“But as God is my iudge, and also my conscience, and all my wordes, and dedes, and all maner of my lyuynge, and conuersacion, I dyd neuer entende, to speake agaynst the byshops, or els any other man, further than theyr lyuyng, and conuersacion were agaynst the blessed worde of God, and the holy doctrine of Christes churche”
So wrote Robert Barnes in his supplication to King Henry VIII in 1531, posted today in honor of his commemoration. Translated from the Middle English: “But as God is my judge and also my conscience, and all my words and deeds and all manner of my living and conversation, I never intended to speak against the bishops or else any other man, further than their living and conversation were against the blessed Word of God and the holy doctrine of Christ’s Church.”
An Englishman and prior at Cambridge, Barnes was a convert to Lutheranism who actually studied under Martin Luther after fleeing England at threat of execution (after two years of house arrest for heresy). Barnes returned to England to deliver a letter from Luther to Henry the Eighth, who had hoped that these new Protestants would give him permission to divorce his wife when the Catholics refused. They did not, and it kicked off a precariously dangerous relationship between Barnes and the King, who needed political ties to the German Lutheran princes and was thus willing to offer him the crown’s protection. Under this reluctant protection, Barnes was able to preach in his home country. He was eventually martyred in 1540, burned to death with two other Protestant preachers.
For a more detailed rundown on Robert Barnes, written by 2011 Fort Wayne grad, Rev. Anthony Dodgers, CLICK HERE.
And since Middle English is still largely accessible to English speakers, here is another excerpt from “A Supplication to King Henry VIII” (or “A Supplication Vnto the Most Gracyous Prince Kynge Henry The. VIIJ.”). Middle English is surprisingly easy to pick up, especially when you read it out loud and can then hear how familiar the words sound. Keep in mind that y = i, i = j, “v” is interchangeable with “u”, “e” is often left off or added to the end of words, and that there was no spelling or grammar standard at the time.
(Please note that I have also included a translation immediately following the Middle English, for those who don’t want to try deciphering the original wall of text.)
Onely faythe iustifieth before God.
Nowe, yf your grace do not take vpon you, to here the disputacyon, and the probacyon of this artycle out of the grounde of holy scripture, my lordes the byshops wyll condempne it, afore they rede it, as theyr maner is to do with al thynges, that pleaseth them not, and whiche they vnderstande not: and than crye they heresy, heresy, an heretyke, an heretyke, he ought not to be herde, for his matters be condempned by the churche, and by holy fathers, and by all longe customes, and by all maner of lawes. Vnto whom, with your graces fauoure, I make this answere. I wolde know of them, yf all these thynges, that they haue here reckened can ouercome Christe, and his holy worde, or set the holy ghost to schole? And yf they can not, why shulde not I than be herde? that do requyre it in the name of Christ? and also bryng for me his holy worde, And the holy fathers, whiche haue vnderstande Gods worde as I do? Therfore thoughe they wyll no here me, yet muste they nedes here them. In holy scripture, Christe is nothynge elles, but a sauyour, a redemer, a iustifier, and a perfecte peace maker, betwene God, and man. this testimonye dyd the aungell gyue of hym in these wordes. He shal saue his people from theyre synnes. And also saynt Paule, Christe is made our ryghtwisnes, our satisfaction, and our redempcion. Moreouer, the prophete wytnesseth the same, sayinge, For the wretchednes of my people, haue I stryken hym. So that here haue we Christe with his propertyes. Nowe yf we wyll truely confesse Christ, than must we graunt with our hertes, that Christ is all our iustice, all our redemption, all our wysdome, all our holynes, all alonly the purchaser of grace, alonly the peace maker betwene God and man. Breuely all goodnes that we haue, that it is of hym, by hym, and for his sake onely. And that we haue nede of nothyng towardes our saluacyon, but of hym onely, and we desyre no nother saluacyon, nor no nother satisfaction, nor any helpe of any other creature, other heuenly or earhtly, but of hym onely, for as saynt Peter saythe, there is no nother name gyuen vnto men, wherin they muste be saued. And also saynt Paule saythe, by hym are all that beleue iustified from all thynges. Moreouer saynt Johnn wytnesseth the same, in these wordes. He it is, that hath optayned grace for our synnes. And in a nother place. He sente his sonne to make agrement, for our synnes.
TRANSLATION (with added paragraph breaks for readability):
Now, if your grace does not take it upon yourself to hear the disputation and the probation of this article from the grounds of Holy Scripture, my lords the bishops will condemn it before they read it as their manner is to do with all things that do not please them and which they don’t understand: and then cry, “Heresy, heresy! A Heretic, a heretic! He ought not to be heard for his matters are condemned by the Church and by holy fathers and by all long customs and all manner of laws.” Unto whom, with your grace’s favor, I make this answer:
I would know of them if all these things that they have here reckoned can overcome Christ and His holy Word, or set the Holy Ghost to school? And if they cannot, why should I not then be heard? That do require it in the name of Christ? And also bring for me his Holy Word, and the holy fathers, which have understood God’s Word as I do?
Therefore, though they will not hear me, yet must they need hear them. In Holy Scripture, Christ is nothing else but a savior, a redeemer, a justifier, and perfect peacemaker between God and man. This testimony did the angel give of Him in these words: “He shall save His people from their sins.” And also Saint Paul: “Christ is made our righteousness, our satisfaction, and our redemption.” Moreover, the prophet witnesses the same, saying, “For the wretchedness of my people have I stricken him.” So that here have we Christ with his properties.
Now if we will truly confess Christ, then must we grant with our hearts that Christ is all our justice, all our redemption, all our wisdom, all our holiness, all alone the purchaser of grace, alone the peacemaker between God and man. Truly all goodness that we have is of Him, by Him, and for His sake only. And that we have need of nothing towards our salvation but of Him only, and we deserve no other salvation nor another satisfaction nor any help of any other creature, either heavenly or earthly, but of Him only, for as Saint Peter says, “There is no other name given unto men, wherein they must be saved.” And also Saint Paul says, “By Him are all that believe justified from all things.” Moreover Saint John witnesses the same, in these words: “He it is, that has obtained grace for our sins.” And in another place: “He sent His Son to make agreement* for our sins.”
*”atonement” could likely stand in for “agreement” here