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Summary of The Dialogue Concerning Heresies: Books I and II

Note: While the summary below can be used alone, it was originally meant to serve as an Appendix to my first chapter (Chapter 4) on A Dialogue Concerning Heresies in my Ph.D. dissertation:

I have also appended a figure (combining two figures from the same chapter) dealing with the structure of A Dialogue Concerning Heresies to the end of the summaries below. A partial summary of Books III and IV is also available.

Any comments or queries can be sent to the author at

Romuald (Ronnie) Ian Lakowski

Table of Contents

4. A Dialogue Concerning Heresies: Books I and II

Summary of Books III and IV

Chapter on A Dialogue Concerning Heresies: Books I and II

Return to Thesis Table of Contents

A Dialogue Concerning Heresies: Books I and II

Book I (CW 6, pp. 21--186)

Introduction to Dialogue Concerning Heresies (I:Preface--I:2a)

1. Preface (CW 6, 21/1--24/17)
1. [The nominal setting of the Dialogue Concerning Heresies is Chelsea, the house of Sir Thomas More, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in 1528/29 when the first edition was being written and published, and Chancellor of England in 1531, when the second edition was published. There are two interlocutors in the dialogue identified as "the author" and "the messenger" in the rubrics to the chapters, and as "quod I [I said]" and "quod he [he said]" in the text. They are referred to below as "Chancellor More" and the "Messenger" respectively. There is also a third non-speaking persona---the Friend, a friend of Chancellor More's, and the employer of the Messenger, who is the tutor of the Friend's children.] The Narrator begins by relating how a "right worshypfull frende of myne" (the Friend) had sent to him "a secrete sure frende of his" (the Messenger) with a letter of credence (an introductory letter) touching certain matters outlined below in Chapter 1. At first the Narrator considered it enough to reply to the Messenger verbally, but then after the Messenger had departed, the Narrator, considering the seriousness of the matters discussed between the Messenger and himself and the length and intricacy of the argument, decided to write their discussion down and send it to the Friend. However, finding later that a number of copies of his manuscript were in circulation, and fearing that the followers of Luther would deliberately alter his work and put a corrupted version in print, the Narrator decided to take this third business of publishing and printing the book upon himself. Before doing so, he consulted with learned men who read his book over. He sought their advice for two reasons: firstly, because the Messenger used rather strong language at times in defending the Lutherans and in criticising abuses within the Church; and, secondly, because the Messenger mingled certain merry tales and words with his matter. The Narrator cites the practise of the Church Fathers in their disputes with heretics to justify the use of strong language and of merry tales. He then says that he followed the advice of his learned readers in revising the work, and let nothing stand unless two readers advised him to let it stand for every one who advised the opposite. The Narrator then addresses the reader praying that God may grant any one who reads this "rude symple worke" as much profit in the reading as the author intended in the writing.


2. Chap. 1a (24/19--26/7)

2. The Letter of Credence: Chapter 1 opens with the letter of introduction sent from the Friend and brought by the Messenger. The 'letter of credence' asks Chancellor More to discuss and treat at length certain doubts that the Friend has, as relayed by the Messenger---some concerning matters that Chancellor More and the Friend have discussed on a previous occasion, and some about matters that have developed since they spoke. The Friend asks Chancellor More to spend time with the Messenger answering these objections. The matters that the Messenger will treat of are talked about widely among the common people, particularly in certain letters written by one or two priests out of London. Chancellor More should answer the Messenger as if he were talking to the Friend himself. The Friend urges Chancellor More not to hold back out of courtesy in discussing these matters, and says that he (the Friend) has bidden the Messenger to speak his mind freely in disputing with Chancellor More.


3. Chap. 1b (26/8--27/27)

3. The Letter of the Author: This purports to be a 'cover letter' sent with the (manuscript) 'book' of the dialogues between Chancellor More and the Messenger (cf. the Preface). Though Chancellor More has no doubt that the Messenger gave a faithful, plain and full report of their conversations, he thinks that the Friend would prefer to have it in writing from the pen of Chancellor More himself, than from the mouth of "your friend", the Messenger, so that the Friend can have no doubts about the accuracy of the account of the matters treated by Chancellor More and the Messenger. Chancellor More further indicates that since the Messenger had indicated that some of the common people had doubted the truth of the charges brought against the man that the Friend wrote of [i.e. Thomas Bilney, the subject of the letters sent from London, cf. the 'letter of credence'] and against Luther himself, Chancellor More had shown the Messenger the books of the one (i.e. Luther) and the acts of court concerning the other (i.e. Bilney). [Thomas Bilney whose beliefs seem to have been mainly of a Lollard nature, was tried for heresy on December 8th 1527, released in 1528, tried again in 1531 after a relapse into heresy, and burned at the stake on August 19th 1531. Bilney was still alive when the first two editions of the Dialogue Concerning Heresies were published, and More never actually mentions him by name anywhere in the Dialogue.] Chancellor More promises to show the same books to anyone else whom the Friend might choose to send to him. Chancellor More then prays that the Friend will accept the "little labour" and great good will that he (Chancellor More) has shown in making the book, and leaves him free to judge the effectiveness of Chancellor More's arguments, leaving aside those articles of faith accepted as true by orthodox believers.


4. Chap. 1c (27/28--32/24)

4. The Messenger's 'credence': The Messenger begins by stating that the Friend has sent him to Chancellor More not for any doubts that the Friend himself has, but to answer those raised by other people, though the Friend did express uncertainty about the truth of certain reports written by some priests in London [about Thomas Bilney]. After the initial 'letter of credence' has been read, Chancellor More then rehearses all the doubts and objections raised by the Messenger in his 'credence' made on behalf of the Friend. The Messenger begins by claiming that the man the Friend wrote about [i.e. Bilney] has been harshly handled, and that he has been forced to forswear certain heresies that he never held. Then the Messenger condemns the recent burning of Tyndale's (1526) translation of the New Testament at Paul's Cross. The cause it was burned was because of a provincial constitution [the Arundel Constitution (1408)] which forbids the translation of the books of the Bible into English. Further, some men doubt that Luther himself is as bad a heretic as he is made out to be, but rather his books are condemned because he attacked pardons and the abuses of the clergy. Even heretics sometimes speak the truth. The clergy use the name of Lutheran to denounce all heresies, and yet many Lutherans live virtuous lives. It is cruel and unreasonable to punish such people for heresy. In the early church, the Church Fathers only disputed with heretics and did not put them to death. No one should be compelled to believe by force in his faith. Christ himself by his example showed us that we should suffer violence rather than defend ourselves against heretics and infidels.


5. Chap. 1d (32/25--35/9)

5. After the Messenger has declared his 'credence,' he asks Chancellor More to reply to the matters raised by the Friend, but expresses his own view that it is wrong to condemn men as heretics because those who condemn them sometimes lay false witness against them. The Messenger states that the Friend has confidence in Chancellor More's ability to answer these objections. Chancellor More asks the Messenger about his relationship with the Friend, and is told that the Messenger is the tutor of the Friend's children. The Messenger expresses contempt for the liberal arts, except for the study of Latin [grammar], and declares that the study of Holy Scripture is enough learning for a Christian man. Chancellor More expresses some concern in his written account to the Friend that the Messenger may have been falling into Luther's sect---and suggests that that may have been one reason why the Friend sent him to Chancellor More in the first place. Pretending lack of leisure to give himself time to reply to the objections, Chancellor More then sends the Messenger away telling him to return on the next day. After the Messenger has left, Chancellor More then writes down the substance of the Messenger's objections, so that he might more effectively prepare an answer to them.


6. Chap. 2a (35/10--37/22)

6. On the next day the Messenger returns. Chancellor More begins by briefly recapitulating the matters that the Messenger has raised on the Friend's behalf and promises to respond to them---starting with the abjuration of "the man he spake of" [i.e. Bilney]. [This is the matter of Books I and II, and Book III, Chapters 1--7, which contrary to the impression given here develops into a general refutation of Lollard (and Lutheran) attacks on the Church.] Secondly, Chancellor More promises to touch on the condemnation and burning of Tyndale's New Testament. [The matter of Book III, Chapters 8--16.] Thirdly, he promises to say something about Luther and his sect [Book IV, Chapters 1--12], and, fourthly, he declares that he will deal with the wars against the infidels [i.e. the Turks] and the condemnation of heretics [Book IV, Chapters 13--18]. Chancellor More begins by referring briefly to Bilney's condemnation and declares that Bilney, far from being handled too harshly, was treated with almost unheard of leniency by his ecclesiastical judges [Wolsey and Cuthbert Tunstall]. The charges that were brought against him were that he said we should not worship any images, or pray to Saints, or go on pilgrimages, which articles every good Christian will recognise as heretical. [The discussion of Bilney's trial is then postponed to Book III, where it is treated, together with the postumous trial of Richard Hunne, in Chapters 1--7, 15. The rest of Books I and II are devoted to a general refutation of traditional Lollard attacks, taken up with renewed vigour by the early English Lutherans, against images, devotion to Saints, miracles and pilgrimages.]


The Image of Love (I:2b) and Definitions of Heresy and Orthodoxy

7. Chap. 2b (37/23--51/19)
7. [The Dialogue proper begins here.] The Messenger agrees that these articles are heresies, but asks Chancellor More to tell him why. After declaring his loyalty to the common faith and belief of Christ's Church, Chancellor More defines heresy to be a sect and sideway split off from the common faith of the whole Church. Touching those Scripture passages that heretics quote to condemn worshipping of images, praying to Saints and going on pilgrimages---these passages condemn the worship of pagan idols not the veneration of Christian Saints. [The passage that follows here (39/26--47/22), dealing with the 'anonymous' Image of Love, is the first of three major interpolations into the 1531 edition.] The Messenger replies by quoting The Image of Love (1525) [a mildly heretical attack on the veneration of images by the Observant Franciscan John Ryckes (d. 1532), cf. CW 6, Appendix A, pp. 729--59], which argues that images are only laymen's books and that those who are more spiritual should let such dead images pass. The author of The Image of Love also condemns costly church ornaments, stating that the money spent on them could be better bestowed on the poor. Chancellor More begins by declaring that, though the author of The Image of Love meant well, he was carried away by his fervour and wrote ill-advisedly. Though holy bishops have sometimes relieved the poor through the sale of church vessels and plate, nonetheless, from earliest times, churches have been ornamented with precious metals and chalices made from gold and silver, and not from wood. When Solomon used gold to make the Ark and to furnish the Temple, there were many poor people in Israel and yet the Ark was not broken up again and the gold given to the poor. The Messenger replies by quoting the argument of The Image of Love that all those things in the Old Testament were gross and carnal, and that Christians should leave off worshipping God with gold and silver, and serve Our Lord only in spirit and with spiritual things. Chancellor More answers that we must worship God not only spiritually but also with our bodies---Moses not only prayed to God with his mind but also with his mouth, David not only prayed to God with his mouth but also offered bodily service by singing and dancing in God's honour. St. John the Baptist not only baptised and preached, but also fasted, watched, prayed and wore a hairshirt. Christ himself fasted and prayed for forty days. The Messenger replies that rich ornaments in church and other such bodily ceremonies are, as the Image of Love calls them, the shadows of the Old Law. The Messenger repeats the Old Testament prohibition of images. Chancellor More replies that the Old Testament prohibition was meant as a condemnation of the idols of the pagans, and that not all images were condemned since the Jews had images of the Cherubim in the Temple. Chancellor More goes on to state briefly the traditional catholic teaching [(hyper)dulia vs. latria] on the distinction between the honour shown to Saints and Our Lady, and that shown to God. Images are often more effective than spoken or written words in inspiring the Christian believer to worship God. A picture of the Messenger's master, the Friend, can call the image of the Friend to mind as effectively or even more so than his name. In the same way the image of the crucifix can more effectively represent to the mind the remembrance of Christ's bitter Passion than the words "Christus crucifixus" [End of interpolation.] The heretics who claim that honour and glory should be shown to God alone, do not hesitate to given honour to earthly rulers, and even to their servants, and yet these same heretics heap contempt upon God's servants, the Saints. Regarding church ornaments, God himself devised the riches with which the Temple was furnished. There is enough gold both to ornament churches and also to give to the poor. Luther condemns the use of gold to cover the pieces of the cross of Christ---and yet how much more gold is spent on cups, or the gilting of knives, swords, painted clothes, and even whole roofs, and how little is given to the poor.


1. On Saints, Images, Miracles and Pilgrimages (I:3--17) (A1)

8. Chap. 3 (51/20--59/34)
8. The Messenger begins (ch.3) by stating that whatever things he might say, Chancellor More should consider not as the Messenger's own opinions, but rather as brought forward so that he, the Messenger, might better answer the objections of others. Immediately after this, the Messenger launches into an attack on the veneration of images. Though it is wrong to condemn devotion to the Saints, it is clear that many put their confidence in the images of the Saints rather than the Saints themselves. The common people's faith in these images of the Saints is like the necromancer's faith in his circles. The clergy encourage this out of hope for financial reward. Chancellor More replies that the financial benefits from the offerings at pilgrimage shrines are very small, and that even bishops and prelates, rather than benefitting themselves, also make offerings when they go on pilgrimages. St. Augustine himself recognised the importance of going on pilgrimage---in a letter of his he declares that though we do not know why, God clearly favours some places (as pilgrimage sites) by working miracles there, but not other places. Going on pilgrimage is not like the necromancer's faith in his circles: the one involves the invocation of evil spirits, while the other is ordained by God himself. To compare the two is to hold in contempt all the holy rites and ceremonies of the Church. The flock of Christ is not so foolish as to confuse the images of Our Lady with Our Lady herself. The reverence is done to the image for the sake of the person it represents. The image of the Crucifix inspires the devout Christian to meditate upon Christ's Passion. Though God is present everywhere, he sometimes chooses to be epecially present in one place rather than another. God was present with the Chosen People as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He was present in the Arc of the Covenant, and also in the Temple in Jerusalem, and now is present in many Christian temples. The Messenger objects by quoting the words of Christ to the Samaritan woman (John 4:23) that, as God is a spirit, true worshippers worship God in spirit and in truth. Chancellor More replies that while there is no temple as pleasant to God as the human heart; nonetheless, God also chooses to be worshipped in the common temples of Christian churches. And that, if there were no churches and congregations of Christian people, there would be very few good temples of God in men's souls. Even after the Resurrection, Christ's apostles did not hesitate to go to the Temple to worship God.

9. Chaps. 4--5 (60/1--63/3)
9. The Messenger then asks (ch.4) why God should favour one place more than another. Chancellor More answers him that though he can make him no answer why, any more than St. Augustine could, it is clear that God does so since he works miracles in one place and not in another. God has clearly proved this by working many thousands of miracles in different places of pilgrimage. The Messenger replies (ch.5) that the force of Chancellor More's argument depends all on miracles. However, we cannot prove this matter by miracles unless we first prove that miracles be true. And further, since the devil can also work miracles, it is necessary to prove that the miracles are done by God to increase Christian devotion, and not by the devil to increase misbelief and idolatry. Chancellor More replies that the force of his argument depends principally not on miracles, but on the faith of Christ's Church which has approved the worship of images and Saints. The Messenger defends the forcefulness of his objections by reminding Chancellor More that he is merely rehearsing the opinions of others. Chancellor More asks him to continue to defend their part and to add any arguments of his own that may come to mind.

10. Chap. 6 (63/4--70/29)
10. Chancellor More starts (ch.6) with the objection that those, whose opinions the Messenger is reporting, claim that, because they have seen no miracles themselves, miracles are no proof for them. He counters this by arguing that among so many reports from credible witnesses there must be some that are true. If we never trusted the reports of others, we would not even be sure of our own mothers and fathers. The Messenger replies that we should believe the reports of honest men in things that may be true, but should disbelieve the testimony of credible witnesses, no matter how many, in matters that are contrary to "reason and faith," in which group he includes miracles. Chancellor More responds that some things are indeed true even though they seem contrary to "nature and reason." [The examples of the "men of Inde," of glass made from fern roots, of gold separated from silver by a "fair water," and of the drawing out of an iron rod and of a piece of gilted silver into thin wires several yards long.] The Messenger questions Chancellor More's examples and states that he will not believe them even if ten or twenty witnesses report them as true. Chancellor More promises to bring him on the morrow where two trusty witnesses, the Messenger's own eyes, can confirm Chancellor More's account of the drawing out of iron and silver. [Merry tale about a priest who was overfamiliar with a poor man's wife.] The Messenger replies that though the examples given by Chancellor More may seem strange and marvellous, they are things that can be done, whereas a miracle is a thing that cannot be done. Chancellor More responds that those who are reluctant to believe can be just as prone to error as those who are too gullible. Many things that seem to be contrary to "nature and reason" may actually be done---and these can be well considered as miracles.

11. Chaps. 7--9 (70/30--76/36)
11. The Messenger replies (ch.7) that, unlike these natural marvels, "nature and reason" show him that miracles are things that cannot be done. Chancellor More asks him why the Messenger does not trust the testimony of credible witnesses about miracles. The Messenger responds that "nature and reason" are more to be believed than the testimony of all such witnesses. Chancellor More denies that "nature and reason" in fact tell the Messenger that miracles cannot happen. "Nature and reason" on the contrary tell us that there is a God who is almighty who can work miracles even "against nature." The Messenger responds however (ch.8) that God can do nothing against nature---God has set all things in nature in a certain order and course which cannot be amended. God will never work against nature which he has already made in an order that cannot be improved. Chancellor More denies this---though God has made all things good, reason does not prove that God has made everything with sovereign perfection. On the contrary, infinite perfection can be found only in the Trinity itself, and God can improve on his own creations. When God works miracles he does nothing against nature, but rather adds some special benefit above nature. God can do what he wills being almighty; and when he does miracles, he does them for the better. Neither nature nor reason disprove the possibility of miracles. The Messenger replies (ch.9) that he is not bound to believe any reports about miracles. Chancellor More replies that among all the reports of miracles in every nation, Christian or heathen, since the beginning of the world there must be some that are true, especially the ones mentioned in the Scriptures.

12. Chaps. 10--11 (77/1--82/12)
12. The Messenger replies (ch.10) that he accepts that God has worked many miracles beyond the common course of nature, but that he questions the miracles done "nowadays" at various pilgrimage sites as being contrary to "nature and reason." Chancellor More counters that he has already proved that reason and nature do not prove that a miracle is impossible to God, only that it is impossible to nature. Chancellor More then goes on to describe some natural 'miracles.' [The examples of the miracle of birth, and of the ebbing and flowing of tides.] He suggests that they are just as wonderful as the miracles done at pilgrimages, but that we take them for granted because they occur frequently. If we saw dead men raised to life miraculously as often as we saw men being brought forth by nature, we would recken it less of a miracle to bring the dead back to life than to give birth to new life. God does not need our advice (ch.11) about when to work miracles, and will often work miracles in small things (like finding missing keys) to show us a sign of his greatness in order to make us more bound to him. Christ did not hesitate to turn water into wine. We should not blaspheme God by trying to dictate to him when and where he should work miracles.

13. Chaps. 12--14 (82/13--90/37)
13. Chancellor More suggests (ch.12) that the testimony of a few credible witnesses suffices to prove a miracle. The Messenger denies this. [Merry tale about a "womanish" friar's confessions.] The Messenger is more ready to accept evil report than good. Chancellor More then cites (ch.13) miracles that are performed before a multitude. [Example of budding thorn from Christ's crown at Rhodes.] The Messenger refuses to accept even miracles performed before a multitude. He goes on to suggest (ch.14) that miracles performed at pilgrimage sites are all arranged. Chancellor More admits that this sometimes happens. [Two merry tales (one told by Chancellor More and the other by the Messenger)---one about the "blind" beggar at St. Albans in King Henry VI's day exposed by Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, and another merry tale about 'Holy Maiden Elizabeth,' a fake visionary exposed by the 'King's (grand?)mother,' either Elizabeth of York, mother of Henry VIII, or Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII.] Chancellor More concludes that divine providence ends up exposing pious frauds. The Messenger, however, suggests that many such frauds never come to light. Chancellor More cites the story of Daniel and Bell the dragon to show that God exposes fraudulent miracles. The Messenger, however, suggests that it is impossible to know whether any miracles are true. Chancellor More counters by citing the miracles done in the Scriptures by the Apostles, recorded by St. Luke in Acts. The Messenger responds by distinguishing between the miracles done in old times by the apostles and martyrs for the setting forth and spreading of the faith, and the miracles done "nowadays" at pilgrimages, which are to be distrusted, since some may be fake. Chancellor More denies that there is any difference between the miracles done in the past, and those done at the images of Saints on pilgrimages. He cites the example of the miracles reported by the Church Fathers as proof. Even if only a few of the miracles, both of those done in the past and of those done "nowadays," are true, they are enough to prove Chancellor More's case.

14. Chaps. 15--17 (91/1--101/4)
14. Chancellor More suggests (ch.15) that it is a mistake for the Messenger to condemn all miracles done at pilgrimages just because some are false. [Merry tale of halting sir Thomas, the parish priest, and his horse.] Chancellor More cites (ch.16) as a counter-example the cure of a possessed girl at the shrine of Our Lady of Ipswich. There are many reliable witnesses of the miracle, and the girl herself is now a nun. Chancellor More then (ch.17) asks the Messenger why he makes a distinction between the miracles done at pilgrimages and those done in former times. The Messenger replies that he was reluctant before to tell Chancellor More why since he was afraid that Chancellor More might think that the Messenger was a favourer of the Lutheran faction. Chancellor More replies that he does not think badly of the Messenger for defending the worse part with argument and reasoning, and urges the Messenger not to hesitate in bringing forth whatever arguments he has heard. The Messenger replies that he has heard some men say that the miracles done at pilgrimages are done by the devil for our deceit and delusion, rather than by God and his Saints. Since the devil can work wonders or miracles, how do we know that any of these miracles are done by God. Chancellor More replies with the opposing argument that since God may do them much better than the devil, how do we know that any are done by the devil. The Messenger then cites various passages in the Old Testament where God condemns the worship of idols. When we pray to Our Lady or the Saints we are also guilty of idolatry. Since only Christ is our Saviour and our mediator, why make Our Lady or any other creature our advocate. When we pray to the Saints we detract from Christ's office. The Schools (i.e. the Scholastic theologians), the Messenger continues, make a three-fold distinction, firstly, between the honour paid by man to men called dulia; secondly, between that paid to angels and Saints called hyperdulia; and thirdly, between the veneration and adoration offered to God alone called latria. The Messenger claims that the worship offered to the images of Saints is latria, and that men show the same acts of devotion to the images of Saints that they do to God. Sometimes they even worship, as Chaucer says, the bone of some holy Jew's sheep. Sometimes the body of a Saint is venerated in two or three different places. The people put more faith in the Saints than in God, and more faith in the images of the Saints than in the Saints themselves. The common people put their faith in particular images---one in the image of Our Lady of Ipswich, a second in Our Lady of Walsingham, a third in the Holy Cross of Bradman. Many who go on pilgrimages have no real devotion. Many an 'honest' housewife makes foul meetings on pilgrimages with the help of a bawd. [Story of the Scottish Friar Donald's denunciation of pilgrimages.] The Messenger concludes that going on pilgrimages is next door to idolatry, and that is why God lets the devil delude us with false miracles. The Messenger ends his report of what he has heard 'some men say' about pilgrimages.


2. On Scripture and the Oral Tradition of the Church (I:18--31) (A2)

15. Chap. 18 (101/5--110/23)
15. Chancellor More thanks (ch.18) the Messenger for stoutly defending his part. Chancellor More replies that since they are agreed that there are miracles done at pilgrimages, either by God for the strengthening of his Church or by the devil for our delusion and damnation, then, if it is proved that they are not done by the devil, they are done by God, or vice versa, if they are proved to be done by God, they are not done by the devil. Chancellor More, however, defers dealing immediately with the Messenger's objections against miracles and changes topics. Chancellor More argues that since the 'some men,' whose opinions the Messenger is reporting, are Christians, they must accept the authority of Scripture though they may dispute its interpretation. The Messenger agrees. Chancellor More asks the Messenger if the things spoken by Christ to Saint Peter and the Apostles were spoken only to them or also to their successors in Christ's flock. The Messenger agrees that there are many passages in the New Testament that also apply to later generations, and that men are called to obey bishops and prelates in such matters as are so commanded in the Gospels. The Messenger, however, objects that the laws of the Church are worse than the laws of Moses, and that Christ's yoke is easy and light, and that he came to call us into a law of liberty. Chancellor More denies that the laws of the Church are as hard as the laws of Moses. Many of Christ's own commands are harder to keep than the laws of the Church---as when he condemned all forswearing and all angry words, or when he commanded his followers to watch and pray continually, and finally when he forbade divorce. Christ calls us to be ready to experience shameful death and martyrdom for the profession of our faith. Christ called the apostles to suffer many trials and tribulations, and even to be put to death for his sake. We will not get to Heaven by playing, when Christ did not come there without pain. God's yoke is 'easy and light' because he gives us the grace to bear it, not because he calls us to a false liberty of slothful rest. Chancellor More asks the Messenger whether Christ's promise to St. Peter in the Gospels that his faith should not fail was made only to St. Peter or else to his Church as a whole, as a promise of God's perpetual help. The Messenger suggests that it may have perhaps been made to St. Peter alone. Chancellor More replies that St. Peter's faith later failed, but that Christ's promise was fulfilled in Our Lady, who remained constant throughout when all others fell away, and thus this promise was made to the Church as a whole, and not only to St. Peter. Chancellor More then cites other promises made by Christ in the New Testament, that he would send the Holy Spirit to instruct them in all things, and that he would be with his Church until the end of the world. The Messenger expresses doubt that God is still guiding his Church, since there is so much iniquity in the world. Chancellor More replies that though there are many wicked people, the flock of Christ will never lack good and devout virtuous people. And further many who live wickedly still have faith, since it is easier to keep the faith than to live well. God's goodness is such that even if we fall away from virtue, as long as we still keep the knowledge of virtue, God still offers us the means to amend our lives, and turn again by grace to His mercy.

16. Chaps. 19--20 (110/24--116/11)
16. The Messenger admits (ch.19) that the Church of Christ is, has been, and ever shall be guided by God and the secret inspiration of the Holy Spirit, both in matters of faith and in doing good works. He further admits that the Church does not err in what it believes. Chancellor More asks the Messenger whether the Church would be erring if it believed certain things to be true which we are not bound to believe, e.g. in, say, believing in a quaternity rather than a trinity. The Messenger says it would. Chancellor More argues that one can err by believing too much as well as too little, and that the Church would be in the wrong, if it were not lawful and well done to pray to Saints and reverence their images and go on pilgrimages. The Messenger agrees. Chancellor More concludes that since the Messenger has already granted that the Church cannot err in any matter of faith that is necessary to be believed, that the Church is not deceived or in error when it advocates praying to Saints, or venerating relics or going on pilgrimages, and that the miracles done at pilgrimage sites are not done by the devil, since the Church does well in paying honour to Saints. If God keeps his Church in the right faith, then he will not allow the devil to work false miracles to bring the Church into a false belief. The Messenger replies (ch.20) that he has granted too much to Chancellor More, who then gives him leave to go back and retrace his argument. The Messenger states that he has heard 'some men say' that since God has left his Church the Scriptures, in which they may see what they should do and believe, the Church does not need any special guidance from God in faith and belief. Chancellor More asks him how Christ's promise to be with his Church until the end of the world could then be fulfilled. The Messenger replies that God is present in his Scriptures. Chancellor More, however, replies that Christ never left any book behind of his own making, and that when he made his promise the New Testament had not even been written. When Christ promised his words would not pass away, he spoke of his faith and doctrine taught by word of mouth and by inspiration, not of the written Scriptures some parts of which have already been lost, and others corrupted. The substance of Christ's teaching is known even if a part remains unwritten. The gift of the Holy Spirit and the presence of Christ in the Eucharist would mean nothing if Christ only meant to be present in the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit has taught the Church many things, such as the perpetual virginity of Our Lady, which have never been written in the Scriptures. Christ also promised his apostles that when they were accused that they should speak his words without fear. He did not mean that they should quote the Scriptures, which would hardly be likely to convince their pagan judges, but rather such words as he would newly give them in their hearts to speak, and would confirm them also with acts of miracles. By such secret help and inspiration is Christ present in his Church till the end of the world, and not only present in the written Scriptures.

17. Chap. 21 (116/12--121/35)
17. The Messenger replies (ch.21) that God does not need to give the right understanding of the Scriptures to the Church since the meaning can be arrived at by collation of one text with another. Chancellor More replies that some men do so and yet misunderstand the text, so that they understand some parts rightly and others wrongly. The parts they understand rightly, they can do so either by chance, or by reason, or by faith. Chancellor More first asks the Messenger whether the Church can exist without faith. The Messenger denies this. Chancellor More then defines the Church as the congregation of people gathered together in Christ's faith, and further asserts that in matters of faith, the Church always has the right understanding of the Scriptures. Chancellor More asks the Messenger how the Church understands the Scriptures. The Messenger dismisses chance and reason as possible means, leaving only faith. Chancellor More then declares that the Holy Spirit guides the Church in interpreting the Scriptures not through writing or by word of mouth, but by secret inspiration leading them to truth, and preserving them from error. God has given the Church the right understanding of the Scriptures, and thus the honour given to Saints, relics and images is not erroneous. The Messenger complains that they are going round in a maze. Chancellor More admits that there is a way that the Messenger can defeat his argument. The Messenger asks what it is. Chancellor More replies that it is to claim that God has not given the Church the right understanding of the Scriptures necessary for salvation. The Messenger agrees that this is a "blind mate." [i.e. he can take no advantage of it, since it would undermine his own position.] Chancellor More concludes with two propositions that are as plain to any Christian man as the axioms of Euclid are to a reasonable man: namely, that the Church cannot err in any article of faith which could lead to loss of heaven if not believed, and secondly, that there is no text of Scripture that properly understood forbids anything the Church allows as lawful to do, and vice versa.

18. Chap. 22 (122/1--128/6)
18. Chancellor More expresses concern at the Messenger's reliance on the bare text of Scripture without the aid of the interpretations of the Church Fathers, and without the help of any of the liberal arts or human sciences except grammar. Chancellor More mentions that he has known a number preachers who were led astray by spiritual pride to set out paradoxes, and preach strange opinions against the common faith of the Church, pretending to do so for love of Holy Scripture alone. These men reject the interpretations of the Fathers, and prefer their own foolish glosses instead. The Messenger protests that Chancellor More may be too harsh in accusing these men of malice for God alone judges the heart. Chancellor More replies that he is only speaking of those erroneous opinions expressed in their preaching, and of their obstinate pride in defending them. He cites examples of preachers who have obstinately continued to preach even after being prohibited by their prelates, claiming that they were bound to do so by God, and that the sign that it was God's will was that they were being persecuted, and that their preaching was stirring up strife in the Church. Chancellor More then gives as an example the (first) trial of Thomas Bilney. [He is not mentioned by name, but the account clearly fits the details of his case.] Bilney first recanted, then when he was called upon to acknowledge his erroneous opinions and do penance, revoked his recantation, but finding that his audience did not accept his erroneous views, after being reasoned with by his ecclesiastical judges, revoked his revocation and abjured his errors again. Bilney for all his seeming meekness was led on by his spiritual pride. Many abjure themselves only so that they can be allowed to preach their false opinions again. This they do out of a desire for vainglory.

19. The Messenger then asks Chancellor More if he would condemn that manner of study in which a man showed such great affection for Scripture alone, that he had little desire to read anything else, especially not philosophy, the mother of heresies. Chancellor More replies that there was never anything written in this world in any way comparable with Holy Scriptures, but that the liberal arts and human sciences are gifts of God also, and are fit to serve as handmaids to divinity [theology], and so thought St. Jerome, St. Basil, St. Augustine, and many other of the Church Fathers. However, the best part of divinity is contained in the Scriptures. Anyone who wishes to take on the office of a preacher should devote himself to the study of Scripture, provided he does so with grace and meekness, and should flee the desire for praise and the display of knowledge. The best antidote for the would-be preacher against spiritual pride is to study the writings and commentaries of the Holy Fathers of the Church. But before this he should prepare himself by abstinence, prayer and cleanness of living, and he should be prepared to believe in all such points as the Church believes. If any text of Scripture seems to be contrary to the faith of the Church, then he should assume either some fault in the translator or scribe, or nowadays in the printer, or that finally for some reason he does not understand it aright. He should stick to the faith of the Church, leaving the text alone until such time as it pleases God to reveal and disclose its meaning.

19. Chap. 23 (128/7--132/27)
20. The Messenger responds by attacking the three rules put forward by Chancellor More: men's glosses, reason and faith. As for the glosses, either they tell the same tale as Scripture does, or else another in which case they should not be believed. As for reason and faith, what great enemies they are to each other. God has revealed his doctrine for us clearly written in the Scriptures. We should shape our faith to the Scriptures, and not the Scriptures to our faith. Chancellor More replies that the commentators tell us the same tale as the Scriptures but more plainly. He also rejects the Messenger's claim that reason and faith are opposed to each other. Reason, except it be unreasonable, does not disdain to hear the truth about any point of faith. The cause of many things in nature is unknown, and appears contrary to the rules of reason. The lodestone attracts iron to it against the rule of reason that a heavy body should move downward. Reason can believe that many things are true even though all the rules she has learned tell her that these things may not be. Nor can the evidence of the eyes always be trusted, unless we believe all the tricks that a juggler performs. [Brief appearence of Henry Pattenson, More's fool (not named), to announce that dinner is almost ready.] Chancellor More asks the Messenger how we know that we should believe the Scriptures? The Messenger replies by faith which tells us that the Scriptures are made up of true matters written by the secret teaching of God. By what means do we know we should believe God asks Chancellor More in turn? The Messenger is surprised by Chancellor More's strange question, and answers that every man knows that God exists. Chancellor More in turn asks if there is any horse or ass that may know this? None, the Messenger replies, except Balaam's ass, who spoke like a good reasonable ass. Chancellor More concludes that man must needs have reason in order to perceive what he should believe. Reason is a handmaid to wait upon faith and serve her, and faith never goes without her. Thus, in the study of Scripture, God's grace and special help are very important, but God also makes use of man's reason as an instrument as well. Reason is in turn strengthened by the study of philosophy, logic and the other liberal arts, and by the study of oratory, laws, history and poetry. The Lutherans, who wish to cast away all human learning save the Scriptures are mad, rather as St. Jerome says, just as the Hebrews despoiled the Egyptians, so also Christians should despoil the riches, learning and god-given wisdom of pagan authors, and use them in the service of divinity for the profit of Christ's Church.

20. Chap. 24 (132/28--137/23)
21. The Messenger finally admits that reason is not as great an enemy to faith as she first seemed, and can be useful in intepreting Scripture. However, the Messenger rejects the third point of Chancellor More's that we need to have faith already as a rule to learn the Scriptures by. Chancellor More asks him how old one should be before he comes to the study of Scripture? The Messenger replies that he should begin as a young child, and continue with it all his life. Chancellor More agrees as long as the Messenger does not mean that he will learn nothing else. The Messenger replies that the child should at least know the creed, but does not think that sufficient to judge and examine Scripture by. Chancellor More then asks the Messenger to examine an old pagan idolator who was given the Bible for the first time in his own tongue. Would he be able to learn all the articles of the faith from it? He might replies the Messenger. What if he believed the book were all lies, asked Chancellor More? The book affirms its own tale and teaches that it is true, the Messenger responds. That would be true, Chancellor More answers, if it were the same thing to read something and to learn it, but this one point of faith [that Scripture is the word of God] is a great lesson, taught either by God or men, which is taught us without the book, and without which the whole book would do us little service. Even if our old idolator believed the whole book were true, how long would it take to learn the articles of our faith? Certainly not in a week, responds the Messenger. What about our little godson the child we christened just now, is it enough for him to know his creed? Chancellor More then cites some Scripture passages whose literal meaning seem to contradict the creed. The Messenger is forced to admit that reason and the articles of faith are necessary rules for the discussion of Scripture. Even Origen himself, great Scripture scholar that he was, erred in interpreting the Scriptures by denying the existence of Hell. If our child were to read the Scriptures without the help of any commentaries or instruction in the faith, he would in all likelihood fall into the heresy of the Arians, since there are many passages in Scripture that speak only of Christ's manhood, that make him seem less than God. Without the articles of our faith both our child with only his creed, and our old idolator without any creed, are likely to misinterpret the Scriptures.

21. Chap. 25 (137/24--153/18)
22. The Messenger objects that if this is so then God has not written the Scriptures well, if men may be so easily deceived in interpreting them, and that it would be better in such a case if God had not given us the Scriptures at all. Chancellor More replies that God, in the writing of the Holy Scriptures, has used such great wisdom and wonderful temperance, that the strange fashion thereof, reveals that as God so dictated ("indited") it, so was it written down by men. As to the Messenger's objections, many men have thought that they could amend the works of God, but if they had all been part of God's council at the making of the world, it is unlikely that they would all agree to make the same changes, and as likely as not the world would have gone on in the same way till doomsday, except that perhaps we would not all agree to be winged. [More then gives a brief account (138/31--143/3) of the Fall and of Salvation History up till the coming of Christ, that anticipates Lecture 1 of the English Treatise on the Passion (1533--1534).]

23. The law of Christ's faith, the Holy Gospel, consists not only of those words written in the books of the Evangelists, but much more of the substance of our faith which Our Lord said he would write in men's hearts by the secret operation of God and of his Holy Spirit. He first without writing revealed those heavenly mysteries to the apostles and disciples by word of mouth into their hearts, or sometimes, as in St. Peter's case, the faith was inwardly infused by the secret inspiration of God without either any writing or any outward word. They in turn at first without writing by means only of spoken words and preaching spread the Gospel abroad in the world, so that by their words in men's ears, Christ wrote the Gospel in men's hearts before ever any word was written about it in the Scriptures. For so it was fitting that the law of life should be first written in the living minds of men, rather than on the dead skins of beasts. Even if nothing had ever been written in the Gospels, the substance of the faith would never have departed from Christian hearts, but the same Spirit that planted it, should also have watered it, and kept it, and increased it. Though many things have been written in the Scriptures, other things concerning Christ's life and doctrine have been left out. Among the things that have been written down by the secret counsel of the Holy Spirit, there are some too profound to be grasped by human wisdom. The early Christians, who had been instructed by Christ himself, were better able to understand many of these texts, but they never construed them in a way contrary to their faith. The Evangelists and Apostles revealed many great and secret mysteries much more openly and plainly by word of mouth among the Christian people, than they put in the written Scriptures, which were more than likely to fall into the hands of pagans. St. Peter did not fully declare the Godhead of Christ in his first sermon to the Jews, neither did St. Paul teach all the the truths of the Christian faith to the Corinthians all at once, but chose first to feed them with milk and not strong meat. Many things that, are now very obscure in Holy Scripture, were undoubtedly at that time revealed by the apostles, though not all---some matters such as the coming of the antichrist and the last judgement would not have been fully disclosed. Similarly, there are many things that are known and have been done in the Church which were inspired by the Holy Spirit who guided the Christian people to consent and agree together on these matters. The Holy Spirit will continue to guide the Church till the world's end and will never allow Christ's Catholic Church to make any law that would be displeasing to God. The words of Our Lord need no other authority than himself, and are to be believed and obeyed whether written or not written. St. Paul made it clear that some things are to be believed which are not in the Scriptures, when he commanded the Thessalonians to keep both the traditions which he had taught them in writing, and also those taught only by word of mouth. St. Paul also wrote to the Corinthians that they should keep the manner of celebrating the sacrament of the altar, which he had showed them and which had been taught to him by Our Lord himself. The Apostles taught many more things concerning the consecration and ceremonies of the Mass than were ever written in the Scriptures. These traditions have been revealed by God's pleasure to the Church, and passed down from age to age from the beginning without any mention ever being made in Holy Scripture.

24. The foundation of all of Luther's heresies is precisely his claim that one need not believe anything unless it is evidently proved by Scripture. However, no Scripture is so evident, no matter how evident it is, to prove anything he wishes to deny. Furthermore, he declares some texts to be evidently for him that are against him, and others that are against him, like the Epistle of St. James, he declares to be no Scripture at all. He also rejects all the interpretations of the Church Fathers, and by these means claims to have vanquished all those who oppose him. What servant is so lewd that he would obey nothing his master commands him unless his master takes it to him in writing? This is how Luther plays with Christ. There are many things that the Church teaches or has done, that Luther condemns, that are not written in the Scriptures, but which the Church Fathers all agree were taught to the Apostles by Christ, and to the Church by the Apostles, for example the change of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, or that all Christian men and women have the power to administer the sacrament of baptism, or the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of the Virgin Mary. The early Church was so taught by their great master Christ and his Apostles that doubtless many of the common people then had a better understanding of the Gospel of St. John or the Epistles of St. Paul than many who take themselves for great theologians now. The Holy Scriptures are so marvellously constructed that no man however lowly, who walks with the staff of his faith in his hand, and takes the holy Fathers for his guides and is led by God's grace, will ever fall into peril, but will safely reach his journey's end. And at the same time it is such that, if a man is led by spiritual pride to trust in his own wit and despise the old holy Fathers and reject the faith of Christ's Church, that fellow will not fail to sink down over his ears and drown. This is what happened to Arius, Pelagius, Faustus, Manicheus, Donatus, Elvidius, and all the rabble of old heretics, who drowned themselves in damnable heresies, because they were led on by spiritual pride to put faith only in their own learning, preferring their own gay glosses to the common Catholic faith of Christ's Church.

22. Chap. 26 (153/19--162/11)
25. The Messenger replies that he would believe anything in the Scriptures even if all the men in the whole world spoke the contrary. Chancellor More then asks him what would he do if God told him two things, and which would he believe the best? The Messenger replies that he would believe both firmly alike. What if these two things seemed contrary to each other Chancellor More asks? I would believe them both, replies the Messenger, but think I did not understand one of them well. What if you were commanded to believe them both Chancellor More continues? I would believe them both to be true, responds the Messenger, but not in the sense in which they appear to contradict each other. Is the faith of the Church the word of God spoken to his Church or not? Yes, replies the Messenger, God speaks to his Church in the Scriptures. Does God only speak in the Scriptures asks Chancellor More? When God spoke to Moses were these not God's words, or were the words of Christ spoken to his Apostles not God's words until they were written down? The Messenger is forced to admit that they are, but then claims that with the completion of the canon of Holy Scripture, God has revealed his mind sufficiently in Holy Scripture. And not otherwise, asks Chancellor More? What about the changing of the Sabbath day from Saturday to Sunday, or what about the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Our Lady? The Messenger is taking away all authority and belief from every word of God spoken outside the Scriptures.

26. What would you do, Chancellor More asks, if two passages of Scripture appeared to contradict each other, as when in one place Christ is described as being less than his Father, and in another it is stated that he and his Father are one? One applies to his humanity, the other to his divinity, replies the Messenger. But if you were living in the time of Arius, he would have interpreted these two passages differently to prove that Christ was not one substance with the Father. The Messenger is confident that he could prove Arius wrong. Chancellor More points out that many great theologians and Scripture scholars supported Arius. What would you have done if you had been moved by the arguments of both sides, asks Chancellor More? [Merry tale of King Henry VII's almoner and Potiphar's wife.] The Messenger replies that he would have believed with the best. What if you did not know which side were best since both appeared to be grounded upon Scripture asks Chancellor More? The Messenger replies that he would have prayed to God for guidance and chosen the one side that God put on his mind. Chancellor More then asks the Messenger if, after making his prayers, he would entrust his choice to the casting of lots. The Messenger answers that, trusting God to guide his choice, he would indeed cast lots as the Apostles did to find a replacement for the traitor Judas. Lots are lawful, Chancellor More replies, when both alternatives are good, but where one of the choices is perilous and the other not it is foolish to trust in lots. [John More's merry tale about the bag of eels and snakes and the choice of wives.] Returning to the case of the dispute about the nature of Christ, what would the Messenger do if he were unable to decide whether the Arian or Catholic sides were better? What if God himself had revealed the truth to a certain man, and told the Messenger to go to him? Would the Messenger refuse to accept the guidance of this man? The Messenger replies that he would thank God, and go to the man as fast as he could. What if the man said that Arius and all his followers were heretics? The Messenger replies that he would believe the man. What if Arius were to bring many Scripture passages forward to defend his position, and the Messenger then in turn brought forth his own texts of Scripture until there were no more to bring forth, and at this point neither side could persuade the other of the truth of their position from Scripture? What would the Messenger do? Would he believe the interpretations of Scripture put forward by Arius, or interpretations of the man whom God sent the Messenger to? The Messenger replies that he would believe the man. Even if it was not clearly proved from Scripture? The Messenger declares that he would still believe the matters, taught by the man, to be true. Is it the same thing if God commands something by his own mouth or by the Holy Scriptures asks Chancellor More? The Messenger replies that he would accept either except that the commands of Scripture are more sure. What if it were a woman instead of a man? It would not change anything, replies the Messenger. Or a certain well-known company of men and women together? It still would not make any difference, answers the Messenger. Chancellor More replies that in that case the Messenger is fully answered since God has given his commandment that we should believe his Church, and resort to it for the final answer and solution of all points and doubts concerning the salvation of our souls, including all such points that depend on having the right understanding of Holy Scripture.

23. Chap. 27 (162/12--166/29)
27. The Messenger, however, replies by asking where it appears that God commands us in all such things to believe the Church. For that would be in effect only to command us to believe one another since we all together are the Church. On the contrary only Christ himself is to be believed, and not any congregation of men. Chancellor More then asks the Messenger whether it is enough to hear and believe Christ, or besides that also to obey him. To obey him also, replies the Messenger. What if he commands us to believe and obey his Church, are we not bound to do so? Yes, replies the Messenger. Then there is no doubt, responds Chancellor More, since Christ commanded us to hear the Church, as his father commanded us to hear him. What if there are diverse parties within the Church, whom should we believe asks the Messenger? That is very plain, replies Chancellor More. Either in the beginning, the Church had the truth about certain doctrines, and all believed the same doctrines, until some began to change and by their obstinacy went out or were put out of the Church, in which case if I would believe the Church, I must believe those who still believe what all the whole believed before. Or else, if at some time any doctrine was doubted as unrevealed or unknown, which the Church later came to accept either by common determination at a general council, or by the consent of the Christian people throughout Christendom, then, if after that some, either many or few, should take a contrary position, it is still clear which side one should take if one would believe the Church. The Messenger replies that Chancellor More still has not proved that God has commanded us to believe the Church. Chancellor More asks him, did not Christ say when he gathered together his Church of Apostles and disciples and sent them out to preach, that he who hears you hears me? Did he not also say that he who would not hear the Church should be counted as a pagan and a publican? Yes, answers the Messenger. Christ commanded us to believe and obey the Church both in matters of faith and of manners of living. Christ is not only the man you are commanded by God to believe and obey, but the Church is also the person whom we are commanded by Christ to hear, believe and obey. Thus we have been given a sure and infallible way to avoid falling into any misunderstanding about Scripture. We are bound to believe not only the points that God shows us in Scripture but also that God teaches the Church without Scripture, and we are also bound to accept the Church of Christ's teaching concerning the sense and understanding of Holy Scripture. God so inspired the holy Doctors of his Church with the light of his grace for our instruction that the doctrines that they agreed upon, and that many ages have consented to are the true faith and the right way to heaven. For these doctrines were put into their minds by the holy hand of God who makes the Church of Christ all of one mind.

24. Chap. 28 (166/30--176/7)
28. The Messenger replies that we should believe the Church as we believe Christ, as long as they say what Christ says. But if they tell me tales of their own, never mentioned in the Holy Scriptures, should I believe the Church above Christ? We ought rather to believe God alone speaking in his Scriptures himself more than all the glosses of the old Fathers. They arrived at their interpretations by means of wisdom, study, diligence, and the collation of one text with another, by which means men can perceive the meaning of Scripture just as well now as they did then. God's grace is not so worn out that it cannot help us, as it helped them to arrive at the right understanding of Scripture. And where they went wrong God will guide us even to correct them. Chancellor More replies that the Messenger pretends to believe the Church in something, but in fact, since he does not believe the Church in the interpretation of the Scriptures, he believes it in nothing. There is hardly any text so plain that it doesn't need a gloss. [Example of 'twice two makes four'---even that needs a gloss since twice two geese do not make four horses.] Further, though the Messenger claims that he will have no glosses used at all in studying the Scriptures, he insists that one can collate one text with another, and show how they agree together as if that were no gloss. The Messenger objects that we should not believe the Church if it makes a gloss that plainly does not agree with the text of the Scriptures. To whom does it appear so plain, replies Chancellor More, if it appears one way to you, and another way to the whole Church? Chancellor More replies to the Messenger that he clearly believes the Church in nothing, and where it is God's will that the Church should be his judge, he would now be judge over the Church. It would be a great marvel if the Messenger could interpret the Scriptures better than the old holy Doctors and Christ's whole Church. We are not talking about one or two Doctors, but of the consent and common agreement of all the old holy Fathers, and of the common consent of the Church, in such matters where it would be damnable to take the Scriptures in a contrary sense. If the Church Fathers interpreted the Scriptures one way and we interpret them in a contrary way, then clearly either they erred or we do, and that in matters that we are bound by God to believe, this error is damnable. For example the article of faith concerning the equality of Christ as God with his Father, or the belief in the justification of devotion to Saint's relics, images and pilgrimages. It would be damnable and plain idolatry to believe in these things if the contrary were true. But the Church Fathers did not so err. To prove this consider first that their wits were as much as our new men's [i.e. the Lutherans], their diligence as great, their erudition greater, their study as fervent, their devotion hotter, their number far greater, their time continued longer persevering through many ages, the contrary opinions few and those quickly faded away, they being always considered Catholic, and the contrary part heretics. Here might I also lay before you the holiness of their lives and the abundance of graces that appeared thereby. In guiding them God did not use open miracles, but rather the secret supernatural means by which his grace assists good men in these labours, and guides them to perceive the right sense of Holy Scripture. If they had been deceived and guilty of damnable error, then they would not have been made Saints, nor would God have shown them to be so by working many thousands of miracles both in their lifetimes and after their deaths. Since all these holy Doctors and the Church were all of one understanding, it is clear that they were not deceived in the understanding of Holy Scripture. Nonetheless, God's special care is first and foremost for the profit of his Church by whose whole body he sets more than by any member thereof whether Saint, apostle, evangelist or others. When Christ promised St. Peter that his faith would never fail, he meant not only the faith of St. Peter himself, but also the faith of the whole Church. The Messenger admits that he has already accepted this, but reminds Chancellor More that he gave the Messenger leave to raise any other objections as he saw fit. Chancellor More asks the Messenger whether Christ intended to gather a special flock and congregation of people who should serve God and be his special people? The Messenger says that this was indeed so. Was this meant for His times only or was it meant to continue afterwards? It was meant to continue till Doomsday. What if this people should have the knowledge of how to please God in the beginning, but later lose it? The Messenger is thrown off by this point. Chancellor More continues that it is one thing for Christians to fall into sin for they can always repent afterwards, but how can they still be God's people if they lose the knowledge of how to please Him? The Messenger admits that this people must needs have always the knowledge of how to serve and please God, in all matters that we are bound to believe. But then he immediately qualifies this admission by stating that this knowledge has been left to the Church in the Holy Scriptures. Chancellor More expresses extreme frustration at this: "Are you there yet again." I thought we had already proved and agreed that this knowledge came before the Scriptures and many things that are necessary to be believed are not in the Holy Scriptures. What if God had left the Scriptures to the Church locked in a chest and no one had the key? Would that have served? No. What if he had left it open, but no man could read it? The same. What if every man could read it, but none understand it? It would serve just as little. Then clearly the Church must also have the right understanding of the Scriptures. And yet you would have everything known by the Scriptures, and nothing otherwise. In matters where doubt arises about the interpretation of the Scriptures, you would, after making your bitter prayers to God for His grace, take one part by chance [i.e. by casting lots] and stick to it. But I have clearly shown you that God has given his Church the knowledge of the truth in all such things, and you would take the sure way, if in all these points you take for the truth that way that the Church teaches you therein.

25. Chaps. 29--30 (176/8--182/35)
29. The Messenger objects (ch.29) that Chancellor More is proving his case not from Holy Scripture but from man's reason. Chancellor More replies that this reasoning, though it builds further thereon, has Scripture for its foundation. Reason is not always to be mistrusted unless you will not believe that twice two makes four. God proved in Scripture that he would be with his Church till the end of the world. Did not also Christ promise in St. John's Gospel that he would not leave his followers orphans but would come again to them himself, and that the Father would send the Holy Spirit in Christ's name to teach his followers all things and put them in remembrance of everything which Christ has said to them. The Holy Spirit was sent to be with them for ever, not only to dwell with the Apostles. When Christ promised them that the Holy Spirit would teach them all things, he was referring to those things which we are bound to know for our salvation. Christ did not promise that the Holy Spirit would only reveal his words again, but also that the Holy Spirit would teach them many things that they were not yet ready to bear. Christ did not say that the Holy Spirit would write them all truth, but rather that the Holy Spirit would lead them by secret inspiration in their hearts to the right belief in every necessary article of faith, and to the right interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. The Holy Trinity will remain resident with the Church and continue to assist it perpetually, and prevent it from falling into false errors and heresies. Chancellor More then asks (ch.30) the Messenger how, since he will believe nothing but Scripture, he knows that Christ was born of a Virgin. The Gospel told me. Which Gospel tells you this? The Gospel of St. Luke. How do you know that? I read it in the book. Yes, you read such a book, but how do you know that St. Luke made it? Just as we know the authors of other books by the names written on them. But many books have false inscriptions (attributions), and are not written by those named in them. It does not matter who wrote the book, even if the Church mistook the name of some evangelist, the gospel is never the less true. But how do you know that the matter of the book is true? Because God shows me that it is so. But he did not tell you it mouth to mouth. No, he told it to others in the beginning, and it was handed down from age to age and the whole Church believes it is true. This is the very point I am making, replies Chancellor More. We would not even know which were the true gospels if it were not for the Church. There were many that wrote gospels, but the Church by the secret inspiration of God chose out of these only four, and rejected the rest. As St. Augustine says, I would not believe the Gospels, if it were not for the Church [which accepted them as true]. Thus even Luther is forced to admit that the Church can always discern the word of god from the word of men. The Messenger would not believe the Church in anything or accept the tradition of the Church, unless it were proved by Scripture, but he cannot even believe the Scriptures [as the word of God], unless it were proved to be Scripture by the judgement and tradition of the Church. Yes, replies the Messenger, but once I have learned the Scriptures from the Church, I will believe it better than the whole Church. Chancellor More replies that the Church does not command you to believe contrary to the Scriptures. In any point where you would rather believe the Scriptures than the Church, you do not understand the Scriptures for they do not mean anything contrary to what the Church teaches you. How do I know that objects the Messenger? Have you already forgotten, Chancellor More replies, the perpetual assistence of the Holy Trinity guiding the Church, or the prayer of Christ to keep his Church from failing, the sending of the Holy Spirit to guide the Church into all truth, or the continual presence of Christ in the Holy Sacrament.

26. Chap. 31 (182/36--186/7)
30. Chancellor More asks the Messenger (ch.31) why he thinks that God will not allow the Church to consider a book as part of the Holy Scriptures which was not so indeed. Lest men should from this false book conceive wrong doctrines about the faith, the Messenger replies. What if God should allow the Church to mistake the meaning of the real Scriptures, would that be as bad? Yes, answers the Messenger. Even worse, responds Chancellor More, since as long as the Church had a true faith it could still take many good things from this false book and still keep out the errors. But, if the Church should falsely understand the real Scriptures, there would be no way to escape from damnable errors. The King in his book against Luther [Henry VIII's Assertio septem sacramentorum] plainly proves, that since God will not suffer his Church to mistake a book of Scripture for peril of damnable error, and because a like peril would ensue if the Church misinterpreted the meaning of the Scriptures, it must follow that God will no more let the Church misinterpret the Scriptures, than he would let it take a false book for Scripture. The Messenger replies that he is fully satisfied by Chancellor More's argument that the faith of the Church is the right rule to carry with one for the study of Scripture. Chancellor More continues by claiming that in the necessary points of our faith, where to believe falsely would be damnable, that you must believe the Church since it is not their own words that they speak, but the word of God even though it is not in Scripture. The Messenger agrees. Chancellor More adds further that wherever the Scriptures appear to contradict the faith of the Church then the Scriptures in question are being misinterpreted, and that the Scriptures laid against the worship of images, devotion to Saints and going on pilgrimages do not in fact condemn these practices, and that these devotions are good because the Church believes so, and the Church in this has the special assistence of God, and the instruction of the Holy Spirit preventing it from falling into error. The Messenger, however, suddenly interjects that he has another 'tale' to tell Chancellor More that will make everything as uncertain as before. Chancellor More asks what it is. The Messenger replies that they had better dine first and then talk about it after dinner.


Book II (CW 6, pp. 187--246)

Introduction to Book II (II: 1a) (A2)

1. Chap. 1a (187/1--189/7)
31. After dinner Chancellor More and the Messenger retire to the garden and sit down in an arbour. Chancellor More then asks the Messenger what it was that frustrated their long discussion in the morning, and left them as uncertain at the end as when they first began. The Messenger promises to tell him shortly, but first he goes over all the points agreed upon by them both in their previous discussion. Firstly, they considered whether the worshipping of images and relics, and the praying to Saints and going on pilgrimages were lawful or not. The Messenger laid certain texts of Holy Scripture against them, and said that the texts of Holy Scripture had more authority against these practices than the glosses of men who interpret these same texts in such a way as to support these practices. Chancellor More, on the other hand, brought forward in their defence the consent and agreement of the common Catholic faith of the Church. Chancellor More proved both by reason and by Scripture that this faith could not be erroneous, and that the Church could not err in matters that God would have known and believed. This matter Chancellor More proved by miracles. The Messenger objected by bringing forward doubts about the authenticity of these miracles, but Chancellor More proved that the miracles were true and done by God. Else the Church had a wrong belief [about miracles], which would have been damnable. This Chancellor More proved to be impossible. The Messenger then brought forward examples of texts in Holy Scripture that appeared to contradict the common faith of the Church, and argued that in such cases it was reasonable to believe the Scriptures since they were the words of God rather than of men. Chancellor More, however, proved that the common faith of the Church was as much the word of God as Scripture itself, and had as great authority, and that no interpreter of Scripture should presume to judge and examine the Catholic faith of Christ's Church by the Scriptures, but rather by the Catholic faith of Christ's Church he should examine and expound the texts of Scripture. And furthermore, Chancellor More proved that in the study of Scripture the surest way was to follow the writings of the old holy Doctors of the Church, by which we can ascertain and confirm that the faith the Church has now is the same faith that they had then in every age. Futhermore, Chancellor More proved again by reason and the Holy Scriptures that the Church has by the teaching of God and the Holy Spirit, the right understanding of Scripture in all points necessary to be known. And furthermore, that no text of Scripture rightly understood condemned the worshipping of images and relics, and going on pilgrimages, but that all these things are good and pleasant to God, and that the miracles done in these places are done by God, since his special assistence so informs and instructs his Church in so great a matter touching the honour of God, that the Church cannot be suffered to fall into superstition and idolatry instead of faith and honour done to God. These were all the things that were previously agreed between them.


3. On the True Church of Christ (II: 1b--7) (A2)

2. Chap. 1b (189/8--192/24)
32. Chancellor More agrees that the Messenger has rehearsed his summary well. However, the Messenger answers that even granting all these things, they are no nearer a resolution, for, if a man believed that the worship of images were wrong and unlawful, he might indeed grant that the Church cannot err, and that the Church has the right faith, but would perhaps deny the Church to be the people you say it is, but say that the Church consists of those people who believe as he does. Chancellor More replies that if he and his company are the Church, he must tell where his companions are. What if he says the Church is in no one place but is spread through many countries, asks the Messenger? Let him show that there are some companies of known congregations holding these beliefs in different countries, responds Chancellor More. The Messenger replies that in the beginning and for a long time afterwards the Church of Christ in each place hid itself. Chancellor More replies that that was while the persecution lasted, but when the persecution ceased, the Church was soon known in every country. If I were to defend that part, responds the Messenger, I could say perhaps that the Church is that company, which you who call yourselves the Church, call heretics. These company is well-known to each other, but they dare not profess it openly because you that call yourselves the Church persecute them as the "church" of the pagans persecuted the early Christians at the beginning. Chancellor More replies that the heretics may indeed be the sort of "church" that David spoke of when he said "I hate the church [assembly] of evil men" (Ps. 26), but they are not the Church of Christ. The Church of Christ, wheresoever it was throughout the period of persecutions, used to gather together for preaching and prayer secretly in woods and private houses. They also used the sacraments and said mass, but these people do no such things. The Church of Christ always used to flee from and avoid the temples of idols, and took it as a denial of their Christian faith to do any observance therein. But these men [the Lollards?] whom you call the Church come to the churches where images are, which they take for idols, and make all the same religious observances that we do, secretly mocking at the sacraments they receive. The Church of Christ has always had one belief and one faith. If these heretics are the Church you must tell which ones, for among them there are almost as many minds as there are men. The Church of Christ is something which has always endured and lasted, but the sects of the heretics shortly decayed and vanished completely away; to such an extent that their books were also lost even before there were laws to burn them. It is easy to see that God himself destroyed them, and the world turned against them, even though new heretics take up their heresies again. If their opinions had anywhere continually endured, their books, which have long since disappeared, would have been continually preserved also. Thus you can see that these folk are not the Church. The Messenger replies that he can show a place and a company of congregations which is the real Church, namely in Bohemia [the Hussites], and in Saxony where Luther is, and in a large part of the rest of Germany. Among the Lutherans, Chancellor More replies, there are almost as many sects as there are men, and their leaders themselves change their minds and opinions every day. Bohemia is the same case---one faith in the towns and another in the fields; one in Prague and another in the next town. If you assign the Church to Bohemia, you must say in what town, and then also in what street. And yet all these Bohemians receive the sacraments from priests under the authority of the pope.

3. Chaps. 2--3 (192/25--197/34)
33. Chancellor More asks (ch.2) which came first---some church of heretics or the Church of Christ. The Messenger suggests the first, citing the example of the Saducees as a Jewish heretical sect. Chancellor More replies that by the same reckoning [including the Old Testament Jews in the Church] the Church of Christ could be said to begin with Adam, for from the first good man till the last of all, all shall be part of Christ's Church Triumphant in Heaven. But as for Christ's Church on earth, that is the congregation bearing his name and having his right faith, that was gathered together by Christ himself, and spread abroad by his Apostles, and that has continued since, still does and will do so till the end of the world, was this Church, asks Chancellor More, before all the Churches and congregations of heretics or was some one of them first? It was before them all, replies the Messenger, for always the heretics came out of it. Chancellor More responds that heretics are like dead limbs that hang on the body, until they are cut off, but are useless. Those that by the profession of heresies fall away from the body of the Church always wither away. Christ is the Vine [John 15] and we are the branches. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes, but every branch taken from the tree is cast into the fire. And cut off from the stock of the vine are all those that are not grafted in by faith, or that are fallen off by open profession of heresies, or that are cut off for infidelity. Faith is the gate to God's church, and misbelief the gate to the devil's church. Anyone who professes a false belief has gone out of God's church. Even if they keep their heresies secret, they are in the church but not of it in much the same way that a dead hand is a part of the body. When heretics depart from the the Church they show that they were never truly in it in the first place. Thus the Church of Christ is before all the churches of the heretics and all the congregations of the heretics have come out of the Church of Christ. Nor can any sect in Bohemia [the Hussites] be the right church, for the Church, which we call the church, was before them all.

34. The Messenger objects (ch.3) that it might be said that it is not necessary to assign any place where the real church is, but that in every place the church consists of all the good men and chosen people of god that are predestined to be saved wheresoever they are scattered, here one and there one, here two and there two, and that these, though they are as yet unknown in the world, are the very Church of Christ. This grows from worse to worse, replies Chancellor More. This is the very foundation of their heresies. Since they must grant that the real Church cannot be deceived in the right faith nor mistake the Holy Scriptures, and since they see that the Church condemns their ways, they are driven to deny as the Church, the people that are known for the Church. And instead they seek for another, they know not where or of what nature, and build up in the air a church so spiritual that they leave no room in it either for God or good men. If they claim that the Church consists of all the predestined, that can be well said of the Church Triumphant in Heaven, but they are very far from the mark in applying it to the Church Militant here on earth. If the Church consists of none but the predestined, asks Chancellor More, are all the predestined members thereof? Yes. What if he is a sinner or a heretic but is predestined? He is in the Church, replies the Messenger. Then was St. Paul as much a member of the Church while he was a persecutor as when he was an Apostle, and as truly a member before he was born, as he is now in Heaven. The Messenger replies that though perhaps not all those predestined to be saved are in the Church, nonetheless, there are no others in it but the predestined. Chancellor More replies that, as men are changeable, a man that is predestined may many times in his life be wicked. And many that will finally fall into sin and wretchedness, are good some of the time and thus for the time in God's favour. And so by your argument there are good men outside of Christ's Church and wicked men in it, faithful men outside of it and heretics within it, and both without any known reason or good cause why.

4. Chap. 4 (198/1--206/10)
35. The Messenger persists in arguing (ch.4) that the true Church of Christ consists of all those who believe aright and live well even though the world does not know them, and few know each other. Christ says that the gates of Hell will not prevail against his Church, but the gates of Hell prevail against sinners, and therefore it appears well that there are no sinners in his Church but only good folk. And God is present to them and keeps them free from errors, and gives them the right understanding of Holy Scripture. It does not matter how few they are, since Christ promised to be wherever two or three are gathered in his name. When the children of Israel fell into idolatry and worshipped the idols of Baal, there were seven thousand that did not bend their knees to Baal, as appears from the Third [i.e. First] Book of Kings. Where the synagogue and church was then was unknown to man but known to God. So it is today---the true Church of Christ is not the people that seem to be the Church, but some unknown good people scattered here and there, and perhaps they are those who are opposed to worshipping images, and whom we call heretics. Chancellor More replies that this is an argument that Luther himself makes. But, where Luther says that the church or synagogue of the right belief was then unknown, this is not true, for it was well-known in Jerusalem and Judea. Scripture does not say that the seven thousand, who would not bend the knee to Baal, were unknown, but only that there was such a number. But even if we accept the existence of a Church consisting of a secret, unknown, scattered number of good men, would you, asks Chancellor More, have those good men have the same faith that we have that are reputed the Church, or else a different faith? What if they have the same faith, replies the Messenger? Then your newly-built Church will not help your purpose since they will as quickly confirm the worship of images, praying to Saints, and going on pilgrimages as we do, and as deeply condemn as heresy your opinion to the contrary. But what if the true Church, responds the Messenger, believes that all these beliefs are erroneous and as plainly idolatrous as was the worshipping of Baal. If that were so then Christ had not kept seven thousand from the worship of Baal in all the countries of Christendom, except among these new folk of Saxony and Bohemia, whom you yourself admit to be heretics, since they are sects come out of the Church. It would indeed be amazing if true believers were only found among heretics and none in all the great unchangeable countries of Christendom. For in all the countries of Christendom, except among the heretics, those who believe that the worship of images is wrong, come to Church and bow their knees to Baal (if these images are Baals) just as their neighbours do. If this secret, unknown Church is the true Church, where are their preachers and priests who administer the sacraments according to Christ's commandment.

36. If a Turk or Saracen, who converted to Christianity, were told that all the Christian nations were openly idolatrous and believed wrongly, but that there were yet a few good folk among them who believed rightly, but no one could tell him who they were, how could he come to the true faith? The Messenger replies that he might take up the Scriptures. But then, responds Chancellor More, he would be like the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8) who could not understand without a reader, and if he took a wrong reader of a wrong Church then all were lost. Where are all the preachers of this church that will teach us better? For it can be no church if it has no preachers. They have preachers, answers the Messenger, but you will not let them preach but instead you burn them. They are too smart to get burned, replies Chancellor More, for they always forswear their faith to save their lives, unlike the early Christians who were not afraid of martyrdom. This secret church will never serve. The Church of Christ is a Church that is well-known and not hidden. It is Christ's wish that his faith be proclaimed and spread abroad, and not always whispered about secretly. It is folly to claim that Christ would have his Church scattered about secretly, unknown to the world and to each other.

37. Luther is mad when he argues, in his book against Ambrosius Catharina, that since Christ says that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against the Church, and that since the gates of Hell are nothing but the devil, and he prevails against sinners, therefore no folk that sin can be in the Church. This is a very absurd argument that a child of one week's sophistry [i.e training in logic] would be ashamed to make. First, men could deny that the gates of Hell in that place signify the devil, and then Luther's argument is completely wiped away. Many of the old commentators interpreted the gates of Hell as the oppressions of great tyrants and heretics by whose persecutions and heresies (as it were by two gates) many men went to Hell. However, though they destroyed many, the Church was always preserved by God from destruction. Even if we grant Luther's premise that the gates of Hell here signify the devil, we need not grant him his conclusion, since the man that sins and then rises again out of sin first comes within the gates [of Hell] but then breaks out of them again, so that he prevails against the gates, and not the gates against him. By this frantic argument Luther tries to prove that our Church, that is all the Christian people whom we call the Church under the obedience of the Pope, are not the Church, but instead he proves that there is no Church at all, for what church can he find or imagine that does not sin. Therefore, the Church must needs be the common known multitude of Christian men both good and bad together. Our Lord in his mystical body of the Church carries his members, some sick and some whole, and does not cast out anyone from the body for every sin, but only it they do willingly separate, or are put out for their stubborn adherence to heresy.

5. Chaps. 5--7 (206/11--210/27)
38. Since we are agreed, Chancellor More continues (ch.5), that we know the Scriptures by the Church, which Church is it by which we know the Scriptures? Is it not the company and congregation of those nations, that without factions and schism from the remnant, profess the name and faith of Christ. It is by this Church that we know the Scriptures. This Church began with Christ and had after Christ for their head St. Peter, Christ's vicar, and his successors, and by it we have had Christ's holy faith and sacraments and the Scriptures delivered to us, kept and conserved therein by God and his Holy Spirit. No matter how many nations fall away, even if they are more in number, they are all companies and sects of heretics and schismatics cut off and severed from the stock of the Church out of which they came.

39. When Chancellor More has finished speaking (ch.6), the Messenger declares that he agrees with the principal matter of Chancellor More's argument except for one little doubt. He raises the objection that if the Church is none other, as Chancellor More says and as the Messenger now agrees, than the whole common congregation of Christian people both good and bad, except for those who separate themselves out of willfulness, or are put out because of their obstinate faults, it may nonetheless happen that the good men in the Church are those that believe that the worship of images and the praying to Saints are idolatry, and that all the wicked men and those who are deceived in their faith hold the contrary position. Chancellor More finds this a strange argument. Are they good men if they do evil things? No, the Messenger replies. Do they do well that do an act of idolatry, even if it be against their hearts? No again, replies the Messenger. But they all come to church, responds Chancellor More, and worship images, even those who hold the contrary side do so for fear of being discovered. Even if their opinion were good, they themselves do evil. Rather than being condemned, they will first perjure themselves and then abjure their opinion. If your opinion is right, then are there none in the Church that are good, but yet there must be some good men in the Church [if God is truly preserving it from error]. Thus, since those on your side are wicked, it must be that the good are on the other side.

40. I have said nothing (ch.7) so far about all the holy men and Saints that have written against your opinion, nor of the General Councils that condemned your part by the substantial authority of the whole body of Christendom, guided by the secret operation of the Holy Spirit, who would never allow the Church of Christ to persist so long in damnable idolatry if this were truly superstitious, and not a part of true belief and devout religion. The Messenger declares that he can go no further, that his back is to the wall, and he concedes defeat to Chancellor More.


4. More on Images, Relics, Saints and Pilgrimages (II: 8--12) (A1)

6. Chap. 8 (210/28--216/34)
41. Chancellor More now takes up again the charge [already dealt with extensively in Book I] that the worship of images is idolatry, and that the miracles done at images or by invocations to the Saints are illusions of the devil. He declares his intention first to begin with the Saints themselves, and then afterwards to deal with relics, images and pilgrimages. [This will be the matter of the rest of Book II.] He starts off by expressing astonishment at the madness of those heretics who deny that Saints can hear us, and who further claim that even if they do that they cannot help us, and finally that even if the Saints could help us, it would be folly to desire them to help us, when God can do it so much better. Where they doubt that Saints can hear us, I marvel, says Chancellor More, unless they think that the Saints are dead in soul as well as in body. But if their holy souls live then it is hardly likely they will now show less charity in Heaven to men that need their help than when they were on earth, for the worst there are better than the best here. The nearer that folk draw to Heaven the more good will they bear to men here. St. Stephen prayed for those that maliciously killed him. But the Saints in Heaven show even greater charity towards these who honour them. It would be a great marvel to suppose that the Saints in Heaven are unable to help us, when they worked so many miracles here on earth, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles. And since infirmity and weakness are a part of our misery here on earth, and strength and power are a great part of their wealth in Heaven, the Saints are better able now to do good to those that ask for help than they were before.

42. The Messenger admits that the Saints are able to do much by power and by prayer, but declares that he finds it hard to believe that they can hear us and see us in so many different places at once. Chancellor More responds by arguing from analogy. Just as the human eye can see two churches or towns in the distance that are separated from each other and from the viewer by two miles, and also the human ear can hear the voices of many men standing far asunder coming into the ear all at once, even though we do not fully understand how this happens [brief digression on the physics of the eye and the ear], so also the angels and Saints in Heaven being spiritual substances can much more easily do the same, even though we do not perceive by what means they do this. The Messenger now objects that there is no cause or reason why we should pray to Saints when God can as easily hear us and help us. Chancellor More responds that by the same argument there is no need to go to doctors, since God can also much more cheaply and sooner heal us through prayer. The Messenger replies that God wishes us to use them as his instruments. Chancellor More responds by citing the examples of the miracles performed by Elisha and by the Apostles, to prove that God is pleased that we should ask help of his Saints in the same way. God forbids no man to pray for the help of another. When St. Paul exhorts each of us to pray for the other, can it be wrong to pray to the holy Saints in Heaven to do the same? The Messenger objects that by that token we might pray not only to Saints but also to every other dead man. Chancellor More responds that we can both pray for and pray to the suffering souls in Purgatory, but as for the Saints in Heaven we may only pray to them for their intercession, and not for them.

7. Chap. 9 (217/1--225/36)
43. The Messenger objects that we cannot be sure of the authenticity of the relics of the Saints. Does the putting of a man's bones in a shrine make a man a Saint? There are some Saints who are unshrined and others that seem to have two bodies, since the monks at different pilgrimage shrines often claim that they have the bodies of the same Saint. Nor is it unlikely that in some cases the bones that are worshipped as the relics of some Saint are, in fact, as Chaucer says, the bones of some holy Jew's sheep. Many of the Saints we worship have no shrines, and many that have shrines have never been canonised. And even where they have been canonised, the Church may be mistaken, since the men who spoke about their lives and miracles at their canonisations may have lied. St. Augustine says that there are many that are worshipped here as Saints whose souls are buried in Hell. Chancellor More replies that the Messenger has spoken very stoutly, but that all that he has proved is that we may be deceived about some we take for Saints, not that there are no Saints, or that if there are any, that they should not be worshipped or prayed to, unless he were to argue that because we mistake some, therefore we should worship none. By the same argument we should not go to a doctor for fear that we might visit a veterinarian by mistake.

44. Supposing that a great many of the king's friends came into your country, and that you made them great cheer. However, unknown to you some were spies, who were his mortal enemies. Do you think the king would thank you for welcoming his friends, or blame you for giving good cheer to his enemies. He would surely thank me, replies the Messenger, since they both seemed his friends. What would you do if you knew that some, that seemed his best friends, were in fact his worst enemies, but that you did not know which ones. Would you treat them all honourably or turn them all away? I would treat the king's enemies as his friends, replies the Messenger, rather than dishonourably treating his friends as his enemies. The situation with the Saints is similar, responds Chancellor More. But St. Augustine gives me warning that many of the Saints are not Saints at all, replies the Messenger. You are deceived therein, though I have heard many others say the same, responds Chancellor More, for in Book I of De civitate dei and in his book on The Cure of Souls, St. Augustine is not condemning the Saints as such, but is speaking only of costly burial and the making of sumptuous tombs, and the doing of worldly worship to the dead corpses of rich men in their burial processions and funeral services. When the Church, however, after careful searching, finds the life of a man holy, as witnessed by the miracles that God performs at his intercession, and declares a man a Saint, either by canonisation or by the common acceptance of the whole people of Christendom, we ought to trust that God's grace and the aid of his Holy Spirit assisting his Church, has guided the judgement of his ministers and has inclined the minds of his people to consent to it.

45. You say that we should not pay honour to any relics because some are doubtful, for sometimes a whole body or a head is claimed by two or more shrines. However, there are a number of possible explanations for this. Where two shrines claim the same head, one may have the skull and another the lower jaw. Where two or more shrines claim the same Saint, the body may have been translated from one shrine to another, but some of the relics left in the original shrine; or it may happen that two holy men in different countries have the same name, or that in some places whom the relics may have originally belonged to is unknown or mistaken, but that God still wants their relics honoured, even though their names are forgotten. [Digression on the relics from the period of the Viking invasions found at Barking Abbey outside London 'thirty years ago.'] But as for mistaking pig's bones for relics, which nonetheless do no harm to those who mistake them, though God might perhaps allow such things to happen, yet he will not suffer such a thing to last or endure in the Church. The assistance of God and the Holy Spirit preserves the Church from serious error in this matter, just as it does in the matter of the reception and transmission of the Holy Scriptures themselves. For it is God that guides the Church when it comes to an agreement on any matter of faith, and it is God's Holy Spirit that animates his Church and does not suffer it to consent and agree together on any damnable heresy. We know of no examples of Saints in Christ's Church, or before Christ's days, of prophets and patriarchs among the Jews, that were first approved by the Church and later proved to be false. The bones of the Old Testament patriarchs Jacob and Joseph were held in honour by the Jews. The bones of the prophet Elisha worked miracles. The finding of Christ's Cross was proved by miracles. From all this it well appears that God would have not only the souls of the Saints honoured, but also their bodies as well. When God rewards us by performing miracles when we worship the Saints, can we doubt that he wants us to worship them?

8. Chaps. 10--11 (226/1--237/14)
46. The Messenger replies (ch.10) by raising the further objection that neither God nor his Saints can be content with the way in which they are worshipped. Firstly, we detract from the worship of God when we offer to Saints the same worship in every point that we do to God. Secondly, we diminish the worship offered to Saints when we worship the images of the Saints in the same way that we worship the Saints themselves, so that the worship we offer to images and to the Saints makes them equals with God. Furthermore, going on pilgrimages is often an excuse for engaging in revelling and ribaldry, glottony, wantonness, waste and lechery. Surely God and his Saints would rather men stayed at home than offered him such worshipful service. What about superstitious devotions to the Saints? St. Eligius and St. Hippolitus we make horse doctors, St. Appolina a tooth-drawer, St. Syth helps women find their keys, St. Rock and St. Sebastian cure people of the plague, St. Germain looks after children, and St. Wilgefortis, or 'St. Uncumber', uncumbers women of their husbands. [The Messenger then tells two merry tales; the first from Pontano's Dialogues about a procession in honour of St. Martin in which pisspots are poured on the head of his image; and the second about the shrine of St. Walery in Picardy where wax votive offerings of male and female genitalia are hung up on the walls as a protection against gallstones.] The Messenger concludes by asking Chancellor More whether God can be pleased with such superstitious forms of worship which are against all reason, religion, and virtue.

47. Chancellor More responds (ch.11) to the charges made by the Messenger. Firstly, though men kneel and bow to Saints and images, it is not true they worship them in every point like God, since the only thing that makes this worship latria [cf. Book I, chap. 17] is that they worship God with the mind that he is God. If the bodily observance were the thing that made it latria, then we would be guilty of idolatry in the honours we pay to princes, prelates, and popes, whom we often show as great reverence to, as to the images of the Saints. Touching the second point that the people take the images for the Saints themselves, when they prefer one image of Our Lady or one cross over another, all it means is that Our Lord and Our Lady, or Our Lord for Our Lady, shows more miracles at one place than another, and that they intend to visit these shrines. If you ask any woman whether Our Lady of Ipswich or Our Lady of Walsingham is Our Lady, she will tell you that Our Lady is in Heaven, and that an image is an image not the thing indeed. If you ask her whether it was Our Lady of Walsingham or Our Lady of Ipswich that was saluted by Gabriel, or fled into Egypt with Joseph, or stood by the Cross at Christ's Passion, she will tell you that it was neither of them but Our Lady herself that is in Heaven. These things I have already proved to you many times. As for the superstitious manner of worshipping Saints. It is not superstitious to pray to St. Appolina for toothache, since she had her teeth pulled out for Christ's sake when she was martyred. St. Eligius was a horse doctor. Well then, replies the Messenger, we should pray to St. Crispin and St. Crispinian to mend our shoes since they were shoemakers, and to St. Dorathe for flowers since she always carries a basketful. The two situations are not the same. When we pray for health of our bodies or even our horses, it is because doctors often fail in their craft, and to many men the loss of these things causes greater suffering than can be easily borne with. However, the latter things do not pertain to our necessities. Though our chief concern should be to seek Heaven, God the Father, who cares even for the very birds of the air, also cares for our other needs as well, and even wants us to ask him for them. Since Christ did not consider it breaking the Sabbath to pull an animal out of a pit, it is surely lawful also to pray for the healing of a poor man's horse on St. Eligius' day. If our teeth ached, we would not hesitate to ask help of St. Appolina and of God also. And the devil as well, answers the Messenger. [The Messenger tell two merry tales: one about a Lombard who called on the devil for help with his toothache, and the second of a man who in confession admitted that he did not believe in the devil, he had such a hard time believing in God.]

48. Chancellor More finds nothing wrong in the food offerings offered to St. Germain, since they are afterwards given to children or poor people. As for St. Wilgefortis, or 'Uncumber,' the monks are not to blame if women pray in their peevish prayers to be uncumbered of their husbands, since the monks cannot perceive what the women pray for, nor do they greatly benefit from the offerings left to the Saint. The question here is not whether a thing can be done badly, but whether it may be done well. The abuse of a thing does not diminish the goodness of the thing itself. In some countries men go hunting on Good Friday. Whitsuntide is often an excuse for lewd processions. Men get drunk even in Lent, and Christmas is taken commonly as a time of liberty for all manner of lewdness. This does not mean that we should abolish these holy days, but that Christian men be admonished to amend their ways and celebrate these feasts in a more Christian fashion. It would hardly be right to abolish the worshipping of Saints, reverencing of holy relics, and honouring of Saint's images which bring so much benefit to good devout people, just because some folk abuse these things. If men ask evil things of Saints, they do the same to God also. Robbers often pray to God to give them good speed in snatching purses, and to keep them safe doing so. Shall we therefore condemn every man's prayer because thieves pray for success in robbery.

9. Chap. 12 (237/15--246/15)
49. We can be sure that we believe aright not only from reason and authority, but also from all the old holy Saints and Doctors of the Christ's Church, such as St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. Basil, St. Chrysostom, and St. Gregory. That they believed as we do is obvious from their books, and was confirmed by God himself through the miracles he worked on their behalf. On the other hand, among the many sects of obstinate heretics we see no Saint, nor any miracles performed by them. The Messenger objects that since some miracles may be false, it may be that those performed at the intercession of the old holy Doctors of the Church may all be false. For though the assistence of God and his Holy Spirit will not suffer his whole Church to consent to any damnable error, yet he may well suffer them to err in the knowledge and worship of a particular Saint. Chancellor More responds that though it is not a damnable error to take for a Saint one that were none, or a bone for a relic that were none, it would be a damnable error to worship any if we should worship none at all. Since the Church believes we should worship them, that kind of belief cannot be erroneous but must be true, and this kind of worship, therefore, is not idolatry but is good and acceptable to God. Thus our principal matter still stands sure and fast.

50. You dont deny that there are some Saints, and some miracles. No. For what purpose does God work miracles? Was it not to make his messengers known, and establish the truth of his message? Yes. When Christ sent his disciples to preach and gave them the power to work miracles, was it not in order to prove the doctrine they taught? Yes. In the same way of all miracles, we can be most sure of those performed by the Doctors of Christ's Church. But miracles may be feigned, objects the Messenger. It may be so, responds Chancellor More, but not all of them. In the Old Testament Moses vanquished the false miracles of the Egyptian magicians, Daniel discovered the fraud of the priests of the idol Bel, and Elijah by a miracle vanquished the false prophets of Baal. If all our miracles are feigned, let the heretics do some true miracles themselves. The simplest sect of heretics, replies the Messenger, can more than match you with miracles. They may feign them, responds Chancellor More, but the truth will eventually come out. Are there not many sects of heretics? Yes. Are there more Churches of Christ than one? No. Are not all the sects of heretics false? Yes. Then by your argument the false and feigned miracles are much more likely to occur among the sects of heretics than in the Church of Christ. So it seems, replies the Messenger. How comes it then that among all the sects of heretics, there are not any miracles spoken of at all? There may perhaps be some done, replies the Messenger, but they do not speak of them for fear of persecution. If these were false miracles done by the devil it would not help your cause, responds Chancellor More, for then you must grant that the true miracles are only done in Christ's Church. If there had been any true miracles done for any sect of heretics, then that sect had not been a sect of heretics but the true Church, or else God had testified the truth of a false faith which is impossible. Unless there are two Churches of Christ of two contrary faiths, then all the miracles performed in one must be feigned and done by the devil. If the miracles of this sect were true, then all ours are false and our Church is not the true Church, but a false sect of heretics, which I have already proved to you is impossible. To prove more clearly that our side is true, recall that there have never been any miracles done by the leaders of any sects of heretics, but only for the Doctors of our Church. Since there are so many false sects and one true Church, and miracles are not spoken of in any but one, it is a good token that the church in which the miracles are done is the true Church of Christ to which his Holy Spirit gives his special assistence.

51. Among the many great miracles that God has done for his Church, one of the greatest is that among all the sects of heretics that have sprung up and parted out of Christ's Church, none have worked any miracles. It would be a wondrous thing indeed if all the Doctors of our faith were no Saints or saved souls, but instead the Saints in heaven were those who taught heretical doctrines, for that would mean that God has worked miracles only on behalf of those who interpret the Scriptures wrongly and teach false errors, and that God had not sent the Holy Spirit to teach the Church the truth as he said he would, but rather that God himself was deliberately destroying his people---a thing which is impossible for God to do and blasphemy for man to think. Thus the Church of Christ cannot be deceived in that they take for Saints those holy Doctors of the Church. Nor can the doctrine, which these holy Doctors agree and consent to, be false, namely: the praying to Saints, worshipping of images, reverencing of relics, or going on pilgrimages. Since the books of these holy Doctors were written in different regions and in sundry ages, it is clear that these things have been part and parcel of the rites, usages, and belief of Christ's Church continually from the beginning down to the present. Since it has been plainly proved to you that God will not suffer his Church to fall into any damnable error, it is clear that these things are not damnable errors. Consequently, it was proved that no text of Scripture that seems to imply the contrary view, can be so taken or understood, nor that in any matter prejudicial to the faith that the Church can misunderstand the Scriptures. It was also proved that the substantial points of the faith learned from the Church, were among the surest rules found for the right interpretation of Holy Scripture, and that no sect of heretics can be the Church of Christ, but that our Church is the true Church. It was also proved that the miracles daily done in the Church, are neither feigned by men nor done by the devil, but only by the mighty hand of God. All your objections as far as I can see have been sufficiently answered. The Messenger replied that he felt himself fully answered and contented therein, and that he thought himself therewith able to content and satisfy any man, that he should happen to meet with that would hold contrary opinions. Therupon we departed for that day until another time upon which we had agreed to take up the remnant of the things which he had in the beginning intended to raise.


Summary of Books III and IV

List of Figures from Chapter 4

The Structure of the Dialogue Concerning Heresies
CW 6, pp.1--20 Table of Contents (in 1531 and 1557 editions). Taken from the rubrics of the individual chapter heads
CW 6, pp. 21--24 Untitled Preface. Contains fictional narrative of the 'publication history' of the work

Book I
Chapter 1a (24/18--26/7) The letter of credence sent by the Friend to Chancellor More
Chapter 1b (26/8--27/27) The letter of the authour sent with the boke---i.e. Chancellor More's prefatory letter sent with the unpublished 'manuscript' of the dialogue to the Friend
Chapter 1c (27/28--32/24) The credence of the Messenger presented to Chancellor More orally after the reading of the letter of credence. (The 'credence' contains four points or charges that are dealt with in Books III and IV)
Chapter 1d (32/25--35/9) Chancellor More's narrative of his initial interview with the Messenger, after the Messenger has delivered his 'credence'
Chapter 2a (35/10--37/22) Messenger returns next day. Chancellor More promises to reply to the four points of the Messenger's 'credence'. Begins the discussion of the first point, the abjuration of Thomas Bilney, which however is then postponed to Book III, Chapter 2. Sudden and unprepared introduction of 'real' subject matter of the discussion that follows in Books I and II

Heresies A
Chapter 2b (37/23--51/19) Beginning of dialogue proper. Definition of heresies, defence of images, and discussion of The Image of Love (in 1531 and 1557 editions)
1. Chapters 3--17 On saints, images, miracles and pilgrimages (A1)
2. Chapters 18--31 On scripture and the oral tradition of the Church (A2)

Book II
[Chapter 1a (187/1--189/7) Recapitulates argument of Book I (mainly Chapters 18--31)]
3. Chapters 1b--7 On the Catholic Church as the true Church of Christ (A2)
4. Chapters 8--12 More on images, relics, saints and pilgrimages (A1)

Book III
Chapter 1 Recapitulates argument of Book I:18 to Book II:7 (A2) (dialogue-within-a-dialogue between the Messenger and "An Unnamed Critic")

Heresies B
1. Chapters 2--7 "the abiuracyon of the man he spake of" [i.e. Bilney] (35/30) (B.1)
2. Chapters 8--14, 16 "the condempnacyon and burnyng of the new testament / translated by Tyndale" (35/31) (B.2)
[2b. Chapter 15 On the posthumous heresy trial of Richard Hunne (an important example of reported dialogue-within-a-dialogue)]

Book IV
Chapters 1, 2b Introduction to Book IV; Chap. 2b contains a further defence of images (in 1531 and 1557 editions) (cf. I:2 and III:1)
3a. Chapters 2a, 3--9 "somewhat wold I speke of Luther and his secte in generall" (35/32) (B.3)
[3b. Chapters 10--12 'On the examination of the English Lutheran preacher' (an extremely important example of dialogue-within-a-dialogue)] (B.3b)
4a. Chapters 13, 15--18a "the condempnacyon of heretykes vnto dethe" (36/3) (B.4)
4b. Chapter 14 "the warre and fyghtyng agynst infydels" (36/2)
Chapter 18b The Conclusion to the Dialogue Concerning Heresies

Figures 4.1 and 4.2. The Structure of the Dialogue Concerning Heresies


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