The Parable of the Wicked Mammon - William Tyndale - ebook

As the ‘Pathway into the Holy Scripture’ was, in its original form, the first of Tyndale’s compositions, which we can ascertain him to have put into the press, so ‘The Parable of the Wicked Mammon’ was the first printed with his name. It was written at Worms; and there seems to be no reason for doubting the correctness of the date of its publication as given in the title page, which is a transcript of its heading in Day’s folio volume of the works of Frith, Barnes, and Tyndale. If however it be thought desirable that this date should receive some confirmation from older authority, such may be collected from the language used by Tyndale in the last sentence of his ‘Practice of Prelates:’ for whereas that treatise was undeniably published in 1530, Tyndale there says, ‘Well towards three years agone, I sent forth 'The True Obedience of a Christian Man;’ and we know that ‘The Obedience’ preceded ‘The Wicked Mammon’ (as each is briefly styled) by an interval of a few months; so that the publication of The Wicked Mammon could not be consistently assigned to any date which should differ much from that found in Day’s folio.

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William Tyndale

Romans III Chap.

We hold that a man

is justified by faith,

without the works

of the law.


In the year 1527, the 8th of May,


The Parker Society



Rector of Halisbury Bryan, Dorset;

Formerly fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, and Professor of Natural Philosophy in the East India Company's College at Haileybury





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The Parable of the Wicked Mammon

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[As the ‘Pathway into the Holy Scripture’ was, in its original form, the first of Tyndale’s compositions, which we can ascertain him to have put into the press, so ‘The Parable of the Wicked Mammon’ was the first printed with his name. It was written at Worms; and there seems to be no reason for doubting the correctness of the date of its publication as given in the title page, which is a transcript of its heading in Day’s folio volume of the works of Frith, Barnes, and Tyndale. If however it be thought desirable that this date should receive some confirmation from older authority, such may be collected from the language used by Tyndale in the last sentence of his ‘Practice of Prelates:’ for whereas that treatise was undeniably published in 1530, Tyndale there says, ‘Well towards three years agone, I sent forth The True Obedience of a Christian Man;’ and we know that ‘The Obedience’ preceded ‘The Wicked Mammon’ (as each is briefly styled) by an interval of a few months; so that the publication of The Wicked Mammon could not be consistently assigned to any date which should differ much from that found in Day’s folio.

Mr Anderson says, that a second edition was finished by Hans Luft, printer at Marburg in Hesse, on the same day in the following year; and that its title was changed, in an edition by J. Nycholson, Southwark, 1536, to that of ‘A Treatise of Justification by Faith only; otherwise called, The Parable of the Wicked Mammon.’ This addition would give additional disgust to many; but was well fitted to make known what was its chief topic. Abundant evidence of its circulation and influence, in the mean while, may be gathered from various contemporary documents of hostile origin. It is well known that Foxe has frequently entered events, in his Acts and Monuments, rather as they fell under his notice than in the chronological order in which they occurred; and ‘The Wicked Mammon’ thus appears in a list of prohibited books immediately following a mandate dated Oct. 23, 1526, issued by Cuthbert Tonstal then bishop of London, and insisting on the surrender of all English New Testaments to his officials. This has misled Strype into saying, after a brief mention of the same mandate, ‘Other books of this nature were then forbid;’ and transcribing Foxe’s list, inclusive of The Wicked Mammon, as an enumeration of their titles. But whilst the date of the inhibition of Tyndale’s Wicked Mammon, thus apparently given by Foxe, and mistakenly by Strype, is earlier than its publication, Foxe has copied the date of April 21, 1529, from the register of Tonstal, as that in which John Tewkesbury, a London tradesman, was brought before that prelate, (Henry Standish, bishop of St Asaph, and the abbot of Westminster being his assessors,) and was examined by them, as to whether he would stand to the contents of the book named The Wicked Mammon; to which he replied that he would. Twice more, within a few days, he was again obliged to appear before bishop Tonstal, Nicholas West, bishop of Ely, and John Longland, bishop of Lincoln, and was questioned upon articles extracted from The Wicked Mammon; and, being driven from his firmness, he recanted and abjured his alleged heresies, on May 8th. He was then sentenced to carry a fagot publicly to two churches, and to three of the city markets, on different days, and to wear the sign of a fagot worked on each of his sleeves all his lifetime, as a confession to the beholders that he deserved the fire; to submit to be shut up in a monastery, till the bishop should give him leave to come out; and then to confine himself to residing within his diocese of London. Two years after this he was apprehended again, and brought before Sir Thomas More and the bishop of London; in which office Stokesley had succeeded Tonstal, who had been promoted to Durham. He was then charged with having ‘had The Wicked Mammon in his custody, and read it since his abjuration, which the said Tewkesbury confessed.’ This account is confirmed by Sir Thomas More, in the Preface to his ‘Confutacion of Tyndale’s answer’, (Lond. 1532) folio x, where he says, ‘In Tewkesbury’s house was found Tyndale’s book of Obedience, which he well allowed, and his wicked book also of The Wicked Mammon, saying at his examination, that all the heresies therein were good and Christian faith, being indeed as full of false heresies, and as frantic as ever heretic made any, since Christ was born.’ More adds his belief that Tewkesbury owed his heretical opinions to ‘Tyndale’s ungracious books: for which the poor wretch lieth now in hell, and crieth out on him; and Tyndale, if he do not amend in time, he is like to find him, when they come together, an hot firebrand burning at his back.’ So wrote Sir Thomas More, a few months after poor Tewkesbury had been burnt at Smithfield, in execution of a sentence of which Foxe tells us that it was passed upon him in Sir Thomas’s house, at Chelsea, and sentence pronounced against him by bishop Stokesley.

An entry in bishop Stokesley’s register, though necessarily of a later date than the entry of Tewkesbury’s appearance before Tonstal, affords a still earlier proof of the beneficial influence of ‘The Wicked Mammon.’ For first, Foxe relates how Richard Bayfield, a Benedictine monk, being chamberlain in the abbey of Bury St Edmond’s, was thus brought into intercourse with ‘Dr Barnes, and two godly men of London, brickmakers, Master Maxwell and Master Stacy, wardens of their company, who were grafted in the doctrine of Jesus Christ;’ and that ‘Dr Barnes gave him a New Testament in Latin, and the other two gave him Tyndale’s Testament in English, with a book called The Wicked Mammon and The Obedience of a Christian Man;’ that from these books he learned such things as occasioned his being ‘cast into the prison of his house,’ where he suffered for three quarters of a year, till Dr Barnes’ influence with one of the superiors of the abbey procured his enlargement. After this, Maxwell and Stacy sent him abroad ‘with substance,’ and he became a large purchaser of Tyndale’s publications and other works favourable to the reformation. It was while thus employed that he fell into the hands of bishop Tonstal; who terrified him also into abjuring: but he too repented of having thus denied his faith, and returned to his work, till he was again apprehended, and shut up in the famous Lollards’ tower. From Stokesley’s register he is afterwards found to have been brought before that bishop, sitting with Gardiner and other prelates for his assessors, Nov. 10, 1531; when certain charges were laid against him, of which the fourth was as follows: ‘That in the year of our Lord 1528, he was detected and accused to Cuthbert, then bishop of London, for affirming and holding certain articles contrary to the holy church, and especially that all laud and praise should be given to God alone, and not to saints or creatures.’ It may be gleaned from others of these charges, that by 1528 was meant that portion of the year, legally so styled, which fell between January 1st and March 25, of what would now be called 1529. But if it be supposed that Bayfield’s appearance before Tonstal was as late as March 1529, the events already mentioned, as having intervened between his conversion by the perusal of the books given him and that appearance, must lead to the conclusion that he was reading the Mammon and Obedience very early in 1528. In reply to the charges brought against him, Bayfield confessed to the bishops that ‘he had read a book called The Parable of the Wicked Mammon, in the presence and hearing of others whom he knew not; as also The Obedience of a Christian Man.’ ‘And being demanded whether he believed the aforenamed books’ (including others with these) ‘to be good and of the true faith? he answered that he judged they were good, and of the true faith.’ A few days after this confession, Bayfield was delivered over to the lord mayor and sheriffs of London, as a relapsed heretic, to be burned in the fire.

The pointed inquiries made, at this time, respecting the having and reading of Tyndale’s books, were for the purpose of bringing the accused persons under sentences which had received additional authority from steps which the king had been induced to take, by his chancellor More and the prelates, in 1530. Some short time before the 25th of March in that year, he had, for the first time, placed the civil power by a royal proclamation at the disposal of the bishops, to aid them in detecting and punishing, even with death by fire, the authors, importers, or retainers of any book or work, printed or written, against the faith catholic and ordinances of holy church; and the bishops had published a list of such books, including by name The Mammon, and Obedience, and whatever else Tyndale was then known to have written, as well as his versions of different parts of the scriptures. The next step was probably thought necessary to justify, as well as confirm, this rigorous proclamation. Some time must have been occupied in its preparation, and yet it came forth before the end of May in the same year. Archbishop Warham, and the bishops Tonstal and Gardiner, aided by Sir Thomas More, to whom Tonstal had given permission in 1527 to read heretical works for such purposes, had all been at work by the king’s command: and the fruit of their labours was a list of two hundred heretical propositions, the larger half of which they charged upon Tyndale and Frith, distinguishing particularly which were extracted for condemnation from the Mammon and Obedience; and at the head of those was, ‘Faith only justifieth.’ Of this list the king permitted the archbishop to announce his royal will, in the following terms: ‘All which great errors and pestilent heresies being contagious and damnable, with all the books containing the same, with the translation also of scripture corrupted by William Tyndale, as well in the Old Testament as in the New, and all other books in English containing such errors, the king’s highness present in person, by one whole advice and assent of the prelates and clerks, as well of the universities as of all other assembled together, determined utterly to be repelled and rejected, and put away out of the hands of his people, and not to be suffered to get abroad among his subjects.’ There was also a ‘bill in English, to be published by the preachers,’ who were required by it to say to their congregations: ‘Wherefore you that have the books called the Obedience of a Christian Man, Mammon, the Matrimony of Tyndale, the New Testament in English of the translation that is now printed—detest them, abhor them, keep them not in your hands, deliver them to the superiors, such as call for them: and if by reading of them heretofore any thing remains in your breast of that teaching, either forget it, or by information of the truth expel it. This you ought to do. The prelates of the church ought to compel you, and your prince to punish and correct you, not doing the same. Having of the whole scripture in English is not necessary to christian men; and like as the having of the scripture in the vulgar tongue, and in the common people’s hands, hath been, by the holy fathers of the church, heretofore in some times thought meet and convenient, so at another time it hath been thought not expedient to be communicated among them. Wherein forasmuch as the king’s highness, by the advice and deliberation of his council, and the agreement of the great learned men, thinketh in his conscience that the divulging of this scripture at this time, in the English tongue, to be committed to the people, should rather be to their farther confusion and destruction, than the edification of their souls; it was thought there, in that assembly, to all and singular in that congregation, that the king’s highness, and the prelates, in so doing, and not suffering the scripture to be divulged and communicate to the people in the English tongue, at this time, do well. And I also think and judge the same.’

At the close of this document, it is said, ‘His Grace’s highness being in person in the chapel called the Old Chapel, within his Grace’s palace at Westminster, upon the 24th day of May, the year of our Lord 1530, then and there, in the presence of all the personages there assembled, required the three notaries to make public and authentic instruments, and us (i.e. the archbishop) to set thereunto our seal.’

It was after this that Mr. James Bainham, son of a Gloucestershire knight, and himself a member of the Middle Temple, was carried off from his chambers to Sir Thomas More’s house at Chelsea; and, after being flogged there, was sent to the Tower, and racked in More’s presence, for the purpose of extorting from him the names of other Templars, friendly to the reformation. He had the courage to bear the torment without betraying them; but he afterwards confessed before Bishop Stokesley, that he had lately ‘had in his keeping, The wicked Mammon, The Obedience of a Christian Man, The Practice of Prelates, and the Answer of Tyndale to Thomas More’s Dialogue.’ The rigour of Stokesley, in inquiring after possessors of Tyndale’s works, must have exposed him at this time to frequent mortifications of the same kind. For in the extracts made by Foxe from his episcopal register, for the years 1530–2, more than a third of the persons summoned before him, from the county of Essex, were such as he had discovered to have Tyndale’s Testaments, and generally some of his other works; and when there is a list of them, the Mammon is usually one. It is not to be wondered, therefore, that Sir Thomas More, having such evidence continually breaking out around him, of the Mammon’s being greedily sought after, notwithstanding such royal and episcopal prohibitions, and notwithstanding also his own previous controversial attacks upon its doctrine, should give a final testimony of his consciousness of its great influence, by writing of it as follows, in 1532, in the preface to his Confutacion of Tyndale’s answer to his Dialogue: ‘Then have we, by Tyndale, the wicked Mammona, by which many a man hath been beguiled, and brought into many wicked heresies: which thing (saving that the devil is ready to put out men’s eyes, that are content willingly to wax blind) were else, in good faith, to me no little wonder; for never was there made a more foolish frantic book.’

The copies collated throughout with the Rev. Th. Russell’s recent edition, are that contained in Day’s folio of the works of Frith, Barnes, and Tyndale, London, 1573; and a 12mo edition of the Parable of the Wicked Mammon, ‘Imprinted at London in the Vyntre, upon the thre Krayned Wharfe, by Wyllyam Coplande,’ in Edward the Sixth’s reign. Besides these, the editor has been kindly allowed by Geo. Offor, Esq., of Hackney, to examine his copies of the small 8vo, printed at Malborow (Marburg in Hesse) by Hans Luft, May 8th, 1528 (supposed by Mr. Anderson to be the second edition); of a small 4to, printed at the same time at the same press, as though one edition was intended for the poorer reader, and the other for such as might like a more sightly book; and of another small 4to by William Hill, Sept. 15th, without date of year, but probably of 1548, or 1549.]




Grace and peace, with all manner spiritual feeling and living, worthy of the kindness of Christ, be with the reader, and with all that thirst the will of God. Amen.

The cause why I set my name before this little treatise, and have not rather done it in the New Testament, is, that then I followed the counsel of Christ, which exhorteth men (Matt. 6) to do their good deeds secretly, and to be content with the conscience of well-doing, and that God seeth us; and patiently to abide the reward of the last day, which Christ hath purchased for us: and now would I fain have done likewise, but am compelled otherwise to do.

While I abode a faithful companion, which now hath taken another voyage upon him, to preach Christ where, I suppose, he was never yet preached, (God, which put in his heart thither to go, send his Spirit with him, comfort him, and bring his purpose to good effect!) one William Roye, a man somewhat crafty, when he cometh unto new acquaintance, and before he be thorough known, and namely when all is spent, came unto me and offered his help. As long as he had no money, somewhat I could rule him; but as soon as he had gotten him money, he became like himself again. Nevertheless, I suffered all things till that was ended, which I could not do alone without one, both to write, and to help me to compare the texts together. When that was ended, I took my leave, and bade him farewell for our two lives, and (as men say) a day longer. After we were departed, he went and gat him new friends; which thing to do he passeth all that ever I yet knew. And there when he had stored him of money, he gat him to Argentine, where he professeth wonderful faculties, and maketh boast of no small things. A year after that, and now twelve months before the printing of this work, came one Jerome, a brother of Greenwich also, through Worms to Argentine, saying that he intended to be Christ’s disciple another while, and to keep (as nigh as God would give him grace) the profession of his baptism, and to get his living with his hands, and to live no longer idly, and of the sweat and labour of those captives, which they had taught not to believe in Christ, but in cut shoes and russet coats. Which Jerome with all diligence I warned of Roye’s boldness, and exhorted him to beware of him, and to walk quietly, and with all patience and long-suffering, according as we have Christ and his apostles for an ensample; which thing he also promised me.

Nevertheless, when he was come to Argentine, William Roye (whose tongue is able not only to make fools stark mad, but also to deceive the wisest, that is, at the first sight and acquaintance,) gat him to him, and set him a-work to make rhymes, while he himself translated a dialogue out of Latin into English, in whose prologue he promiseth more a great deal than I fear me he will ever pay. Paul saith, (2 Tim. 2) “The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be peaceable unto all men, and ready to teach, and one that can suffer the evil with meekness, and that can inform them that resist; if God at any time will give them repentance for to know the truth.” It becometh not then the Lord’s servant to use railing rhymes, but God’s word; which is the right weapon to slay sin, vice, and all iniquity. The scripture of God is good to teach and to improve. Paul speaking of Antichrist saith, “Whom the Lord shall destroy with the spirit or breath of his mouth;” that is, with the word of God. And, “The weapons of our war are not carnal things (saith he), but mighty in God to cast down strong holds,” and so forth; that is, to destroy high buildings of false doctrine. The word of God is that day whereof Paul speaketh, which shall declare all things, and that fire which shall try every man’s work, and consume false doctrine: with that sword ought men sharply to fight, and not to rail with foolish rhymes. Let it not offend thee, that some walk inordinately; let not the wickedness of Judas cause thee to despise the doctrine of his fellows. No man ought to think that Stephen was a false preacher, because that Nicholas, which was chosen fellow with him to minister unto the widows, fell after into great heresies, as histories make mention. Good and evil go always together; one cannot be known without the other.