And I doubt not but that, if the Turk stood even here with all his whole army about him; and if every one of them all were ready at hand with all the terrible torments that they could imagine, and were setting their torments to us unless we would forsake the faith; and if to the increase of our terror they fell all at once in a shout, with trumpets, tabrets, and timbrels all blown up at once, and all their guns let go therewith to make us a fearful noise; if then, on the other hand, the ground should suddenly quake and rive atwain, and the devils should rise out of hell and show themselves in such ugly shape as damned wretches shall see them; and if, with that hideous howling that those hell-hounds should screech, they should lay hell open on every side round about our feet, so that as we stood we should look down into that pestilent pit and see the swarm of poor souls in the terrible torments there—we would wax so afraid of the sight that we should scantly remember that we saw the Turk's host.
And in good faith, for all that, yet think I further this: If there might then appear the great glory of God, the Trinity in his high marvellous majesty, our Saviour in his glorious manhood sitting on the throne, with his immaculate mother and all that glorious company, calling us there unto them; and if our way should yet lie through marvellous painful death before we could come at them—upon the sight, I say, of that glory, I daresay there would be no man who once would shrink at death, but every man would run on toward them in all that ever he could, though there lay by the way, to kill us for malice, both all the Turk's tormentors and all the devils.
And therefore, cousin, let us well consider these things, and let us have sure hope in the help of God. And then I doubt not but what we shall be sure that, as the prophet saith, the truth of his promise shall so compass us with a shield that we shall never need to fear. For either, if we trust in God well, and prepare us for it, the Turk shall never meddle with us; or else, if he do, he shall do us no harm but, instead of harm, inestimable good. Wherefore should we so sore now despair of God's gracious help, unless we were such madmen as to think that either his power or his mercy were worn out already? For we see that so many a thousand holy martyrs, by his holy help, suffered as much before as any man shall be put to now. Or what excuse can we have by the tenderness of our flesh? For we can be no more tender than were many of them, among whom were not only men of strength, but also weak women and children. And since the strength of them all stood in the help of God; and since the very strongest of them all was never able to himself to stand against all the world, and with God's help the feeblest of them all was strong enough so to stand; let us prepare ourselves with prayer, with our whole trust in his help, without any trust in our own strength. Let us think on it and prepare ourselves for it in our minds long before. Let us therein conform our will unto his, not desiring to be brought unto the peril of persecution (for it beseemeth a proud high mind to desire martyrdom) but desiring help and strength of God, if he suffer us to come to the stress—either being sought, found, and brought out against our wills, or else being by his commandment, for the comfort of our cure, bound to abide.
Let us fall to fasting, to prayer, and to almsdeed in time, and give unto God that which may be taken from us. If the devil put in our mind the saving of our land and our goods, let us remember that we cannot save them long. If he frighten us with exile and flying from our country, let us remember that we be born into the broad world, not to stick still in one place like a tree, and that whithersoever we go, God shall go with us. If he threaten us with captivity, let us answer him that it is better to be thrall unto a man for a while, for the pleasure of God, than, by displeasing God, to be perpetual thrall unto the devil. If he threaten us with imprisonment, let us tell him that we would rather be man's prisoner a while here in earth than, by forsaking the faith, be his prisoners for ever in hell. If he put in our minds the terror of the Turks, let us consider his false sleight, for this tale he telleth us to make us forget him. But let us remember well that, in respect of himself, the Turks are but a shadow. And all that they can do can be but a flea-bite in comparison with the mischief that he goeth about. The Turks are but his tormentors, for he himself doth the deed. Our Lord saith in the Apocalypse, "The devil shall send some of you to prison, to tempt you." He saith not that men shall, but that the devil shall, himself. For without question the devil's own deed it is, to bring us by his temptation, with fear and force, into eternal damnation. And therefore saith St. Paul, "Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood," etc.
Thus may we see that in such persecutions it is the midday devil himself that maketh such incursion upon us, by the men who are his ministers, to make us fall for fear. For until we fall he can never hurt us. And therefore saith St. James, "Stand against the devil and he shall flee from you." For he never runneth upon a man to seize him with his claws until he see him down on the ground, willingly fallen himself. For his fashion is to set his servants against us, and by them to make us fall for fear or for impatience. And he himself in the meanwhile compasseth us, running and roaring like a ramping lion about us, looking to see who will fall, that he may then devour him. "Your adversary the devil," saith St. Peter, "like a roaring lion, runneth about in circuit, seeking whom he may devour."
The devil it is, therefore, who, if we will fall for fear of men, is ready to run upon us and devour us. And is it wisdom, then, to think so much upon the Turks that we forget the devil? What a madman would he be who, when a lion were about to devour him, would vouchsafe to regard the biting of a little fisting cur? Therefore, when he roareth out upon us by the threats of mortal men, let us tell him that with our inward eye we see him well enough, and intend to stand and fight with him, even hand to hand. If he threaten us that we be too weak, let us tell him that our captain Christ is with us, and that we shall fight with the strength of him who hath vanquished him already. And let us fence with faith, and comfort us with hope, and smite the devil in the face with the firebrand of charity. For surely, if we be of the tender loving mind that our Master was, and do not hate them that kill us but pity them and pray for them, with sorrow for the peril that they work unto themselves, then that fire of charity thrown in his face will strike the devil suddenly so blind that he cannot see where to fasten a stroke on us.
When we feel ourselves too bold, let us remember our own feebleness, and when we feel ourselves too faint, let us remember Christ's strength. In our fear, let us remember Christ's painful agony, that he himself would for our comfort suffer before his passion, to the intent that no fear should make us despair. And let us ever call for his help, such as he himself may please to send us. And then need we never doubt but that he shall either keep us from the painful death, or else strengthen us in it so that he shall joyously bring us to heaven by it. And then doth he much more for us than if he kept us from it. For God did more for poor Lazarus, in helping him patiently to die for hunger at the rich man's door, than if he had brought to him at the door all the rich glutton's dinner. So, though he be gracious to a man whom he delivereth out of painful trouble, yet doth he much more for a man if, through right painful death, he deliver him from this wretched world into eternal bliss. Whosoever shrinketh away from it by forsaking his faith, and falleth in the peril of everlasting fire, he shall be very sure to repent ere it be long after.
For I am sure that whensoever he falleth sick next, he will wish that he had been killed for Christ's sake before. What folly is it, then, to flee for fear from that death which thou seest thou shalt shortly afterward wish thou hadst died! Yea, I daresay almost every good Christian man would very fain this day that yesterday he had been cruelly killed for Christ's sake—even for the desire of heaven, though there were no hell. But to fear while the pain is coming, there is all our hindrance! But if, on the other hand, we would remember hell's pain into which we fall while we flee from this, then this short pain should be no hindrance at all. And yet, if we were faithful, we should be more pricked forward by deep consideration of the joys of heaven, of which the apostle saith, "The passions of this time be not worthy to the glory that is to come, which shall be showed in us." We should not, I believe, need much more in all this matter than one text of St. Paul, if we would consider it well. For surely, mine own good cousin, remember that if it were possible for me and you alone to suffer as much trouble as the whole world doth together, all that would not be worthy of itself to bring us to the joy which we hope to have everlastingly. And therefore, I pray you, let the consideration of that you put out all worldly trouble out of your heart, and also pray that it may do the same in me.
And even thus will I, good cousin, with these words, make a sudden end of mine whole tale, and bid you farewell. For now begin I to feel myself somewhat weary.
VINCENT: Forsooth, good uncle, this is a good end. And it is no marvel if you are waxed weary. For I have this day put you to so much labour that, save for the comfort that you yourself may take from having bestowed your time so well, and for the comfort that I have taken—and more shall, I trust—of your good counsel given, else would I be very sorry to have put you to so much pain.
But now shall our Lord reward and recompense you therefore, and many, I trust, shall pray for you. For to the intent that the more men may take profit of you, I purpose, uncle, as my poor wit and learning will serve me, to record your good counsel not only in our own language, but in the German tongue too.
And thus, praying God to give me, and all others who shall read it, the grace to follow your good counsel, I shall commit you to God.
ANTHONY: Since you be minded, cousin, to bestow so much labour on it, I would it had happed you to fetch the counsel at some wiser man, who could have given you better. But better men may add more things, and better also, thereto. And in the meantime, I beseech our Lord to breathe of his Holy Spirit into the reader's breast, who inwardly may teach him in heart. For without him little availeth all that the mouths of the world would be able to teach in men's ears.
And thus, good cousin, farewell, till God bring us together again, either here or in heaven. Amen.