Homily 1.8 - Exhortation Against the Fear of Death.

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  1. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    The First Book of Homilies - Homily 9

    Exhortation Against the Fear of Death.

    It is no surprise that the worldly fear to die. For death deprives them of all worldly honors, riches and possessions, in the abundance of which the worldly count themselves happy, as long as they may enjoy them as they please: and otherwise, if they be dispossessed of the same, without hope of recovery, then they think of they are unhappy, because they have lost their worldly joy and pleasure.

    Alas think carnal folk, shall I now depart for ever from all my honours, all my treasure, from my country, friends, riches, possessions, and worldly pleasures, which are my joy and hearts delight? Alas that ever that day shall come, when all these I must bid farewell at once, and never enjoy any of them again. So it is with great cause the wise man says, “O death, how bitter is the thought of you to one at peace among possessions, who has nothing to worry about and is prosperous in everything, and still is vigorous enough to enjoy food!” (Ecclesiasticus 41.1)?

    There are others, to whom this world is not so kind, they are vexed and oppressed with poverty, sickness, or some other adversity, and they fear death, partly because life is sad, and death threatens them, and partly by reason of sickness and painful disease, which are most strong pains and agonies in the flesh, and commonly come to the sick before death, or at least accompany death, when it comes.

    Although these two causes seem great and weighty to the worldly, so they are moved to fear death, yet there is another cause much greater than either of these, for which indeed they have just cause to fear death, and that is the state and condition at the last end death brings all them that have their hearts fixed upon this world, without repentance and amendment. This state and condition is called the second death, which shall ensue for the worldly after this bodily death. And this is the death which indeed ought to be dread and feared: for it is an everlasting loss with no remedy of the grace and favour of God, and of everlasting joy, pleasure, and felicity.

    It is not only the loss for ever of all the eternal pleasures, but also it is condemnation both of body and soul (without either appeal, or hope of redemption) to everlasting pain in hell. To this state death sends the unmerciful and the ungodly rich man (that Luke speaks of in his Gospel, Luke 16.19-23) who living in all wealth and pleasure in this world, and cherishing himself daily with dainty fare, and gorgeous apparel, despised poor Lazarus that lay pitiful at his gate, miserably plagued and full of sores, and also grievously pained with hunger. Both these two died, which sent Lazarus the poor miserable man accompanied by Angels to Abraham's bosom, a place of rest, pleasure, and consolation: but the unmerciful rich man descended into hell, and being in torment, he cried for comfort, complaining of the intolerable pain he suffered in that flame of fire, but it was too late. So to this place bodily death sends those that in this world have their joy and felicity, all them that in this world be unfaithful to God, and uncharitable to their neighbours, so dying without repentance and hope of God’s mercy. So it is no marvel that the worldly fear death, for they have much more cause to do so, than those who consider these things.

    Thus we see three causes why worldly men fear death:

    First.
    One, because they shall lose thereby their worldly honours, riches, possessions, and all their hearts desires:

    Second.
    Another, because of the painful diseases, and bitter pangs, which commonly men suffer, either before, or at the time of death:

    Third.
    The chief cause above all other, is the dread of the miserable state of eternal damnation both of body and soul, which they fear shall follow, after their departing from the worldly pleasures of this present life.​

    For these causes are all mortal men, (who are given to the love of this world) both in fear, and state of death, through sin, as the holy Apostle says, Hebrews 2.15, so long as they live here in this world. But everlasting thanks to Almighty God forever, none of these causes, nor all of them altogether, that can make a true Christian afraid to die, who is the very member of Christ, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, 1 Corinthians 3.16, the Son of God, and the very inheritor of the everlasting kingdom of heaven. Plainly contrary, they conceive great and many causes, grounded on the infallible and everlasting truth of the Word of God, which moves them not only to put away the fear of bodily death, but also for the many benefits and singular advantages which ensue for every faithful person by reason of the same, to wish, desire, and long heartily for it.

    For death shall be to them no death at all, but a very deliverance from death, from all pains, cares, and sorrows, miseries, and wretchedness of this world, and the very entry into rest, and a beginning of everlasting joy, a tasting of heavenly pleasures, so great, that neither tongue is able to express, neither eye to see, nor ear to hear them: nor any earthly person’s heart to conceive them. So exceeding great benefits they be, which God our heavenly Father by his mercy, and for the love of his Son Jesus Christ, has laid up in store, and prepared for those who humbly submit themselves to God, and evermore unfeignedly love him from the bottom of their hearts.

    And we ought to believe that death being slain by Christ, cannot keep anyone that steadfastly trusts in Christ, under perpetual tyranny and subjection: but that they shall rise from death again to glory at the last day, appointed by Almighty God, as Christ our head did rise again, according to God's appointment on the third day. For St. Augustine says, The head going before, the members trust to follow and come after. And St. Paul says, If Christ be risen from the dead, we shall rise also from the same.

    And to comfort all Christian persons herein, holy Scripture calls this bodily death a sleep, wherein one’s senses be, as it were, taken for a season, and yet when they awake, they are fresher than they were when when went to bed. So although we have our souls separated from our bodies for a season, yet at the general Resurrection we shall be renewed, beautiful, and more perfect than we are now. For now we be mortal, then shall we be immortal: now infected with divers infirmities, then void of all mortal infirmities: now we are subject to carnal desires, then we shall be spiritual, desiring nothing but God’s glory, and things eternal.

    Thus is this bodily death a door or entering into life, and therefore not so much dreadful, if it be rightly considered, as it is comfortable, not a mischief, but a remedy for all mischief, no enemy, but a friend, not a cruel tyrant, but a gentle guide leading us not to mortality, but to immortality, not to sorrow and pain, but to joy and pleasure, and that to endure for ever, if it be thankfully taken and accepted as God’s messenger, and patiently born of us for Christ's love, that suffered most painful death for our love, to redeem us from death eternal.

    St. Paul says, our life is hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3.3-4): but when our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory. Why then shall we fear to die, considering the many comforting promises of the Gospel, and of Holy Scriptures? God the Father has given us everlasting life, St. John says, to you that believe in the Name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have everlasting life (1 John 5.11-13) and that you do believe upon the Name of the Son of God.

    And our Saviour Christ says, those who believe in me have life everlasting, and I will raise them from death to life on the last day (John 6.40). St. Paul also says, that Christ ordained and made of God our righteousness, or holiness and redemption, to the intent that those who glory should glory in the Lord ( 1 Corinthians 1.30-31). St. Paul contends and sets little by all other things, esteeming them compared to that which he has at a very great price, that he might be found in Christ, to have everlasting life, true holiness, righteousness, and redemption (Philippians 3.8-9).

    St. Paul makes a plain argument. If our heavenly Father would not spare his own natural Son, but gave him to death for us: how can it be, that with him he should not give us all things (Romans 8.32)? Therefore if we have Christ, then we with him, and by him, have all the good things we can in our hearts wish or desire, as victory over death, sin, and hell: we have the favour of God, peace with him, holiness, wisdom, justice, power, life, and redemption, we have by him perpetual health, wealth, joy, and bliss everlasting.
     
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  2. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    SECOND PART OF THE SERMON AGAINST FEAR OF DEATH.

    We have seen, that there are three reasons people commonly fear death. First, the sorrowful departing from worldly goods and pleasures. The second, the fear of the pangs and pains that come with death. Last and principal cause is, the horrible fear of extreme misery, and perpetual damnation in time to come. None of these three causes trouble good people, because they stay strong by true Faith, perfect Charity, and the sure Hope of endless joy and bliss everlasting.

    They have great cause to be full of joy who are joined to Christ with true Faith, steadfast Hope, and perfect Charity, and no fear death nor everlasting damnation. For death cannot deprive them of Jesus Christ, nor any sin condemn them that are grafted surely in him, who is their only joy, treasure, and life. Let us repent our sins, amend our lives, trust in his mercy and satisfaction, and death can not take him from us, nor us from him.

    For then, as Saint Paul says, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s own. And again he says, Christ died and rose again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and the living. Then if we are the Lord’s own when we are dead, it must needs follow that such temporal death, not only cannot harm us, but also that it is much to our benefit, and joins us to God more perfectly. And so the Christian heart may surely be confident by this infallible or undeceivable truth of Holy Scripture.

    It is God, says St. Paul, who has prepared us for this very thing, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee (2 Corinthians 5.5). Therefore let us be always of good comfort, for we know that so long as we are in the body, we are, as it were, far from God in a strange country, subiect to many perils, walking without perfect sight and knowledge of Almighty God, only seeing him by Faith in Holy Scripture. But we have a courage and desire rather to be at home with God and our Saviour Christ, far from the body, where we may behold his Godhead as he is, face to face, to our everlasting comfort.

    These are St. Paul's words in effect, whereby we may perceive, that the life in this world, is resembled and likened to a pilgrimage in a strange country, far from God, and that death, delivering us from our bodies, sends us straight home to our own country, and makes us to dwell presently with God for ever, in everlasting rest and quietness: So to die, is no loss, but profit and gain for all true Christians.

    What did the thief that hanged on the Cross with Christ, lose by his bodily death? And how much did he gain by it? Did not our Saviour say to him, Today you shall be with me in Paradise? And Lazarus that pitiful person, that lay before the rich man's gate, pained with sores, and wracked with hunger, did not death highly profit and promote him, which by the ministry of Angels sent him to Abraham's bosom, a place of rest, joy, and heavenly consolation (Luke 16.22)?

    Let us think, good Christians, for Christ has prepared and made ready for us the same joy and felicity he prepared for Lazarus and the thief. So let us stick to his salvation, and gracious redemption, believe his word, serve him from our hearts, love and obey him, and whatever we have done against his most holy will, now let us repent in time, and study to correct our life: and doubt not, but we shall find him as merciful to us, as he was to Lazarus and to the thief, whose examples are written in Holy Scripture for the comfort of sinners, and subject to sorrows, miseries, and calamities in this world, that we should not despair in God’s mercy, but ever trust we have forgiveness of our sins, and life everlasting, as Lazarus and the thief had.

    Thus I trust every Christian perceives by the infallible or undeceivable word of God, that bodily death cannot harm nor hinder those that truly believe in Christ, but shall profit and promote the Christian souls, which being truly penitent for their offences depart hence in perfect Charity, and in sure trust that God is merciful to them, forgiving their sins, for the merits of Jesus Christ his only natural Son.

    The Second Cause Why Some Fear Death.
    The second cause why some doe fear death, is sore sickness and grievous pains, which partly come before death, and partly accompany or come with death, whenever it comes. This fear is the fear of the frail flesh, and a natural passion belonging vnto the nature of a mortal man. But true faith in God's promises, and regard of the pains and pangs which Christ upon the crosse suffered for us miserable sinners, with consideration of the joy and everlasting life to come in heaven, will mitigate and asswage lesse those pains, and moderate or bring into a meane this fear, that it shall never be able to overthrow the hearty desire and gladness, that the Christian soul has to be separated from this corrupt body, that it may come to the gracious presence of our Saviour Jesus Christ. If we believe steadfastly the word of God, we shall perceive that such bodily sickness, pangs of death, or whatever dolorous pangs we suffer, either before or with death be nothing else in Christian men, but the rod of our heavenly and loving Father, wherewith he mercifully corrects us, either to true and declare the faith of his patient children, that they may be found laudable, glorious, and honourable in his sight, when Jesus Christ shall be openly shown to be the judge of all the world, or else to chastise and amend in them whatever offends his fatherly and gracious goodness, lest they should perish everlastingly.

    And this his correcting rod is common to all that are truly his. So let us cast away the burden of sin that lies too heavy in our necks, and return to God by true penance and amendment of our lives, let us with patience run this course that is appointed, suffering, for his sake that died for our salvation, all sorrows and pangs of death, and death itself joyfully, when God sends it to us, having our eyes fixed and set fast ever upon the head and Captain of our faith, Jesus Christ: who, considering the joy that he should come to, cared neither for the shame nor pain of death, but willingly conforming and framing his will to his Father's will, most patiently suffered the most shameful and painful death of the cross, being innocent and harmless (Philippians 2.8).

    And now therefore he is exalted in heaven, and everlastingly sits on the right hand of the throne of God the Father. Let us call to our remembrance therefore the life and joys of heaven, that are kept for all them that patiently suffer here with Christ, and consider that Christ suffered all his painful passion by sinners, and for sinners: and then we shall with patience, and the more easily suffer such sorrows and pains, when they come. Let us not set at light the chastising of the Lord, nor grudge at him, nor fall from him, when of him we be corrected: for the Lord loves those he corrects, and beats those he takes to his own child. What child, says St. Paul, whom the Father loves, and does not chastise? If ye are without God’s correction, who all his well beloved and true children have, then you are illegitimate, smally regarded of God, and not true children (Hebrews 12.6, 8).

    Therefore seeing that when we have on earth our carnal fathers to be our correctors, we fear them, and reverently take their correction: shall we not much more be in subjection to God our spiritual Father, by whom we shall have everlasting life? And our carnal fathers sometime correct us even as it pleases them, without cause: but this Father justly corrects us, either for our sin, to the intent we should amend, or for our comfort and wealth, to make us thereby partakers of his holiness.

    Furthermore, all correction which God sends us in this present time, seems to have no joy and comfort, but sorrow and pain, yet it brings with it a taste of God’s mercy and goodness, towards them who be so corrected, and a sure hope of God’s everlasting consolation in heaven. If then these sorrows, diseases, and sickness, and also death itself be nothing else but our heavenly Father's rod, whereby he certifies us of his love and gracious favour, whereby he tries and purifies us, whereby he gives to us holiness, and certifies us that we be his children and he our merciful Father: shall not we then with all humility, as obedient and loving children, joyfully kiss our heavenly Father's rod, and ever say in our heart, with our Saviour Jesus Christ, Father, if this anguish and sorrow which I feel, and death which I see approach may not pass, but that your will is that I must suffer them, your will be done.
     
  3. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    THE THIRD PART OF THE SERMON OF THE FEAR OF DEATH.

    In this Sermon against the fear of death, two causes were declared, which commonly moves the worldly to be in much fear to die, and yet the same does not trouble the faithful and good livers when death comes, but rather gives them occasion to greatly rejoice, considering that they shall be delivered from the sorrow and misery of this world, and be brought to the great joy and felicity of the life to come.

    The Third Cause Why Death is to be Feared.

    Now the third and special cause why death in deed is to be feared, is the miserable state of the worldly and ungodly after death. This is no cause at all why the godly and faithful should fear death, but rather to the contrary, their godly conversation in this life, and belief in Christ, cleaving continually to his mercy, should make them very sure of life hereafter, that remains for them without doubt after bodily death. This immortal state, after this transitory life, where we shall live evermore in the presence of God, in joy, and rest, after victory over all sickness, sorrow, sin, and death: there are many plain places of Holy Scripture, which confirm the weak conscience against the fear of all such distress, sickness, sin, and bodily death, to satisfy such trembling and ungodly fear, and to encourage us with comfort and the hope of a blessed state after this earthly life.

    St. Paul prays for the Ephesians, that God the Father of Glory would give to them the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation, that the eyes of their hearts might be given light and know him, and perceive how great are the things he has called them to, and how rich inheritance he has prepared after this life, for them that work in his power (Ephesians 1.17-18). And St. Paul himself declares the desire of his heart, which was to be dissolved and released from his body, and to be with Christ, which, as he said, was much better for him, although to them it was more necessary that he should live, which he did not refuse, for their sakes, Philippians 1.23-24. Even like as St. Martin said, Good Lord, if I be necessary for the good of your people, I refuse no labour: but otherwise for myself, I ask you to take my soul.

    Now the holy Fathers of the old law, and all faithful and righteous who departed before our Saviour Christ's ascension into heaven, did by death depart from troubles into rest, from the hands of their enemies, and into the hands of God, from sorrows and sickness, to joyful refreshing in Abraham's bosom, a place of all comfort and consolation, as the Scriptures does plainly by many words testify. The Book of Wisdom says, that the righteous men’s souls are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them (Wisdom 3.1, 3). They seemed to the eyes of foolish to die, and their death was counted miserable, and their departing out of this world wretched, but they are at rest. And another place says that the righteous shall live for ever, and their reward is with the Lord, and their minds are with God, who is above all: therefore they shall receive a glorious kingdom, and a beautiful crown at the Lord's hand. And in another place the same book says, The righteous, though prevented with sudden death, nevertheless they shall be refreshed (Wisdom 4.7).

    Of Abraham's bosom, Christ's words are plain, that a Christian needs no more proof of it. Now then, if this were the state of the Holy Fathers and righteous men, before the coming of our Saviour, and before he was glorified: how much more then ought all we to have a steadfast faith, and a sure hope of this blessed state and condition, after our death? Seeing that our Saviour has now performed the whole work of our redemption, and is gloriously ascended into heaven, to prepare our dwelling place with him, and has said to his Father, Father, I desire those, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, (John 17.24).

    And we know, that whatever Christ wills, his Father wills the same. So it has to be, if we are his faithful servants, our souls shall be with him, after our departure from this present life. Saint Stephen when he was stoned to death, even in the midst of his torments, what was his mind most upon? when he was full of the Holy Spirit, says Holy Scripture, having his eyes lifted up to heaven, he saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. This truth, after he had confessed boldly before the enemies of Christ, they took him out of the city, and stoned him, who cried to God, saying, Lord Jesus Christ, receive my spirit (Acts 7.55, 59).

    And does not our Saviour say plainly in Saint John's Gospel, truly, I say to you, you that hear my word, and believe on him who sent me, have everlasting life, and come not into judgement, but shall pass from death to life (John 5.24)? Shall we not then think that death is precious, the means by the which we pass into life?

    Therefore it is a true saying of the prophet, the death of the holy and righteous, is precious in the Lord's sight (Psalms 116.15). Holy Simeon, after that he had his heart's desire in seeing our Saviour, that he ever longed for in his life, he embraced, and took him in his arms, and said, Now Lord, let me depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen the Saviour, which you have prepared for all nations (Luke 2.29, 31).

    It is truth therefore, that the death of the righteous is called peace, and the benefits of the Lord, as the Church says, in the name of the righteous departed out of this world: My soul turns you to your rest, for the Lord has been good to you, and rewarded you (Psalms 116.7). And we see by Holy Scripture, and other ancient histories of martyrs, that the holy, faithful, and righteous, ever since Christ's ascension, or going up, in their death did not doubt, but that they went to Christ in Spirit, which is our life, health, wealth, and salvation.

    John in his Holy Revelation, saw a hundred forty and four thousand virgins and innocents, of whom he says, These follow the Lamb Jesus Christ wherever he goes. And shortly after in the same place he says, I heard a voice from heaven, saying to me, write, happy and blessed are the dead, who die in the Lord: from henceforth, surely says the spirit, they shall rest from their pains and labours, for their works follow them (Revelations 14.4, 13): so that then they shall reap with joy and comfort, that which they sowed with labours and pain.

    They that sow in the spirit, of the spirit shall reap everlasting life. Let us therefore never be weary of well doing, for when the time of reaping or reward comes, we shall reap without any weariness everlasting joy. Therefore while we have time, as Saint Paul exhorts us, let us do good to all (Galatians 6.8-10), and not lay up our treasures in earth, where rust and moths corrupt, which rust (Matthew 6.19) and as Saint James says, shall bear witness against us at the great day, condemn us, and shall, like burning fire, and torment our flesh (James 5.3).

    Let us beware therefore, as we tend our own wealth, that we be not in the number of those miserable, covetous, and wretched folk, which Saint James bids mourn and lament for their greedy gathering, and ungodly keeping of goods. Let us be wise in time, and learn to follow the wise example of the wicked steward. Let us so wisely order our goods and possessions, committed to us here by God for a season, that we may truly hear and obey this commandment of our Saviour Christ: make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. (Luke 16.9).

    Riches are called wicked, because the world abuses them to all wickedness, which are otherwise the good gifts of God, and the instruments whereby God's servants do truly serve him in using of the same. He commanded them not to make them rich friends, to get high dignities and worldly promotions, to give great gifts to rich men that have no need thereof, but to make them friends of poor and miserable, to whom, whatever they give, Christ takes it as given to himself. And to these friends Christ in the Gospel gives great honour and preeminence, that he says, They shall receive them that do good to them into everlasting houses: not that they shall be our rewarders for our well doing, but that Christ will reward us, and take it to be done to himself, whatever is done to such friends.

    Thus by making poor wretches our friends, we make our Saviour Christ our friend, whose members they are: whose misery he takes for his own misery, so their relief, succour, and help, he takes for his succour, relief, and help, and will as much thank us and reward us for our goodness shown to them, as if he himself had received like benefit at our hands, as he witnesses in the Gospel, saying, Whatever you have done to any of these simple persons, who believe in me, that have you done to me (Matthew 25.40).
     
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  4. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    Therefore let us diligently foresee, that our faith and hope which we have conceived in Almighty God, and in our Savior Christ waxe not faint, nor that the love which we bear in hand waxes not cold: but let us study daily and diligently to show ourselves to honour and love God, by keeping of his commandments, by doing good to our needy neighbours, relieving by all means that we can their poverty with our abundance and plenty, their ignorance with our wisdom and learning, and comfort their weaknesses with our strength and authority, calling all back from evil. Providing godly counsel and a good example, persevering still in well doing, so long as we live. So shall we not need to fear death for any of the three causes we have mentioned, nor yet for any other cause that can be imagined.

    On the contrary, considering the many sicknesses, troubles, and sorrows of this present life, the dangers of this perilous pilgrimage, and the great encumbrance which our Spirit has by this sinful flesh and frail body subject to death. Considering also the many sorrows and dangerous deceits of this world on every side, the intolerable pride, covetousness, and lechery, in time of prosperity, the impatient murmuring of them who are worldly, in time of adversity, and cease not to withdraw and pluck us from God, our Saviour Christ, from our life, wealth, or everlasting joy and salvation. Considering also the innumerable assaults of our ghostly enemy the devil, with all his fiery darts of ambition, pride, lechery, vainglory, envy, malice, detraction, or backbiting, with other his innumerable deceits, machinations, and snares, whereby he goes busily about to catch all under his dominion, ever like a roaring Lion, by all means searching whom he may devour (1 Peter 5.8).

    The faithful Christian who considers all these miseries, perils, and inconveniences, of this life on earth) and on the other part considers the blessed and comfortable state of the heavenly life to come, and the sweet condition of them that depart in the Lord, how they are delivered from the continual encumbrances of their mortal and sinful body, from all the malice, crafts, and deceits of this world, from all the assaults of their ghostly enemy the Devil, to live in peace, rest, and endless quietness, to live in the fellowship of innumerable Angels, and with the congregation of the perfect and the just, as Patriarchs, Prophets, Martyrs, and Confessors, and finally into the presence of Almighty God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ.

    As we consider all these things, and believe them assuredly, as they are to be believed, even from the bottom of our heart, being established in God in this true faith, having a quiet conscience in Christ, a firm hope, and assured trust in God's mercy, through the merits of Jesus Christ to obtain this quietness, rest, and everlasting joy, shall not only be without fear of bodily death, when it comes, but certainly, as St. Paul did, so shall we gladly, according to God's will, and when it pleases God to call us out of this life, greatly desire in our heart, that we may be rid from all these occasions of evil, and live ever to God's pleasure (Philippians 1.23), in perfect obedience to his will, with our Saviour Jesus Christ, to whose gracious presence the Lord of his infinite mercy and grace brings us, to reign with him in life everlasting: to whom with our Heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit be glory in world without end. Amen.
     
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  5. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    @JonahAF - could you please change the title of this thread by making the 1.8 1.9 because clearly it is the 9th Homily in the First Book of Homilies.

    Sorry, I will try and be more careful.
     

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