Page images


that be desirous to put their neighbour out of his house or land, to the intent that they may have the


Also thou offendest herein, when thou art glad to see thy neighbour fall in decay, and in his need dost offer to lend him money, to the intent he may run so far in debt, that at length he shall be compelled to offer to thee his inheritance to be sold. Now in this case, if thou buy the same, thou dost sin, yea, although thou pay as much money as the land is worth. For thou oughtest to love thy neighbour as thine own self, and to wish unto him as good chance and great prosperity, as thou wouldest to thyself. Now thou wouldest not gladly be put from thine own patrimony. Thou wouldest not be oppressed with debt or poverty, therefore, thou mayest not wish or do to thy neighbour that thou wouldest not other men should do to thee. Therefore thou mayest not hawk or hunt for his patrimony: thou mayest make no trains to bring him into thy snare, and to cause him to sell the same, but thou oughtest rather to help thy neighbour, both with thy counsel and with thy money, to keep still his inheritance, and not to defraud his heirs or posterity of those lands which his ancestors by long succession have left to him and his heirs....

Likewise, God even now-a-days doth punish these glaring kites, that seek their prey in every place; for commonly, either they be deceived of their expectation for all their gaping and prying, or if they obtain their prey, they purchase to

themselves therewith great misfortune and evil ends. Wherefore, good children, let this Commandment deep sink into your hearts, and consider well that it is no man, nor creature, but God himself, that saith unto you, "Thou shalt not desire thy neighbour's wife, his man servant, woman-servant, ox, ass, or any other thing that is his." For to desire these things is a very heinous sin, and God will not suffer it to escape unpunished. And although men now-a-days take it but for a trifle, when a man hath a true and diligent servant, to entice him away by all crafts and means, yet surely God will punish the same sharply for as they entice their neighbours' servants from them, so God suffereth other men to allure their servants away likewise. And more. over this inconvenience cometh hereby, that when servants perceive men to sue for them, they wax so haughty and stubborn, that they will be content with no mean wages, and be so proud that they regard not their masters, nor stand in awe of them, but whensoever their old masters do displease them, by and by they will seek for a new. And when they be not content with their old wages, they desire more and this complaint of servants is now-a-days in every man's mouth, and yet it is not redressed, because it is the just judgment of God, wherewith he scourgeth them that allure their neighbours' servants from them.

And God doth not punish only such as entice other men's servants from them, but also those that go about to get any other part of their neigh

bours' goods or cattle. For if thou take thy neighbour's house over his head, or put him out of his house by any crafty conveyance, then many times God taketh vengeance with sickness of loss of thy goods. If thou convey away his cattle, commonly they prosper not, but die of some kind of murrain. And whatsoever thing we thus purchase and possess contrary to God's Commandment, it lacketh the blessing of God, wherefore it cannot long endure or prosper.

Therefore, I pray you, good children, frame your affections and lives according to this rule. Be content that every man may enjoy and keep to himself that thing, which God hath given him. When God's pleasure shall so be, he will also send to you that which you desire. And he is able so to give it you, that your neighbour shall suffer no loss or damage. Covet not your neighbour's wife, house, servant, or any thing that is his, except it be by his will and consent. And if it shall chance any of you to be covenant-servants with any man, then let not crafty or malicious fellows persuade you to forsake your masters, but do them faithful service (as your duty is), and trust not such flattering or slanderous tongues as go about to entice you from your masters. For such men are the devil's messengers, which intend nothing else, but to allure you to sin, and to bring you into misery. And believe this, good children, as a most sure article of your faith, that our God is the true Lord of all things, he is the Governor and Master of all the world, and all is but his own household

He first made us, and from time to time doth daily nourish us. He doth set all things in order in his family; he it is, that doth call every man to that office, state, order, degree, and kind of living, in the which it pleaseth him to set them. He will give to every man the thing which he hath need of, so that we with all our hearts obey him. Wherefore there is no cause why thou shouldest covet thy neighbour's goods, or by any subtle con> veyance get them into thy hands. For this thing wanteth the blessing of God, yea, it deserveth his curse and malediction: for Scripture saith, "Cursed is he that doth not abide in all things that be written in the law."

And now ye have heard, good children, a plain, brief, and true exposition of the Tenth Commandment, the which, although it be last in number, yet I pray you let it not have the last place in your memory, but one of the first and chief seats of the same; that as soon as you be demanded this question, How understand you the Tenth Commandment? you may be prompt and ready to an÷ swer, We ought to fear and love our Lord God above all things, and for his sake willingly to abstain from our neighbour's wife, family, goods, and cattle, and to help him (as much as lieth in us), that he may reap and possess the same..


[ocr errors]


Master. Now remaineth the last Commandment, of not coveting any thing that is our neighbour's: what meaneth that?

Scholar. This law doth generally forbid all sorts of evil lusts; and commandeth us to bridle and restrain all greedy unsatiable desire of our will, which holdeth not itself within the bounds of right reason: and it willeth that each man be content with his estate. But whosoever coveteth more than right, with the loss of his neighbour, and wrong to another; he breaketh and bitterly looseth the bond of charity and fellowship among men. Yea, and upon him (unless he amend) the Lord God, the most stern revenger of the breaking of his law, shall execute most grievous punishment. On the other side, he that liveth according to the rule of these laws, shall find both praise and bliss; and God also his merciful and bountiful good Lord.


Master. Now remaineth the last Commandment.

Scholar. "Thou shalt not covet," &c.

Mast. Seeing, as thou hast oft said already,. the whole law is spiritual, and ordained not only

« PreviousContinue »