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TWELVE LETTINGS* OF PRAYER.
(From a MS. in the British Museum.)
Here follow twelve lettings* of prayer, whereby men may know better why men are not heard in their prayer of God, alway, when they pray.
THE TWELVE LETTINGS OF PRAYER.
The first letting of prayer, is the sin of him that prayeth. In Isaiah i. God saith thus, When ye make many prayers I shall not hear, for your hands are full of blood. That is, your works are full of sin. And in Isaiah lix. Your wickednesses have made departing betwixt you
God; and your sins have hid his face from you, that he should not hear. And in Jeremiah v. Our sins have forbodet God from us.
And in Lamentations iii. We have done wickedly, and have deserved vengeance ; therefore thou mayest not be prayed, that is, pleased by our prayer. And oft thou hast set a cloud against thee, that a prayer pass not.
And in John ix. the blind man saith thus, We know that God heareth not sinners; that is, who travail not to amend them. And David saith in the Psalter, If I beheld wickedness in my heart, that is to say, If I loved wickedness, God shall not hear. And St. Gregory saith, When he that displeaseth is sent for to pray, the soul of him that is wroth, is sore stirred to worse things, that is, to more vengeance.
The second letting is, the doubt of him that prayeth. In James i. it is said, Let a man ask in faith, nothing doubting, for he that doubteth is like to the wave of the sea which is driven of the wind, and borne about. Let that man guess not that he shall get any thing of the Lord. And Bernard saith, He is proved unworthy to have heavenly blessings, that asketh of God with doubtful desire.
The third letting is this, that a man asketh not that which ought to be asked. For why ? That which is asked is vite, or it is not speedfuli to him that asketh. In John xvi.
* Hinderances. + Forbidden, separated. # Serviceable, useful.
Christ saith to his disciples, Till now ye asked not any thing in my name. In Matthew xx. it is said, Ye know not what
Oft the church is not heard, when it asketh that tribulations be put away. In Isaiah xxvi. God saith thus, Have we mercy of the unpiteous man, and he shall not learn to do rightfulness. This is said in scorn ; as if God said to his angels, Suffer we the unpiteous man have lust in this life, and to perish in evil death; for he will not learn to do rightfulness, but grudgeth and blasphemeth God. Also in James iv. it is said, Ye ask and take not, for ye ask evil. Isidore saith, Many that pray, are not heard at their will, for God purveyeth better things for them than they ask. As it is wont to fall to little children, who in schools pray God that they be not beaten; but the effect of their prayer is not given unto them.
The fourth letting is, unworthiness of him for whom we pray. For God, in Jeremiah vii. xi. saith, Pray not thou for this people, and take thou not praising ; that is, sacrifice of praising and prayer for them ; neither against and thou me, for I shall not hear thee. And in Jeremiah xv. God saith thus, Though Moses and Samuel stand before me, my will is not to this people; cast them out from my face and go they out.
The fifth letting is, the multitude of evil thoughts. In Genesis xv., Abraham drove away the birds; that is, he that prayeth shall drive away evil thoughts.
The sixth letting is, despising of God's law. In Proverbs xxviii. God saith, The prayer of him that boweth away his ear, that he hear not the law of God, shall be abominable, or cursed. And in Proverbs i. They shall call me to help, saith God, and I shall not hear them; for they hated teaching and chastising.
The seventh letting is, hardness of soul; and this is on two manners. Some is hardness against poor men, of which it is said in Proverbs xxi. If a man stoppeth his ear at the cry of a poor man, he shall cry and he shall not be heard. Another hardness is to them that have trespassed, when a man will not forgive to them. In Mark xi. Christ saith, When ye stand to pray, forgive ye, if ye have any thing against any man ; that also your Father which is in heaven, forgive to you your sins. That if ye forgive not to men, neither shall your Father forgive to you your sins. And the same sentence is told in Matthew vi.
The eighth letting is, increasing of sin. David saith to God, They that draw themselves far from thee, shall perish. In James iv. he saith, Nigh ye to God, and he shall nigh to you. He nigheth to God, that ceaseth of evil work. Of this letting, and of that which goeth before, Isidore touches, and saith thus, “In two manners a prayer is letted, that a man may not get the things that are asked ; one is, if a man do yet evils, that is, wilfully continueth in sin; and the other is, if he forgive not sin to man that tres. passeth to him.”
The ninth letting is, suggestions of the devil; that withdraw many men from prayer.
The tenth letting is, littleness of desire. Augustine saith, “God keepeth that thing from thee, which he will not give soon to thee, that thou learn to desire great things." Gregory saith, in his Moralis, “ If we by mouth ask everlasting life, and desire not in heart, we that cry are still and dumb.”. David saith, I was still the while I cried all day.
The eleventh letting is, the impatience of him that asketh. In 1 Sam. xxviii. Saul asked counsel of the Lord, and he answered not Saul. And Saul said, Seek ye to me a woman that hath an unclean spirit. The twelfth letting is, the default of perseverance in
prayer. In Luke xi. Christ saith, If a man continueth knocking at the gate, the friend, that is, God, shall rise and give him as many loaves as he needeth. Augustine saith, “ If prayer is not removed, be thou secure that mercy is not removed." But here take heed that prayer stand most in good living ; that the prayer with mouth accord with the deed, and so continue, and thou shalt take. Therefore Christ saith, in Luke xviii. It behoveth to pray ever and cease not. Augustine saith, “ As long as thou hast holy desire, and livest after God's law in charity, thou prayest ever well. And if thou livest in gluttony, or in other great sins, how many prayings soever thy tongue soundeth, thy life blasphemeth, that is scorneth and despiseth God.
Now hast thou here twelve lettings of prayer, well grounded in holy scripture; by which it is good before thy prayer to search thy conscience, that thy prayer be not hindered by any of these, and so by grace to have the effect. of thy prayer, and after to come to bliss without end.
ANTICHRIST'S LABOUR TO DESTROY
From the MS. in the Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.
HOW ANTICHRIST AND HIS CLERKS LABOUR TO DESTROY
HOLY WRIT, AND TO MAKE CHRISTIAN MEN UNSTABLE IN
I. As our Lord Jesus Christ ordained by the writing of the four evangelists, to make his gospel surely known, and maintained against heretics, and men out of the faith ; so the devil, even Satan, devises by antichrist and his worldly false clerks, to destroy holy writ and christian men's belief, , by four accursed ways, or false reasons. 1. The church is of more authority, and more to be believed than any gospel. 2. That Augustine said he would not believe the gospel if the church had not taught him so. 3. That no man alive knows which is the gospel, but by the approving of the church. 4. If men say that they believe this is the gospel of Matthew or John, they ask, Why believest thou that this is the gospel ? as though they would say, There is no cause but that the church confirmeth and teacheth it.
These four evidences, and many more, the fiend makes, to blind men in their belief, that they should not know what is sin, or what is virtue; which is truth, which is falsehood; which is good, which is evil; which are God's commands, and which are the fiend's lies ; thus to bring all men blindly to hell and their new religion. And principally friars preach these evidences, and sow them among ignorant men in the country, to stop poor priests and ignorant men, that they be not hardy to speak of the gospel, holy writ, God's commandments, joys of heaven, of sins, and of the pains of hell, lest they stir men to rise out of their sins for dread of pains, and to live in virtuous life, to have the bliss of heaven. And this error in belief is made and committed by these accursed pharisees to magnify their new feigned orders, founded by sinful men, not with Christ's holy religion, but more than it or any point of holy writ,* and therefore they will not be convinced of their pride and hypocrisy, and forsake their covetousness and lusts, and their own will. Therefore they will rather run to hell, and draw all men after them, advisedly, by destroying of christian faith, than come to Christ's holy religion with freedom of the gospel, which is ordained of God, of endless wisdom, without error of any sinful man. For then they must acknowledge their falseness and hypocrisy, by which they deceive christian men, from the beginning of their novelties to this time. But Lucifer's pride, and the coveting of worldly muck, and of high estates of worldly worship, cannot suffer this meekness, as men dread full sorely through the old envy of Satan, and firm rooting in sin.
II. Let us now see this bringing in the first accursed ground, that the church is of more authority and credence than the gospel. They say that Nicodemus and many more, wrote the gospels of Christ's life and his teaching, but the church put them away, and approved the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John-then the church might as well have put out the four, and approved the other gospels ;t since it was in full power of the church to reprove and condemn which they would, and to approve, and to accept, which they liked, and therefore men, say they, should believe the church more than any gospel.
First, These crafty heretics understand by the church, the pope of Rome and his cardinals, and the multitude of worldly clerks assenting to his simony, and worldly lordship, above all kings and emperors of this world. For else it were not to their purpose to magnify the church as they now do. True men say that the clergy who first were wise, and holy of life, were stirred up by the Holy Ghost, to take these four gospels, and they charge not christian people with more, since these are enough and profitable at the full, Thus Chaucer describes,
Instead of preaching and of prayers,
Men may give pence to poor friars. + Respecting the fabulous narratives here referred to, called The legends, it is sufficient to remark that their
contents fully prove
their want of authenticity. This is apparent to the most cursory reader, yet modern infidels have urged the very same argument as the popish opponents of Wickliff! See Jones on the Sacred Canon, and 'Horne on the Soriptures, for an account of the apocryphal evangelists