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  • Title: An Homily Against Disobedience and Willful Rebellion (1571)
  • Editors: Michael Best, Rosemary Gaby

  • Copyright Michael Best and Rosemary Gaby. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: John Jewel
    Editors: Michael Best, Rosemary Gaby
    Not Peer Reviewed

    An Homily Against Disobedience and Willful Rebellion (1571)

    1The First Part

    As God the creator and Lord of all things appointed his angels and heavenly creatures in all obedience to serve and to honor his majesty: so was it his will that man, his chief creature upon the earth, should live under the obedience of his creator and Lord: and for that cause, God, as soon as he had created man, gave unto him a certain precept and law, which he (being yet in the state of innocence, and remaining in Paradise) should observe as a pledge and token of his due and bounden obedience, with denunciation of death if he did transgress and break the said law and commandment. And as God would have man to be his obedient subject, so did he make all earthly creatures subject unto man, who kept their due obedience unto man, so long as man remained in his obedience unto God: in the which obedience if man had continued still, there had been no poverty, no diseases, no sickness, no death, nor other miseries wherewith mankind is now infinitely and most miserably afflicted and oppressed. So here appears the original kingdom of God over Angels and man, and universally over all things, and of man over earthly creatures which God had made subject unto him, and with all the felicity and blessed state, which Angels, man, and all creatures had remained in, had they continued in due obedience unto God their King. For as long as in this first kingdom the subjects continued in due obedience to God their king, so long did God embrace all his subjects with his love, favor, and grace, which to enjoy, is perfect felicity, whereby it is evident, that obedience is the principal virtue of all virtues, and indeed the very root of all virtues, and the cause of all felicity. But as all felicity and blessedness should have continued with the continuance of obedience, so with

    at.4.b. 9. Matth.25.d.41.

    the breach of obedience, and breaking in of rebellion, all vices and miseries did withal break in, and overwhelm the world. The first author of


    which rebellion, the root of all vices, and mother of all mischief, was


    Lucifer, first GODS most excellent creature, and most bounden subject,


    who by rebelling against the Majesty of God, of the brightest and most glorious angel, is become the blackest and most foulest fiend and


    devil: and from the height of heaven, is fallen into the pit and bottom of hell.

    Gen.3.a.1. &c.

    Here you may see the first author and founder of rebellion, and the reward

    Wisd.2.d. 24.

    thereof, here you may see the grand captain and father of rebels, who persuading the following of his rebellion against God their creator

    Gen.3.b.8. 9.&c.c.17. & d.23.24.

    and Lord, unto our first parents Adam and Eve, brought them in high displeasure with God, wrought their exile and banishment out of Paradise, a place of all pleasure and goodness, into this wretched earth and vale of misery: procured unto them, sorrows of their minds, mischief, sickness, diseases, death of their bodies, and which is far more horrible then all worldly and bodily mischief, he had wrought thereby

    Rom.5.c. 12.&c.& d.19 &c.

    their eternal and everlasting death and damnation, had not GOD by the obedience of his Son Jesus Christ repaired that, which man by disobedience and rebellion had destroyed, and so of his mercy had pardoned and forgiven him: of which all and singular the premises, the holy Scriptures do bear record in sundry places.

    Thus do you see, that neither heaven nor paradise could suffer any rebellion in them, neither be places for any rebels to remain in. Thus became rebellion, as you see, both the first and the greatest, and the very foot of all other sins, and the first and principal cause, both of all worldly and bodily miseries, sorrows, diseases, sickness, and deaths, and which is infinitely worse then all these, as is said, the very cause of death and damnation eternal also. After this breach of obedience to God, and rebellion against his Majesty, all mischief and misery breaking in therewith, and overflowing the world, lest all things should come unto


    confusion and utter ruin, God forthwith by laws given unto mankind, repaired again the rule and order of obedience thus by rebellion overthrown, and besides the obedience due unto his Majesty, he not


    only ordained that in families and households, the wife should be obedient unto her husband, the children unto their parents, the servants

    Iob.34.d 30.&36.a 7.

    unto their masters: but also, when mankind increased, and spread itself more largely over the world, he by his holy word did constitute and ordain in cities and countries several and special governors and

    Eccl.8.a.2. & 10.c.16. 17.&d.20.

    rulers, unto whom the residue of his people should be obedient.

    As in reading of the holy Scriptures, we shall find in very many and almost infinite places, as well of the old Testament, as of the new, that

    Psalm 18.g. 50.&20.b. 6.&21.a.1.

    Kings and Princes, as well the evil as the good, do reign by God's ordinance, and that subjects are bounden to obey them: that GOD doth


    give Princes wisdom, great power, and authority: that God defends them against their enemies, and destroys their enemies horribly: that the anger and displeasure of the Prince, is as the roaring of a lion, and the very messenger of death: and that the subject that provoked him to displeasure, sins against his own soul: with many other things, concerning both the authority of Princes, and the duty of subjects. But here let us rehearse two special places out of the New Testament, which may stand instead of all other. The first out of Saint Paul's Epistle to the Romans and the thirteenth chapter, where he writes thus unto all subjects, let every soul be subject unto the higher


    ' powers, for there is no power but of God, and the powers that be, are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resists the power, resists the ordinance of God, and they that resist, shall receive to themselves damnation. For Princes are not to be feared for good works, but for evil. Wilt thou then be without fear of the power? Do well, so shalt thou have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God for thy wealth: but if thou do evil, fear: for he bears not the sword for nought, for he is the minister of God to take vengeance upon him that do evil. Wherefore you must be subject, not because of wrath only, but also for conscience sake: for this cause you pay also tribute, for they are God's ministers, serving for the same purpose. Give to every man therefore his duty: tribute, to whom tribute belongs: custom, to whom custom is due: fear, to whom fear belongs: honor, to whom you owe honor. Thus far are St. Paul's words. The second place is in St. Peter's Epistle, and the second chapter, whose words are these, submit


    yourselves unto all manner of ordinances of man for the Lord's sake, whether it be unto the King, as unto the chief head, either unto rulers, as unto them that are sent of him for the punishment of evil doers, but for the cherishing of them that doe well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may stop the mouths of ignorant & foolish men: as free, and not as having the liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but even as the servants of God. Honor all men, love brotherly fellowship, fear God, honor the King. Servants, obey your masters with fear, not only if they be good and courteous, but also though they be froward. Thus far out of Saint Peter.

    By these two places of the Holy Scriptures, it is most evident that kings, queens, and other princes (for he speaks of authority and power, be it in men or women) are ordained of God, are to be obeyed and honored of their subjects: that such subjects, as are disobedient or rebellious against their Princes, disobey God, and procure their own damnation: that the government of Princes is a great blessing of God, given for the common wealth, specially of the good and godly: for the comfort and cherishing of whom God gives and sets up Princes: and on the contrary part, to the fear and for the punishment of the evil and wickedness. Finally, that if servants ought to obey their masters, not only being gentle, but such as be froward: as well and much more ought subjects to be obedient, not only to their good and courteous, but also to their sharp and rigorous Princes. It comes therefore neither of chance and fortune (as they term it) nor of the ambition of mortal men and women climbing up of their own accord to dominion, that there be Kings, Queens, Princes, and other governors over men being their subjects: but all Kings, Queens, and other governors are specially appointed

    Psal.10.b 16. & 45.a. 6.&c. & 47.a.z.

    by the ordinance of God. And as God himself, being of an infinite Majesty, power, and wisdom, rules and governs all things in heaven and earth, as the universal Monarch and only King and Emperor over all, as being only able to take and bear the charge of all: so


    hath he constituted, ordained, and set earthly Princes over particular kingdoms and dominions in earth, both for the avoiding of all confusion, which else would be in the world, if it should be without governors, and for the great quiet and benefit of earthly men their subjects, and also that the Princes themselves, in authority, power, wisdom, providence, and righteousness in government of people and countries committed to their charge, should resemble his heavenly governance, as the majesty of heavenly things may by the baseness of earthly things be shadowed

    Matth.18.c 23.&22.12 Psal.10.b. 16.& 45.a. b.& 47.a. 2.& c.

    and resembled. And for that similitude, that is between the heavenly Monarchy, and earthly kingdoms well governed, our saviour Christ in sundry parables says, that the Kingdom of heaven is resembled unto a man, a king: and as the name of the king, is very often attributed and given unto God in the Holy Scriptures, so doeth GOD himself in the same Scriptures sometime vouchsafe to communicate his

    Matt.22.b. 13.&25.c. 34.

    name with earthly Princes, terming them gods: doubtless for that similitude of government which they have or should have, not unlike


    unto God their King. Unto the which similitude of heavenly government, the nearer and nearer that an earthly Prince doth come in his regiment, the greater blessing of God's mercy is he unto that country and people over whom he reigns: and the further and further that an earthly prince doth swerve from the example of the heavenly government, the greater plague is he of God's wrath, and punishment by God's justice, unto that country and people, over whom God for their sins hath places such a Prince and governor. For it is indeed evident, both by the Scriptures, and daily by experience, that the maintenance of all virtue and godliness, and consequently of the wealth and prosperity of a kingdom and people, doeth stand & rest more in a wise and good Prince on the one part, then in great multitudes of other men being subjects: and on the contrary part, the overthrow of all virtue and godliness, and consequently the decay and utter ruin of a realm and people doth grow and come more by an indiscreet and evil governor, then by many thousands of other men being subjects. Thus say the Holy Scriptures,


    well is the, O thou land (saith the Preacher) whose King is come of nobles, and whose princes eat in due season, for necessity, and not

    Prou.16. & 29.

    for lust. Again, a wise and righteous King makes his realm and people wealthy: and a good, merciful, and gracious Prince, is as a shadow


    in heat, as a defense in storms, as dew, as sweet showers, as fresh water

    Esai. 32.a

    springs in great droughts.

    5Again the Scriptures, of indiscreet and evil Princes, speak thus, Woe be to the (O thou land) whose King is but a child, and whose Princes


    are early at their banquets. Again, when the wicked doe reign, then

    Prou.28.& 29.

    men go to ruin. And again, A foolish Prince destroyed the people, and a covetous King undoes his Subjects. Thus speak the Scriptures, thus experience testifies of good and evil Princes.

    What shall Subjects do then? Shall they obey valiant, stout, wise, and good Princes, and contemn, disobey, and rebel against children being their Princes, or against indiscreet and evil governors? God forbid: for first what a perilous thing were it to commit unto the Subjects the judgment which Prince is wise and godly, and his government good, and which is otherwise: as though the foot must judge of the head: an enterprise very heinous, and must needs breed rebellion. For who else be they that are most inclined to rebellion, but such haughty spirits? >From whom springs such foul ruin of realms? Is not rebellion the greatest of all mischief? And who are most ready to the greatest mischief, but the worst men? Rebels therefore the worst of all Subjects are most ready to rebellion, as being the worst of all vices, and farthest from the duty of a good subject: as on the contrary part the best subjects are most firm and constant in obedience, as in the special and peculiar virtue of good subjects. What an unworthy matter were it then to make the naughtiest subjects, and most inclined to rebellion and all evil, judges over their Princes, over their government, and over their counselors, to determine which of them be good or tolerable, and which be evil, and so intolerable, that they must needs be removed by rebels, being ever ready as the naughtiest subjects, soonest to rebel against the best Princes, specially if they be young in age, women in sex, or gentle and courteous in government, as trusting by their wicked boldness, easily to overthrow their weakness and gentleness, or at the least so to fear the minds of such Princes, that they may have impunity of their mischievous doings.

    But whereas indeed a rebel is worse then the worst prince, and rebellion worse then the worst government of the worst prince that hitherto hath been: both rebels are unmet ministers, and rebellion an unfit and unwholesome medicine to reform any small lacks in a prince, or to cure any little grieves in government, such lewd remedies being far worse then any other maladies and disorders that can be in the body of a common wealth. But whatsoever the prince be, or his government, it is evident that for the most part, those princes whom some subjects do think to be very godly, and under whose government they rejoice to live: some other subjects do take the same to be evil and ungodly, and do wish for a change. If therefore all subjects that dislike their prince, should rebel, no realm should ever be without rebel lion. It were more meet that rebels should hear the advise of wise men, and give place unto their judgment, and follow the example of obedient subjects, as reason is that they whose understanding is blinded with so evil an affection, should give place to them that be of sound judgment, and that the worst should give place to the better: and so might realms continue in long obedience, peace, and quietness. But what if the Prince be indiscreet, and evil indeed, and is also evident to all men's eyes, that he so is? I ask again, what if it be long of the wickedness of the Subjects, that the Prince is indiscreet and evil? Shall the subjects both by their wickedness provoke God for their deserved punishment, to give them an indiscreet or evil Prince, and also rebel against him, and withal against God, who for the punishment of their sins did give them such a Prince? Will you hear the


    Scriptures concerning this point? God (say the Holy Scriptures) makes a wicked man to reign for the sins of the people. Again,

    Osee. 13. 6.

    God gives a Prince in his anger, meaning an evil one, and takes away a Prince in his displeasure, meaning specially when he takes away a good Prince for the sins of the people: as in our memory he took away our good Josias King Edward in his young and good years for


    our wickedness. And contrarily the Scriptures do teach, that God


    gives wisdom unto Princes, and makes a wise and good King to reign over that people whom he love, and who love him. Again, if the people obey God, both they and their king shall prosper and be safe,


    else both shall perish, saith GOD by the mouth of Samuel.

    Here you see, that God places as well evil Princes as good, and for what cause he doth both. If we therefore will have a good Prince, either to be given us, or to continue: now we have such a one, let us by our obedience to God and to our Prince move God thereunto. If we will have an evil Prince (when God shall send such a one) taken away, and a good in his place, let us take away our wickedness which provokes GOD to place such a one over us, and GOD will either displace him, or of an evil Prince make him a good Prince, so that we first will change our evil into good. For will you hear the Scriptures? The

    Pro. 21.

    Heart of the Prince is in God's hand, which way soever it shall please him, he turns it. Thus say the Scriptures. Wherefore let us turn from our sins unto the Lord with all our hearts, and he will turn the heart of the Prince, unto our quiet and wealth? Else for subjects to deserve through their sins to have an evil Prince, and then to rebel against him, were double and treble evil, by provoking God more to plague them. Nay let us either deserve to have a good Prince, or let us patiently suffer and obey such as we deserve. And whether the Prince be good or evil, let us according to the counsel of the holy Scriptures, pray for the Prince, for his continuance and increase in goodness, if hebe good, and for his amendment if he be evil.

    Well you hear the Scriptures concerning this most necessary point? I exhort therefore (saith St. Paul) that above all things, prayers,


    supplications, intercessions, and giving of thanks be had for all men, for Kings, and all that are in authority, that we may live a quiet and peaceable life with all godliness: for that is good and acceptable in the sight of God our savior, &c. This is St. Paul's counsel. And who I pray you, was Prince over the most part of the Christians, when God's Holy Spirit by Saint Paul's pen gave them this lesson? Forsooth, Caligula, Claudius or Nero, who were not only no Christians, but Pagans, and also either foolish rulers, or most cruel tyrants. Will you yet hear the word of God to the Jews, when they were prisoners under Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon, after he had slain their king, nobles, parents, children, and kinsfolk, burned their country, cities, yea Jerusalem itself, and the Holy Temple, and had carried the residue remaining alive captives with him unto Babylon? Will you hear yet what the


    Prophet Baruch said unto God's people being in this captivity? Pray you, said the Prophet, for the life of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, and for the life of Balthasar his son, that their days may be as the days of heaven upon the earth, that God also may give us strength, and lighten our eyes, that we may live under the defense of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, and under the protection of Balthasar his son, that we may long do them service, and find favor in their sight. Pray for us also unto the Lord our God, for we have sinned against the Lord our God.

    10Thus fare the Prophet Baruch his words: which are spoken by him unto the people of God, of that king who was an heathen, a tyrant, and cruel oppressor of them, and had been a murderer of many thousands of their nation, and a destroyer of their country, with a confession that their sins had deserved such a prince to reign over them. And shall the old Christians, by St. Paul's exhortation, pray for Caligula, Claudius, or Nero? Shall the Jews pray for Nebuchadnezzar? These Emperors and Kings being strangers unto them, being pagans and infidels being murderers, tyrants, and cruel oppressors of them, and destroyers of their country, countrymen, and kinsmen, the burners of their villages, towns, cities, and temples? And shall not we pray for the long, prosperous, and godly reign of our natural Prince? No stranger (which is observed as a great blessing in the Scriptures) of our Christian, our most gracious Sovereign, no heathen, nor Pagan Prince? Shall we not pray for the health of our most merciful, most loving Sovereign, the preserver of us and our country, in so long peace, quietness, and security, no cruel person, no tyrant, no spoiler of our goods, no shedder of bloods, no burner and destroyer of our towns, cities, and countries, as were those, for whom yet as you have heard, Christians being their subjects ought to pray? Let us not commit so great ingratitude against God and our Sovereign, as not continually to thank God for his government, and for his great and continual benefits and blessings powered upon us by such government. Let us not commit so great a sin against God, against our selves, and our country, as not to pray continually unto God for the long continuance of so gracious a ruler unto us, and our country. Else shall we be unworthy any longer to enjoy those benefits and blessings of God, which hitherto we have had by her shall be most worthy to fall into all those mischief & miseries, which we and our country have by God's grace through her government hitherto escaped.

    What shall we say of those subjects? May we call them by the name of subjects? Who neither be thankful, nor make any prayer to God for so gracious a Sovereign: but also themselves take armour wickedly, assemble companies and bands of rebels, to break the public peace so long continued, and to make, not war, but rebellion, to endanger the person of such a gracious Sovereign, to hazard the estate of their country, (for whose defense they should be ready to spend their lives) and being Englishmen, to rob, spoil, destroy and burn in England Englishmen, to kill and murder their own neighbors and kinsfolk, their own countrymen, to do all evil and mischief, yea and more to, than foreign enemies would, or could do? What shall we say of these men, who use themselves thus rebelliously against their gracious Sovereign? Who if God for their wickedness had given them an heathen tyrant to reign over them, were by God's word bound to obey him, and to pray for him? What may be spoken of them? So fare doeth their unkindness, unnaturalness, wickedness, mischievousness in their doings, pass and excel any thing, and all things that can be expressed and uttered by words. Only let us wish unto all such most speedy repentance, and with so grievous sorrow of heart, as such so horrible sins against the Majesty of God do require, who in most extreme unthankfulness do rise, not only against their gracious Prince, against their natural country, but against all their countrymen, women, and children, against themselves, their wives, children and kinsfolk, and by so wicked an example against all Christendom, and against whole mankind of all manner of people throughout the wide world, such repentance, I say, such sorrow of heart God grant unto all such, whosoever rise of private and malicious purpose, as is met for such mischief attempted, and wrought by them. And unto us and all other subjects, God of his mercy grant, that we may be most unlike to all such, and most like to good, natural, loving, and obedient subjects: nay, that we may be such indeed, not only showing all obedience our selves, but as many of us as be able, to the uttermost of our power, ability and understanding, to stay and repress all rebels, and rebellions against God, our gracious Prince, and natural country, at every occasion that is offered unto us. And that which we all are able to do, unless we do it, we shall be most wicked, and most worthy to feel in the end such extreme plagues, as God hath ever powered upon rebels.

    Let us make continual prayers unto Almighty God, even from the bottom of our hearts, that he will give his grace, power and strength unto our gracious Queen Elizabeth, to vanquish and subdue all, as well rebels at home, as foreign enemies, that all domestic rebellions being suppressed and pacified, and all outward invasions repulsed and abandoned, we may not only be sure, and long continue in all obedience unto our gracious Sovereign, and in that peaceable and quiet life which hitherto we have led under her Majesty, with all security: but also that both our gracious Queen Elizabeth, and we her subjects, may altogether in all obedience unto God the King of Kings, and unto his holy laws, lead our lives so in this world, in all virtue and godliness, that in the world to come, we may enjoy his everlasting kingdom: which I beseech God to grant, as well to our gracious Sovereign, as unto us all, for his Son our savior Jesus Christ's sake, to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God and King immortal be all glory, praise, and thanksgiving world without end, Amen.

    Thus have you heard the first part of this Homily, now good people let us pray.

    The Prayer as in that time it was published.

    15O Most mighty GOD, the Lord of hosts, the Governor of all creatures, the only giver of all victories, Who alone art able to strengthen the weak against the mighty, and to vanquish infinite multitudes of thine enemies with the countenance of a few of thy servants calling upon thy Name, and trusting in them: defend O Lord, thy servant and our governor under the, our Queen Elizabeth and all thy people committed to her charge, O Lord withstand the cruelty of all those which be common enemies as well to the truth of thy eternal Word, as to their own natural Prince and country, and manifestly to this crown and realm of England, which thou hast of thy divine providence assigned in these our days to the government of thy servant, our sovereign and gracious Queen. O most merciful Father, (if it be thy holy will) make soft and tender the stony hearts of all those that exalt themselves against thy truth, and seek either to trouble the quiet of this realm of England, or to oppress the crown of the same, and convert them to the knowledge of thy Son the only savior of the world, Jesus Christ that we and they may jointly glorify thy mercy. Lighten we beseech their ignorant hearts, to embrace the truth of thy Word, or else so abate their cruelty (O most mighty Lord) that this our Christian realm, with others that confess thy Holy Gospel, may obtain by thine aid and strength, surety from all enemies, without shedding of Christian blood, whereby all they which be oppressed with their tyranny, may be relieved, and they which be in fear of their cruelty may be comforted: and finally that all Christian realms, and specially this realm of England, may by thy defense and protection continue in the truth of the Gospel, and enjoy perfect peace, quietness, and security: and that we for these thy mercy, jointly altogether with one consonant heart and voice, may thankfully render to them all laud and praise, that we knit in one godly concord and unity amongst our selves, may continually magnify thy glorious Name, who with thy son our savior Jesus Christ, and the holy Ghost, art one eternal, Almighty, and most merciful God: to whom be all laud, and praise world without end, Amen.