A Prologue

Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
~ 1 Corinthians 10:1-12

He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
~ Hebrews 10:28

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
~ Romans 15:4, 1 Corinthians 9:9-10, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:20-21

A Prologue, by William Tyndale. Showing the Use of the Scripture, (In Reference to the First Five Books of Moses).

Though a man had a precious jewel and a rich, yet if he wist not the value thereof, nor wherefore it served, he were neither the better nor richer of a straw. Even so, though we read the scripture, and babble of it never so much, yet if we know not the use of it, and wherefore it was given, and what is therein to be sought, it profiteth us nothing at all. It is not enough, therefore, to read and talk of it only, but we must also desire God, day and night instantly, to open our eyes, and to make us understand and feel wherefore the scripture was given, that we, may apply the medicine of the scripture, every man to his own sores; unless that we intend to be idle disputers, and brawlers about vain words, ever gnawing upon the bitter bark without, and never attaining unto the sweet pith within, and persecuting one another in defending of lewd imaginations and fantasies of our own invention.

Paul, in the third of the second epistle to Timothy, saith, “that the scripture is good to teach,” (for that ought men to teach, and not dreams of their own making, as the pope doth,) “and also to improve;” for the scripture is the touchstone that trieth all doctrines, and by that we know the false from the true. And in the 15th to the Ephesians he calleth it “the sword of the Spirit,” because it killeth hypocrites, and uttereth and improveth their false inventions. And in the 15th to the Romans he saith, “All that are written are written for our learning; that we through patience and comfort of the scripture might have hope:” that is, the ensamples that are in the scripture comfort us in all our tribulations, and make us to put our trust in God, and patiently to abide his leisure. And in the 10th of the first to the Corinthians, he bringeth in examples of the scripture to fear us, and to bridle the flesh, that we cast not the yoke of the law of God from off our necks, and fall to lusting and doing of evil.

So now the scripture is a light, and sheweth us the true way, both what to do and what to hope for; and a defence from all error, and a comfort in adversity that we despair not, and feareth us in prosperity that we sin not.

Seek therefore in the scripture as thou readest it, first the law, what God commandeth us to do; and secondarily, the praises, which God promiseth us again, namely in Christ Jesus our Lord. Then seek ensamples, first of comfort, how God, purgeth all them, that submit themselves to walk in his ways, (in the purgatory of tribulation, delivering them yet at the latter end, and never suffering any of them to perish that cleave fast to his promises.

And, finally, note the ensamples which are written to fear the flesh, that we sin not: that is, how God suffereth the ungodly and wicked sinners that resist God, and refuse to follow him, to continue in their wickedness; ever waxing worse and worse, until their sin be so sore increased, and so abominable, that if they should longer endure they would corrupt the very elect. But for the elect’s sake God sendeth them preachers. Nevertheless they harden their hearts against the truth, and God destroyeth them utterly, and beginneth the world anew.* This comfort shalt thou evermore find in the plain text and literal sense.

Neither is there any story so homely, so rude, yea, or so vile (as it seemeth outward), wherein is not exceeding great comfort. And when some, which seem to themselves great clerks, say, ‘They wot not what more profit is in many gests of the scripture, if they be read without an allegory, than in a tale of Robin Hood:’ say thou, ‘That they were written for our consolation and comfort; that we despair not, if such like happen unto us. We be not holier than Noe, though he were once drunk; neither better beloved than Jacob, though his own son defiled his bed. We be not holier than Lot, though his daughters through ignorance deceived him; nor, peradventure, holier than those daughters. Neither are we holier than David, though he brake wedlock, and upon the same committed abominable murder. All those men have witness of the scripture that they pleased God, and were good men, both before that those things chanced them, and also after.

Nevertheless such things happened them for our ensample, not that we should counterfeit their evil; brut if, while we fight with ourselves, enforcing to walk in the law of God as they did, we yet fall likewise, that we despair not, but come again to the laws of God, and take better hold.’

We read, since the time of Christ’s death, of virgins that have been brought unto the common stews, and there defiled; and of martyrs that have been bound, and whores have abused their bodies. Why? The judgments of God are bottomless. Such things partly for ensamples; partly, God through sin healeth sin. Pride can neither be healed, nor yet appear, but through such horrible deeds. Peradventure they were of the pope’s sect, and rejoiced fleshly; thinking that heaven came by deeds, and not by Christ, and that the outward deed justified them and made them holy, and not the inward spirit received by faith, and the consent of the heart unto the laws of God.

As thou readest, therefore, think that every syllable pertaineth to thine own self, and suck out the pith of the scripture, and arm thyself against all assaults. First note with strong faith the power of God, in creating all of nought; then mark the grievous fall of Adam, and of us all in him, through the light regarding of the commandment of God. In the 4th chapter, God turneth him unto Abel, and then to his offering, but not to Cain and his offering: where thou seest that though the deeds of the evil appear outwardly as glorious as the deeds of the good, yet in the sight of God, which looketh on the heart, the deed is good because of the man, and not the man good because of his deed. In the 6th, God sendeth Noe to preach to the wicked, and giveth them space to repent: they wax hard-hearted, God bringeth them to nought, and yet sayeth Noe, even by the same water by which he destroyed them. Mark also what followed the pride of the building of the tower of Babel.

Consider how God sendeth forth Abraham out of his own country into a strange land, full of wicked people, and gave him but a bare promise with him, that he would bless him and defend him. Abraham believed, and that word saved and delivered him in all perils: so that we see how that man’s life is not maintained by bread only, as Christ saith, but much rather by believing the promises of God. Behold how soberly, and how circumspectly, both Abraham and also Isaac behave themselves among the infidels. Abraham buyeth that which might have been given him for nought, to cut off occasions. Isaac, when his wells which he had digged were taken from him, giveth room and resisteth not. Moreover, they ear and sow, and feed their cattle, and make confederations, and take perpetual truce, and do all outward things even as they do which have no faith; for God hath not made us to be idle in this world. Every man must work godly and truly, to the uttermost of the power that God hath given him; and yet not trust therein, but in God’s word or promise, and God will work with us, and bring that we do to good effect: and then, when our power will extend no further, God’s promises will work all alone.

How many things also resisted the promises of God to Jacob! And yet Jacob conjureth God with his own promises, saying, “O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, O Lord, which saidest unto me, Return unto thine own country, and unto the place where thou wast born, and I will do thee good; I am not worthy of the least of those mercies, nor of that truth which thou hast done to thy servant: I went out but with a staff, and come home with two droves: deliver me out of the hands of my brother Esau, for I fear him greatly,” etc. And God delivered him, and will likewise all that call unto his promises with a repenting heart, were they never so great sinners. Mark also the weak infirmities of the man. He loveth one wife more than another, one son more than another. And see how God purgeth him. Esau threateneth him; Laban beguileth him; the beloved wife is long barren; his daughter is ravished; his wife is defiled, and that of his own son. Rachel dieth, Joseph is taken away, yea, and, as he supposed, rent of wild beasts. And yet how glorious was his end! Note the weakness of his children, yea, and the sin of them, and how God through their own wickedness saved them. These ensamples teach us, that a man is not at once perfect the first day he beginneth to live well. They that be strong, therefore, must suffer with the weak, and help to keep them in unity and peace one with another, until they be stronger.

Note what the brethren said when they were attached in Egypt: “We have verily sinned (said they) against our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul when he besought us, and would not hear him; and therefore is this tribulation come upon us.” By which ensample thou seest how that conscience of evil doings findeth men out at last, but namely in tribulation and adversity: there temptation, and also desperation, yea, and the very pains of hell, find us out: there the soul feeleth the fierce wrath of God, and wisheth mountains to fall on her, and to hide her (if it were possible) from the angry face of God.

Mark also, how great evils follow of how little an occasion. Dinah goeth but forth alone to see the daughters of the country, and how great mischief and trouble followed! Jacob loved but one son more than another, and how grievous murder followed in their hearts! These are ensamples for our learning, to teach us to walk warily and circumspectly in the world of weak people, that we give no man occasions of evil.

Finally, see what God promised Joseph in his dreams. Those promises accompanied him always, and went down with him even into the deep dungeon, and brought him up again, and never forsook him, till all that was promised was fulfilled. These are ensamples written for our learning (as Paul saith), to teach us to trust in God in the strong fire of tribulation and purgatory of our flesh; and that they which submit themselves to follow God, should note and mark such things: for their learning and comfort is the fruit of the scripture, and cause why it was written. And with such a purpose to read it, is the way to everlasting life, and to those joyful blessings that are promised unto all nations in the Seed of Abraham; which Seed is Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be honour and praise for ever, and unto God our Father through him. Amen. Seek therefore in the scripture, as thou readest it, chiefly and above all, the covenants made between God and us; that is to say, the law and commandments which God commandeth us to do; and then the mercy promised unto all them that submit themselves unto the law. For all the promises throughout the whole scripture do include a covenant: that is, God bindeth himself to fulfill that mercy unto thee only if thou wilt endeavour thyself to keep his laws; so that no man hath his part in the mercy of God, save he only that loveth his law, and consenteth that it is righteous and good, and fain would do it, and ever mourneth because he now and then breaketh it through infirmity, or doth it not so perfectly as his heart would.

And let love interpret the law, that thou understand this to be the final end of the law, and the whole cause why the law was given; even to bring thee to the knowledge of God, how that he hath done all things for thee, that thou mightest love him again with all thine heart, and thy neighbour for his sake as thyself, and as Christ loved thee: because thy neighbour is the son of God also, and created unto his likeness as thou art, and bought with as dear blood as art thou. Whosoever feeleth in his heart that every man ought to love his neighbour as Christ loved him, and consenteth thereto, and enforceth to come thereto, the same only understandeth the law aright, and can interpret it. And he that submitteth not himself, in the degree he is in, to seek: his neighbour’s profit as Christ did his, can never understand the law, though it be interpreted to him; for that love is the light of the law, to understand it by.

And behold how righteous, how honest, and how due a thing it is by nature, that every man love his neighbour unfeignedly even as himself, for his Father’s sake. For it is the father’s great shame and his high displeasure, if one brother hurt another. If one brother be hurt of another, he may not avenge himself, but must complain to his father, or to them that have authority of his father, to rule in his absence. Even so if any of God’s children be hurt by any of his brethren, he may not avenge himself with hand or heart. God must avenge. And the governors and ministers of the law that God hath ordained to rule us by, concerning our outward conversation of one with another, they must avenge. If they will not avenge, but rather maintain wrong and be oppressors themselves, then must we tarry patiently till God come, which is ever ready to reap tyrants off the face of the earth, as soon as their sins are ripe.

Consider also what wrath, vengeance, and plagues God threateneth to them that are rebellious and disobedient.

Then go to and read the stories of the bible for thy learning and comfort, and see every thing practiced before thine eyes; for according to those ensamples shall it go with thee and all men until the world’s end: so that into whatsoever case or state a man may be brought, according to whatsoever ensample of the bible it be, his end shall be according as he there seeth and readeth. As God there warneth ere he smite, and suffereth long ere he take extreme vengeance, so shall he do with us. As they that turn are there received to mercy, and they that maliciously resist perish utterly, so shall it be with us. As they that resist the counsel of God perish through their own counsel, so shall it be with us until the world’s end. As it went with their kings and rulers’ so shall it go with ours. As it was with their common people, so shall it be with ours. As it was with their spiritual officers, so shall it be with ours. As it was with their true prophets, so shall it be with ours until the world’s end. As they had ever among them false prophets and true, and as their false persecuted the true, and moved the princes to slay them, so shall it be with us until the end of the world. As there was among them but a few true-hearted to God, so shall it be among us; and as their idolatry was, so shall ours be, until the end of the world.

All mercy that is shewed there is a promise unto thee, if thou turn to God.

And all vengeance and wrath shewed there is threatened to thee, if thou be stubborn and resist. And this learning and comfort shalt thou evermore find in the plain text and literal sense, etc..