempt him who made means to be used, although not to be trusted in, but in God; for that there is nothing good without the Lord.

Sacrifices of thanksgiving have been from the beginning, as in Gen. iv. appeareth by Cain and Abel. But all offerings of sacrifices be ungodly if the author have not a godly mind, and forsake sin, as in Ecclus. xxxv. And so, having a godly mind, “offer the sacrifice of righteousness” to repentance, penance, alms, thanksgiving, cleanness of heart, and all other virtues; subduing all vices, as in the 51. Psalm. For innocence of life is a chief sacrifice, and pertaineth to all ages and sexes, as well nobles, gentles, soldiers, as others; what ought first to be in heart, and after in life by works: which the nobles and others in authority, as they excel in honour and authority above others, so ought they specially to excel in good works. For in them the fault is more than a fault, because that as well their subjects, servants, curry-favourers, and others, will follow and practice who can go nearest to observe their order, and follow best their mind, (as in doing as they do) the inferior by the example of the superior will follow their step; for the young cock croweth as he heareth the old. And therefore they in authority ought chiefly to look unto it, because they are presidents of good life and justice; and give judgment, and therefore ought specially to “offer sacrifice of righteousness,” and specially those which be now of this high House of Parliament assembled for making of laws for service of God and the realm. And then by their ensample other will follow. But this great pride of apparel which sheweth a troubled mind, and this excess in diet, and breaches of promises, and open crimes, do declare our unthankful sacrifices. Howbeit, as in Joshua xxiii., who saith to the people, if you have determined to trouble the commonwealth, and to anger the Lord (as in serving strange gods, and wallowing in other vices with such sacrifice of unrighteouness), yet “I and my house will serve the Lord,” and “offer the sacrifice of righteousness” to him which giveth all: and seek first his kingdom, and then all things shall prosper. And in like manner let us say and do. For by the miserable estate of our neighbours of France we may see our own happiness; for which if we be unthankful, it will fall on us. And therefore let us serve only the Lord.

Furthermore, where the Queen’s majesty of her own nature is wholly given to clemency and mercy, as full well appeareth hitherto. For in this realm was never seen a change so quiet; or so long time reigning without blood (God be praised for it). Howbeit those which hitherto will not be reformed, but obstinate, and can skill of no clemency or courtesy, ought otherwise to be used. But now will some say, Oh bloody man! that calleth this the house of right, and now would have it made a house of blood. But the Scripture teaches us that divers faults ought to be punished by death: and therefore following God’s precepts it cannot be accounted cruel. And it is not against this house, but the part thereof, to see justice ministered to them who will abuse clemency. Therefore the goodness of the Queen’s majesty’s clemency may well and ought now therefore to be changed to justice, seeing it will not help. But now to explicate myself, I say if any man keeping his opinion, will, and mind close within himself, and so not open the same, then he ought not to be punished. But when he openeth it abroad, then it hurteth, and ought to be cut off. And specially if in any thing it touch the Queen’s majesty. For such errors or heresy ought not, as well for God’s quarrel as the realm’s, to be unlooked unto. For clemency ought not to be given to the wolves to kill and devour, as they do the lambs. For which cause it ought to be foreseen; for that the prince shall answer for all that so perish, it lying in her power to redress it. For by the scriptures, murderers, breakers of the holy day, and maintainers of false religion ought to die by the sword. But first are to be persuaded by the clergy by the sword of the Spirit, to win them from their errors (if it may be). Also the Lord’s day, which now is so diversely abused, is to be looked unto: for on that day, taverns, alehouses, and other unruly places be full, but the Lord’s house empty; which crime before this hath been punished with death. And therefore discipline ought now speedily to be restored with a law for redress of the same. For we having six days to our own use, the seventh to be dedicated to the Lord; and seeing it is abused, it ought to be punished. For we, “to whom much is given, shall be of much required.” And therefore let us again to God offer much; and so ought the nobility to do, and the clergy also, by good example, or else the punishment will follow. Also some other sharper laws for adultery; and also for murder more straiter than for felony; which in France is well used: as the wheel for the one, the halter for the other; which if we had here I doubt not within few years would save many a man’s life.

And where the Queen’s majesty, to her great praise and no small charge, aided her neighbours of Scotland, (yea, although before her enemies) without any ambition or desire of their possessions, as by the same appeareth; but only, both for conscience’ sake to save them which otherwise would have been destroyed (for he that saveth not him which he may is a murderer), as also for the surety of this our realm; by which her means the purpose of that her known and bent enemy was broken. And now again likewise hath entred wars in France clear without ambition, but to disappoint the same her enemy of his devilish pretensed purpose. And by that means to preserve numbers which otherwise he meaneth to destroy.1 And therefore now seeing it is so honourably begun, both for conscience’ sake and surety of the realm, let it be foreseen to go through withal. For it is not good to anger an enemy; well remembering that he that would be a bent enemy without cause, now being stirred, judge what he will do. For it is better to look to the banks before the water breaketh in, than after when the water is out, and therefore good to work apace in the ebb tides before the spring come. For that penny is ill spared which after will cost a pound: and better to give somewhat, and have the rest in quiet, than by sparing that somewhat to lose all: wherefore every man ought to lay to his hand, giving unto Cæsar that what is Cæsar’s: which seeing Christ did so command to an infidel, how much more we to a Christian our right sovereign for maintenance of their most holy wars, and defence and surety of our own realm. Whereunto for the bishops of the spiritualty and the rest of the clergy, I dare boldly say will both largely and willingly give to their powers: lamenting their ability to be such that they are no abler to give larger. And even in time of peace it were good for younger brethren and others to join with some being in wars for experience’ sake: unto whom and the rest of the soldiers I wish there might be some reward provided without the Queen’s charge; and that now not to be forgotten which before at the suppression of abbeys had been foreseen:—that but two houses in every shire might have been maintained, the one for the reward of the soldiers, and the other for scholars. Then surely we should have had learned scholars and good soldiers.

And whereas things be scarce, is no marvel of dearth; as for example by corn at this present. But whereas plenty is and yet dearth, is great marvel; as now of sheep, and yet never so many, and yet never so dear. And now so many that they do no only eat up such void and waste grounds as be meet, and were accustomed for them, but the good ground which should be tilled and sown with corn; and also men. For that where there hath been accustomed to be twenty several houses for the Queen’s subjects to inhabit in, now there remaineth only a shepherd and his dog.2 And therefore as for payments, such persons as eat up men would be looked unto, for they may well pay. Yet notwithstanding there are good laws made for maintenance of tillage, but not executed. The cause thereof is (as men say) that those which should see the same executed be faulty therein themselves, and so not amended. For they cannot pluck forth the mote of another’s eye, by reason of the beam in their own eye.

Furthermore, to have provision to avoid vagabonds, as the martial law, if it were put in execution, doth full well. For he that liveth idly, having not any ways whereon to live, is a thief, and robbeth the poor of their duty and living: which poor and impotent I wish not to lie so abroad in the streets; but order to be taken for them, that such which with any kind of art can get their own living, or somewhat towards their maintenance, may be put to be so occupied; and then the other will be the more easier and better provided for: which I wish were seen unto.

And whereas the Queen’s majesty’s most noble ancestors have commonly had some issue to succeed them, but her majesty yet none; which want is for our sins to be a plague unto us. For as the marriage of Queen Mary was a terrible plague to all England, and like in continuance to have proved greater; so now for the want of your marriage and issue is like to prove as great a plague. For if your parents had been of your mind, where had you been then? Or what had become of us now? When your majesty was troubled with sickness,3 then I heard continual voices and lamentations, saying, “Alas, what trouble shall we be in, even as great or greater than France! For the succession is so uncertain, and such division for religion! Alack! what shall become of us?” For as a man which doth afore he hath made his will, or get all things in a good order, is much troubled in his conscience for the care thereof, even so no doubt of it was and is the Queen’s majesty much troubled for the succession of this crown. And of late as I chanced to walk up and down here in this church, I espied a ruinous monument or tomb of one of your ancestors, the longest reign that ever was, and yet his crown in the dust.4 And passing a little further espied another like monument of one other of them, who reigned not half so long, and yet twice more noble, and his crown in like manner.5 And yet not so staying, a little off saw the funeral place of that most virtuous imp your most noble brother of famous memory King Edward the 6th, and your sister Queen Mary. And now of later times for your and our better example the end and death of the Lady Jane,6 your almoner,7 and other even near or here about your court: which be worthy monuments and admonitions for us to remember the same, being the most certain thing that can be; and again the uncertain when the hour shall be, or how soon. Which I for my part weighing and foreseeing in my judgment, the ruin of this my most natural country to be at hand, thought to take to my meditation (but not such as old men have used to meditate on their beds), but to meditate myself in the Lamentations of Jeremy, and in the same to pass away these my old years. But then again when I heard of the calling of this Parliament I was thereby encouraged, hoping and not doubting, but there should be such order taken, and good laws established, which should again erect up the decay of the same. And thus beseeching God that this assembly of the two Houses may wholly together offer up a “sacrifice of righteousness and thanksgiving,” and proceed forward with making of good laws; then I doubt not but your Majesty shall to our comfort long reign over us, and the nobles with their issues continue.

  1. The preacher here alludes to the assistance afforded by Queen Elizabeth to Protestants in Scotland, and in France. ↩︎
  2. See Latimer’s Works, I. 99; and Pilkington’s Works, p. 86. Park. Soc. Edd. ↩︎
  3. Alluding to an attack of the small-pox, from which the Queen had very recently recovered. ↩︎
  4. Alluding probably to Henry III. ↩︎
  5. Meaning probably Edward IV. ↩︎
  6. Lady Jane Grey. ↩︎
  7. Dr May, Archbishop of York elect. ↩︎
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