A summary of our captivity and freedom

William Tyndale lived from about 1494 to 1536.

The fall of Adam has made us heirs of the vengeance and wrath of God, and heirs of eternal damnation. It has brought us into captivity and bondage under the devil. The devil is our lord, our ruler, our head, our governor, our prince and our god. And our will is locked and knit closer to the will of the devil than could a hundred thousand chains bind a man to a post. To the devil’s will we consent with all our hearts, with all our minds,with all our might, power, strength, will and lusts. The law and will of the devil is written in our hearts as well as in our members. We run headlong after the devil with full zeal, and the whole force of all the power we have; just as a stone cast up into the air comes down naturally of its own accord, with all the violence and force of its own weight. With what poisonous, deadly and venomous hate does a man hate his enemy! With what great malice of mind, inwardly, do we slay and murder! With what violence and rage, and with what fervent lust do we commit adultery, fornication and such like uncleanness! With what pleasure and delight, inwardly, does a glutton serve his belly! With what diligence do we deceive! How busily do we seek the things of this world! Whatever we do, think, or imagine, is abominable in the sight of God. For we give no honour to God; his law, or will, is not written in our members or in our hearts; neither is there any more power in us to follow the will of God, than in a stone to ascend upward by itself. And besides that, we are as it were asleep in such deep blindness, that we can neither see nor feel the misery, slavery and wretchedness we are in, until Moses comes and wakes us, and publishes the law.

When we hear the law truly preached—about how we ought to love and honour God with all our strength and might, from the low bottom of the heart, because he has created us, and both heaven and earth for our sakes, and made us lord thereof; and how we ought to love our neighbours (even our enemies) as ourselves, inwardly, from the ground of the heart, because God has made them after the likeness of his own image, and they are his sons as well as we, and Christ has bought them with his blood, and made them heirs of everlasting life as well as us; and how we ought to do whatever God bids, and abstain from whatever God forbids, with all love, and meekness, with a fervent and burning lust from the centre of the heart—then our conscience begins to rage against the law, and against God. No sea, no matter howgreat the storm, is so unquiet. For it is not possible for a natural man to consent to the law, and agree that it is good, or that God (who made the law) is righteous. It is contrary to his nature, and damns him and all that he can do, and does not show him where to get help. Nor does it preach any mercy. It only sets man at variance with God (as Paul witnesses in Romans 4) and provokes him and stirs him to rail against God, and to blaspheme him as a cruel tyrant. For it is not possible for a man, until he is born again, to think that God is righteous to make him of so poisonous a nature, either for his own sake or for the sin of another man, and to give him a law that is impossible for him to do, or to consent to. His wit, reason and will is too strongly glued, even nailed and chained, to the will of the devil. Neither can any creature loose the bonds, only the blood of Christ.

This is the captivity and bondage from which Christ delivered us, redeemed and loosed us. His blood, his death, his patience in suffering rebukes and wrongs, his prayers and fastings, his meekness and fulfilling of the uttermost point of the law, appeased the wrath of God. He brought the favour of God to us again, and gained that God should love us and be our Father. God is a merciful Father at that, who will consider our infirmities and weakness, and will give us his Spirit again (which was taken away in the fall of Adam) to rule, govern, and strengthen us, and to break the bonds of Satan, in which we were so closely bound. When Christ is preached in this way, and the promises repeated which are contained in the prophets, in the psalms, and in diverse places of the five books of Moses, (which preaching is called the ‘gospel’ or ‘glad tidings’), then the hearts of the elect and chosen begin to soften and melt at the bounteous mercy of God, and kindness shown by Christ. For when the evangelion is preached, the Spirit of God enters into those whom God has ordained and appointed to eternal life. It opens their inward eyes and works belief in them. When thewoeful consciences feel and taste how sweet a thing the bitter death of Christ is, and how merciful and loving God is, through Christ’s purchasing and merits, they begin to love again and to consent to the law of God, agreeing that it is good and ought to be so. They see that God is righteous who made the law; and they desire to fulfill the law, even as a sick man desires to be whole, and they hunger and thirst evermore for righteousness, and after more strength to fulfill the law more perfectly. And in all that they do, or omit and leave undone, they seek God’s honour and his will with meekness, always condemning the imperfection of their deeds by the law.

Now Christ stands for us in double stead, and serves us in two ways. First, he is our redeemer, deliverer, reconciler, mediator, intercessor, advocate, attorney, solicitor, our hope, comfort, shield, protection, defender, strength, health, satisfaction and salvation. His blood, his death, all that he ever did, is ours. And Christ himself, with all that he is or can do, is ours. His blood-shedding, and all that he did, does me as good a service as though I myself had done it. And God (as great as he is) is mine, with all that he has, as a husband is his wife’s, through Christ and his purchasing.

Secondly, after we are overcome with love and kindness, and now seek to do the will of God (which is a Christian man’s nature), then we have Christ as an example to copy—as Christ himself says in John: “I have given you an example”. And in another evangelist he says, “He that will be great among you, shall be your servant and minister; as the Son of man came to minister, and not to be ministered to”. And Paul says, “Copy Christ”. And Peter says, “Christ died for you, and left you an example to follow his steps”.

This is an extract from Tyndale’s ‘A pathway into the Holy Scripture’ in Kirsten Birkett (ed.), Classics of the Reformation, Matthias Media, Sydney, 2000, pp. 152-155.

Based on ‘A Pathway into the Holy Scripture’ and prologues in Doctrinal Treatises and Introductions to Different Portions of the Holy Scriptures by William Tyndale, Martyr, 1536, Parker Society, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1848. Adaptation © Matthias Media.

Comments are closed.