Page images

to outweigh all other considerations." We are startled at the precision with which More describes the processes by which the law courts were to lend themselves to the advance of tyranny till their crowning judgement in the case of ship-money. But behind these judicial expedients lay great principles of absolutism, which partly from the example of foreign monarchies, partly from the sense of social and political insecurity, and yet more from the isolated position of the Crown, were gradually winning their way in public opinion. "These notions" - More goes boldly on in words written, it must be remembered, within the precincts of Henry's court and beneath the eye of Wolsey "these notions are fostered by the maxim that the king can do no wrong, however much he may wish to do it; that not only the property but the persons of his subjects are his own; and that a man has a right to no more than the king's goodness thinks fit not to take from him." It is only in the light of this emphatic protest against the king-worship which was soon to override liberty and law that we can understand More's later career. Steady to the last in his loyalty to Parliaments, as steady in his resistance to mere personal rule, it was with a smile as fearless as the smile with which he penned the half-jesting words of his Utopia that he sealed them with his blood on Tower Hill.


Sir Thomas More was born in London, Feb. 7, 1477-78. He was sent at an early age to St. Anthony's School, where he had been preceded by John Colet, the future dean of St. Paul's, subsequently his inamate friend, the director of his life" he called him. At the age of thirteen he was placed by his father in the household of Thomas Morton, archbishop of Canterbury and lord chancelior; and about 1492 he entered the university of Oxford, where he was devoted to the classics. Subsequently he studied law at Lincoln's Inn, and became a lecturer on law at Furnival's Inn, while still sedulously cultivating literature. In 1497 he met Erasmus, then on his first visit to England, and the memorable friendship between the two men began. He contemplated becoming a priest, and about 1499 seems to have given lectures on Saint Augustine's "City of God," which possibly contained the germs of his "Utopia." His work at the bar was brilliantly successful; and he entered Parliament, rendering conspicuous service in opposing the exactions of the crown. made several visits to the Continent, meeting leading scholars and rendering diplomatic service. In 1523, on Wolsey's recommendation, he was elected speaker of the House of Commons. In 1529 he succeeded Wolsey as chancellor. He opposed the new Protestantism, retired from the chancellorship after brief occupancy, and his opposition to Henry VIII. in the matter of Henry's divorce and his relations to the pope cost him his life. His beheadal on Tower Hill (July . 1535), for refusing to acknowledge the king's ecclesiastical headship, is one of the blackest of the many black stains upon Henry's memory. More was one of the greatest scholars and thinkers and one of the noblest characters of his time or of all time. "In his household," says Erasmus, "Plato's academy was revived again : only the house at Chelsea is a veritable school of the Christian religion." A complete account of More's various writings may be found in the article upon him by Sidney Lee, in the Dictionary of National Biography. The "Utopia was first published in Latin at Louvain in 1516, under an arrangement by Erasmus, and at once became popular. The first French translation appeared in 1550, the first English one in 1551. Dibdin's and Arber's editions both have full and useful notes. The earliest life of More is that by William Roper, his son-inlaw the best modern life is by Bridgett.



THE DIRECTORS OF THE OLD SOUTH WORK, Old South Meeting-house, Boston, Mass.

[subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

The Sermon

on the Mount


MATTHEW, chap. v.


Nd Jhesus seynge the peple, went up into an hil; and whanne he was sett, his disciplis camen to him. And he openyde his mouthe, and taughte hem; and seide, Blessid be pore men in spirit; for the kyngdom of hevenes is herun. Blessid ben mylde men: for thei schulen weelde the erthe. Blessid ben thei that mournen: for thei schal be coumfortid. Blessid be thei that hungren and thirsten rigtwisnesse: for thei schal be fulfilled. Blessid ben merciful men: for thei schul gete mercy. Blessid ben thei that ben of clene herte: for thei schulen se god. Blessid ben pesible men: for thei schulen be clepid goddis children. Blessid ben thei that suffren persecucioun for rightwisnesse: for the kyngdom of hevenes is hern. Ye schul be blessid whanne men schul curse you, and schul pursue you and schul seye al yvel agens you liynge for me. Joie ye and be ye glade for your meede is plenteous in hevenes: for so thei han pursued also prophetis that weren bifore you. Ye ben salt of the erthe, that if the salt vanishe awey wherynne schal it be saltid? to nothing it is worth over, no but it be cast out, and be defoulid of men. Ye ben light of the world, a citee sett on an hill may not be hid. Ne me teendith not a lanterne and puttith it undir a bushel: but on a candilstik that it give light to alle that ben in the hous. So, schyne your light before men, that thei see youre gode workis, and glorifie your fadir that is in hevenes. Nyle ghe deme that I cam to undo the Lawe or the prophetis, I cam not to undo the lawe but to fuffille. Forsothe I sey to you till hevene and erthe passe, oon lettre, or oon title, schal not passe fro the Lawe til alle thingis be don. Therfore he that brekith oon of these leeste maundementis, and techith thus men, schal be clepid the

Leest in the rewme of hevenes: but he that doth, and techith, schal be clepid greet in the kyngdom of hevenes. And I seye to you that but your rigtwisnesse be more plentuous thanne of Scribis and Farisees, ye schul not entre in to the kyngdom of hevenes. Ye han herd that it was seide to olde men: thou schalt not sle, and he that sleeth, schal be gilty to doom. But I seye to you that ech man that is wroth to his brothir schal be gilty to doom, and he that seith to his brother, fugh, schal be gilty to the counsell; but he that seith, fool, schal be gilty into the fire of helle. Therfore if thou offrist thi gifte at the auter, & there thou bithenkist that thi brother hath somwhat agens thee, leve there thi gifte bifore the auter, and go first to be recounseilid to thi brothir, and thanne thou schalt come and schalt offre thi gifte. Be thou, consenting to thin adversarie soone, while thou art in the weye with him, lest peraventure thin adversarie take thee to the domesman, and the domesman take thee to the mynistre, and thou be sent in to prisoun. Treuly I sey to thee thou schalt not go out fro thennes till thou yelde the laste ferthing. Ye han herd that it was seid to olde men thou schalt not do leecherie. But I seye to you that every man that seeth a womman to coveyte hir hath now do leecherie bi hir in his herte. That if thi right yghe sclaundre thee, pull it out, and caste fro thee; for it spedith to thee that oon of thi membris peresche, than that al thi bodi go in to helle. And if thi right hond sclaundre thee kitte him away and caste fro thee, for it spedith to thee that oon of thi membris perische, than that al thi bodi go in to helle. And it hath ben seid, whoevere leveth his wyf, give he to hir a libel of forsaking. But I seye to you that every man that leveth his wyf, out teke cause of fornicacioun makith hir to do leecherie, and he that weddith the forsaken wyf doth avowtrie. Eftsoone ye han herd that it was seid to olde men thou schalt not fors were but thou schalt yeld thin othis to the lord. But I seye to you, that ye swere not for any thing, neither bi hevene for it is the trone of god. Neither bi erthe, for it is the stool of his feet; neither by Jerusalem, for it is the citee of a greet kyng. Neither thou schalt swere bi thin heed, for thou maist not make oon heer whyt ne black. But be your word ghe ghe, nay nay, and that, that is more than these is of yvel. ghe han herd that it hath be seid yghe for yghe, and toth for toth. But I seye to you that ye aghenstonde not an yvel man, but if ony smyte thee in the right cheke, schewe to him also the oother. And to him that stryve with thee in doom, and take away thi coate, leeve thou

also to Him thi mantel. And whoever constreynith thee a thousynd pacis: go thou with him other tweyne. Give thou to him that axith of the, and turne thou not awey fro him that wole borowe of thee. ghe han herd that it was seid thou schalt love thi neighbore, and hate thin enemy. But I seye to you, Love ye your enemyes, do ye wel to hem that haten you, and prie ye for hem that pursuen and sclaundren you. That ye be the sones of your fadir that is in hevenes, that makith his sunne to rise upon gode, and yvel men, and reyneth on just men and unjust. For if ye loven him that loven you, what meede shulen ye have? whether pupplicans don not this? And if ghe greeten youre bretheren oonly, what schulen ye do more? ne don not hethene men this? Therefor be ye parfit, as your hevenly fadir is parfit.



Akith heed that ye do not your rigtwisnesse bifore men, to be seyn of hem; ellis ye schul have no meede at your fadir that is in hevenes. Therfore whanne thou doist almes, nyle thou trumpe bifore thee as ypocrites don in synagogis and stretis, that thei be worschipid of men; sothely I sey to you thei han resseyved her meede. But whanne thou doist almes, knowe not thei left hond what thi right hond doith. That thin almes be in hidlis, and thi fadir that seeth in hidlis schal quyte thee. And whanne ye preyen, ye schulen not be as ypocrites that loven to preye stondynge in synagogis, and corneris of streetis, to be seyn of men, treuly I sey to yow thei han resseyved her meede. But whanne thou schalt prie, entre into thi couche, and whanne the dore is schitt, prie thi fadir in hidlis, and thi fadir that seeth in hidlis, schal yelde to thee. But in priyng nyle ye speke myche, as hethene men don for thei gessen that thei ben herd in her myche speche. Therfore nyle ye be maad lyk to hem for your fadir woot what is nede to you, bifore that ye axen him. And thus ye schulen prye. Our fadir that art in hevenys; halewid be thi name. Thi kyngdom come to, be thi wil done in erthe as in hevene. Give to us this day oure breed ovir othir Substaunce. And forgive to us our dettis as we forgiven to oure dettouris. And lede us not into temptacioun: but delyvere us from yvel amen. For if ye forgiven to men her synnes, your hevenly fadir schal forgive to you your trespassis. Sothely if ye forgiven not to men, nether your fadir schal forgive you youre synnes. But whanne ye

fasten nyle be ye maad as ypocritis sorowful, for thei defasen hem silf to seme fastynge to men, treuly I seye to you thei han resseyved her meede. But whanne thou fastist anoynte thin heed, and waische thi face: That thou be not seen fastynge to men, but to thi fadir that is in hidlis, and thi fadir that seeth in hidlis schal yelde to thee. Nile ye tresoure to you tresouris in erthe were rust and mought distryeth, and where thefes delven out and stelen. But gadir ye to you tresouris in hevene, where neither rust ne mought distrieth and where thefis deluen not out; ne stelen. For where thi tresour is, there also thin hert is. The lanterne of thi bodi is thin iye, if thin iye be symple, al thi bodi schal be ligtful. But if thin yghe be weyward al thi bodi schal be derk. if thanne the light that is in thee be derknessis, how grete schul thilke derknessis be? No man may serve twey Lordis for either he schal hate the toon and love the tother: either he schal susteyne the toon, and despise the tother: ye moun not serve god and richesse. Therefor I sey to you that be ye not besy to youre lyf, what ye schul ete neither to your bodi, with what ye schul be clothid. whether lyf is not more than mete, and the body more than the cloth? Biholde ye the foulis of the eir, for thei sowen not, neither repen, neither gaderen in to bernes, and your fadir of hevene feedith hem. whether ye ben not more worthi than thei? But who of you thenkynge, may putte to his stature o cubit? And of clothing what ben you bisy? biholde ye the lilies of the feeld hou thei wexen, thei traveilen not neither spynnen. And I sey to you that Salomon in al his glorie was not kevered as oon of these. And if god clothith thus the hey of the feeld, that to dey is, and to morowe is cast in to an ovene, hou myche more you of litil feith? Therfore nyle ye be bisy seiynge, what schul we ete, or what schul we drynk, or with what thing schul we be kevered? Forsothe hethene men seken alle these thingis, and your fadir wot that ye han nede to alle these thingis. Therfore seke ye first the kyngdom of god and his rigtwisnesse: and alle these thingis schul be cast to you. Therfore nyle ye be bisy in to the morrowe for the morrowe schal be bisy, to him self; for it suffisith to the daie his owne malice.



Yle ye deme that ghe be not demed. For in what doom ye demen ye schulen be demed, and in what mesure ye meten: it schal be meten agen to you. But what seest thou a

« PreviousContinue »