A Sermon Preached at Pauls Crosse the XIIII Day of December

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Introductory notes

Thomas Lever (1521–1577) was a Church of England clergyman educated at St John's College, Cambridge, where he graduated BA in 1541–2, became a senior fellow and college preacher in 1548. This selection is from his Paul's Cross sermon on 14 December 1550 which, along with his other sermons of 1550, attacked the rich for their exploitation of the poor commons, the church for its hypocrisy, and the government for its corruption and neglect of education. In the selected sermon, Lever derides corn hoarding as an actual abuse as well as using it as a metaphor for the exploitation of the poor by the rich. The sermon demonstrates his repertoire of images of gluttony, criminal activity, and abuses of power. Lever’s dynamic, fiery, and uncompromising reformist preaching and activities were monitored after the northern uprising of 1569–70. The three sermons of 1550 were first published together in 1572.

A Sermon
preached at Pauls
Crosse, the. xiiii. day
of December, by
Thomas Lever.
Anno. M. D.

Cum privilegio ad imprimendum solum. Per septennium




Alas most gracious reverente Lordes and maysters, if ye use the servyse, or hear the ad vyse of false crafty flatterers, ye shall there wyth be so blynded that ye can neyther per ceyve by your selves, nor beleve when as ye be playnely and faythfully tolde, that manye of your owne doynges, commyng of mans freyltye, do tend muche unto the displeasure of God, dyshonour of the kynge, and dyscredyt of your selves, beyng moste contrarye to that reverent zele and faythful love towards God, the kyng, and the commen wealth, which zeleand love god of hys goodnes hath graffed in your hartes, and the devyll by mannes freyl dedes covered in sylence or colored with prayse of flatterers, laboreth to deface, pervert and destroye.

As God whyche searcheth the secretes of mans hart, doth beare me recorde, I do suppose, and thynke that you dooe so lovyng lye drede God, reverence the kyng, and regarde this realme, &your owne honors, that beyng charged wyth the oversight and provision of castels, holdes, and fortes, made and kept for the safegarde of thys realme, ye coulde not wyttyngly be hyred to sell one of them unto [Page] the kynges ennemyes, for al the treasures in the world. And yet beyng craftelye deceyved wyth [...]attery, ye use a daungerous practyse in very many of them.

Forther be some of them sclenderly assauted at certayne tymes of feble enemyes: and other continuallye beseged eyther wyth open forse or craftye conveyaunce of fearce, cruel, and perylous enemies. And now crafty flatterers whych have once served for theyr wages in tyme and place of the sclender assalte, doo afterwardes requyre and perswade you for that servyse to geve them the spoyle of other holdes remayning continuallye in more daunger Truly Frenchmen and Scottes be but feble ennemyes, and at certayne tymes do sclenderly assalt castels, towers, and such maner of holdes: The devyl seking lyke a ro ryng Lyon, whom he may devoure, nyghte & day, wynter and sommer, wyth a wonderful forse of wycked spirites, doth ever besyege by shopryckes, shyres, townes, and parishes.

If these places be not wel furnished with stout and true soldiers of bothe the sortes (I meane both officers in civyle polycy, and also Prelates in Ecclesiasticall ministery) or if those souldyers be unprovided of necessary livyngs and dewe wages, then must the people [Page] nedes peryshe and be destroyed for theyr owne synnes, and the bloud of theyr bodyes and soules requyred at your handes, whyche be charged and trusted of both God, and the king to provide souldiers to those places, and also wages and livinges to mayntayne those soldyers continually. How be it now manye personages, benefyces, offyces, and fees be sold unto covetous brybers for money, whych seke nothyng but the vantage of extorcion, robbry and spoyle, and fewe of them be freely given unto faithful ministers &officers for their woorthynes, whych could and would by diligent doynge of their dutie, governe, instruct and cheryshe goddes people, the kynges subjectes.

And therefore nowe the most part of men lackyng teachers & rulers, do without griefe of conscience, or feare of punishment, abuse every thynge unto the ruine and destruccion, whyche God hath ordayned unto the upholdyng & increase of a christian commune welth. As for example, now bying and sellyng is not used as a provision for good cheape and great plenty, but made the most occasyon of dearth and scarsitie. Wealth and wyt be not ryghtly used unto a common confortable pro fyt, but shamefully abused unto a wycked [Page] private gayne. Many offyces with authoritie be not duely disposed unto faithful worthy men nor to dooe good unto other, but unlawfullye bought and solde amongest covetous, ambicious men, to get gaynes unto theim selves. So this realme is spoyled, the kynge is made bare, & his faithful true subjectes be many of them very poore: but crafti deceivers, covetous Extorcioners, brybynge offycers, and suche false flatterers be wonderous rich & welthy.



When dyd ever anye offycers in authorytye shewe suche rebellyous proud myndes, as was of late playn lye perceyved in very manye of the communaltye? I put the case that they be so covetouse, that one of their gredi guts hath swalowed up a whole Abbey, house, landes and goodes, And if you had had powers unto your wylles, ye had devoured whole countryes, houses and goodes, men and beastes, corne and cattell, as ye dyd begynne.

Some of theim kepeth their fermes in theyr owne handes, and manye of you kepe youre owne Corne in youre owne barnes. Yea marrye, why should we not kepe oure corne in oure owne barnes? Forsooth ye [Page] no we maye not keepe it for dreade of God, obedience to the Kynges majestie, and pitie of your poore neighbours: For God sayeth: Qui abscondi [...]frumenta, maledic [...]tur in populis: benedictio autem super caputuendencium: He that hydeth up corne, shall be accursed amongest the people: but blessynge shal [...]e upon theyr heades that bryngeth it furth to the Markettes to sell. Here ye heare the [...]lessynge and curse of God.

Ye knowe the kynges gracious Proclamacyon, ye maye perceyve youre neyghbours neede, by theyr myserable complaynt. And yet neyther God by blessyng and cursynge, neither the kyng by proclamacion & commission, nether the [...]ore by praiyng and paying, can cause you to serve y [...]Markets wyth corne. But let goddes woorde, the Kynges lawes, honest order, and charytable provysyon [Page] be put foorth of all markette townes by wycked Mammon, and let hym onely kepe the Markets and set pryses for youre puposes, & mythoute odf al manner of Corne and bytayles commyng in on all sydes.

O wycked servauntes of Mammon alwayes bothe ennemyes and traytoures to GOD and the kyng and the common wealthe. Is it God or Mammon that hath made the Corne to sprynge, and geven you plentye? Yf ye say Mammon, then ye confesse playnely whose servauntes ye be, what Idolatrye ye use. If ye say God, How dare ye confesse hym in youre woordes and denye hym in youre deedes? Whye do ye not brynge foorth goddes corne unto goddes people, at goddes commaundement? Why be ye not faythfull disposers of Goddes treasures? Well, he [Page] hath no corn thinketh he hath no parte, nor is not gyltye in this matter: but I can tel that ther is many of theim, that neither hath nor wyll have corne, whyche make corne most dere. I have heard howe that even this last yere, ther was certayn Acres of corne growyng on the ground bought for. viii. poundes: he that bought it for. viii. sold it for. x. He that gave. x. pounds, sold it to an other above. xii. poundes: and at last, he that caryed it of the ground, payde. xiiii. poundes. Lykewyse I hearde, that certayne quarters of malte were boughte after the pryce of. iii. shyllynges. iiii. pence a quarter to be delyvered in a certayn markette towne upon a certayne daye. Thys bargayne was so oft bought and solde before the daye of delyveraunce came, that the same Malte was solde to hym that shoulde receyve it there and carrye it awaye, [Page] after. vi. s. a. quarter. Looke and se howe muche a craftes man or anye other honeste man that muste spend corne in his house, by this maner of bargaynynge, payeth, and howe littel the housbande manne that tylleth the ground, and paieth the rent, receyveth: Ten ye may se & perceyve it must needes be harde for eyther of theim to kepe a house, the crates man pay [...]so muche, & the husbandman takynge so lytle.

There is a lyke maner of barganyng of them that be leasemongers, for leasemongers make the tenaunts to pay so muche, and the landlord to take so litle that neither of them is wel able to kepe house. I heare say that wit [...]a few miles of London an honest gentleman did let his ground by lease unto pore honest men after. ii. s. iiii. d. [...]: then cometh a lesemounger, a thefe, an extorcioner, deceivyng y [Page] [...]tenaunts, bieth theyr leases, put theim from the groundes, and causeth them y [...]have it at hym nowe, to paye after ix. s. or as I harde saye. [...]ix. s. but I am ashamed to name so muche. How be it, covetous extorcioners be ashamed of no dede be it never so evyll. And as I hear say, ther be many lese mongers in London, that heyghthen the rest of bare houses: & as corne, lan des, tenementes & houses, so in al maner of wares, ther be such bi [...]rs & sellers as cause y [...]prouvyders & mak [...]rs of y [...] wares to take so litle, &the occupiers of the wares too pay so muche, that neyther of theim both is able too lyve. All the Marchauntes of myschyefe that go betwixt the barke and the tree, Betwixte the housband man that getteth the corne, and housholder that occupyeth Cor [...]e, betwix the Landlord [...], that setteth fermes, and the tennauntes that dwell [Page] in the fermes. And betwixt the craftes man that maketh, or the marchaunte that provydeth wares, and other men that occupieth wares. I saye these marchauntes of mischiefe commynge betwixte the barke and the tree, do make all thinges dere to the byers: and yet wonderfull vyle & of small pryce to many, that must nedes sett or sell that whyche is their owne honestlye come bye. These be far worse than anye other that hath bene mencyoned heretofore: for although benefyced men and offycers have manye mennes livynges, yet they do some mennes dutyes. But these have everye mannes lyvyng, & doo no mans duytye. For they have that whyche is in dede the lyvynge of craftes men, Marchauntmenne, husbandmen, landelordes and tennauntes, and do never a one of these mens dutyes. These be idle vacaboundes [Page] lyvyng upon other mens labours: these be named honest barginers, and be in dede craftye covetouse extorcioners. For they that be true marchauntemen to by and sell in dede, shoulde and doo provyde great plentye and good chepe by honest byenge and sellynge of theyr wares. But these havynge the names of true marchauntes, and beyng in dede crafty theves, do make a scarsitye and dearth of all thynges that commeth through theyr handes.

Take awaye all marchauntmen from anye towne or cytye, and ye shall leave almost no provysyon of thinges that be necessarye. Take awaye leasmongers, régrators and all suche as by byinge and sellynge make thyngs more dere, & when they be gone, all thyngs wylbe more plen tye and better chepe. Now maye ye se who they be that make a greate [Page]dearth in a great plentye.

For who is it, that heygtheneth the pryce of Corne, the housbandman that getteth plentye of corne by tyllynge of the grounde? No: the regrator that byeth corne to make it dere, growynge upon the grownde. Who reyseth rentes, joyneth house to house, and heapeth fermes together? The Gentyll manne, that by gevynge of leases, letteth forth hys own landes into other mennes handes? No, the leasemongers, that by sellynge leases, byeth and bryngeth other mennes Landes into their own hands. Who maketh all manner of wares and marchandyses to be very dere? the marchaunt venterer, which with fayethfull dylygence to provyde for the commune wealth, caryeth furth suche thynges as maye well be spared, and bryngeth home suche wares as muste needes be occupyed in thys [Page] realme? No, the Marchant of myschyefe that by craftye conveyaunce for his owne gayne, caryeth awaye such thinges as maye not be spared and bryngeth agayne suche wares as are not nedefull. Take hede you Marchauntes of London that y [...]be not Marchauntes of myschyefe, conveying away to much old lead, wol, lether &such substanciall wares as wold set many Englyshmen to work, and do every manne good servyce, and bryngynge home sylkes and sables, cattayls, and folyshe fethers to fil the realm full of such baggage as wyll never do ryche or poore good, and necessary servyce. Be ye sur [...], if thys realme be rych, ye shall not nede to be poore: yf thys realme be poore, you shall not be able to kepe and enjoy your ryches. Take hede that your marchaundise be not a servynge of folysh mens sansies, whyche wyll destroye [Page]the realme: but lette it be a provydyng for honest discrete mens commodities, whych wyll be the upholdyng and enrychyng of you and the whole realme. Take hede unto your vocacions prelates and preachers, Magystrats and offycers, land lordes &tenaunts, craftes men and marchauntes, all maner of men take hede unto youre selves and to your conversacion and lyvyng: yea dere brethren at the reverence of god, for a generall comfort to al partes with out gredye covetousnesse towards oureselves, or malicious envye towardes other, wyth a syngle eye, of a pure herte, let us consyder and acknowledge how that the bountifull liberalitye of almyghtye God hath geven unto thys realme wonderfull plenty of personnages, prebends, benefyces, offyces, and all maner of lyvynges: wyth great aboundaunce [Page] of corne, cattell, landes, goodes, and all wares that be good and profitable: and howe that it is certeynly the unfaithfull disposers whyche cause a great scarsyty, dearth and lacke of all these gifts and treasures of God, therfore dominus de celo prospexit, ut uideat si est intelligens aut requirens deum.

The Lord loked doun from heven to se yf there were any that had under standyng and sought to please God in faythfull dysposynge of Goddes treasures: but seinge that Omnes student avaritie, a maiore usque ad minorem. All be geven unto coveteousnes from the hyeste unto the loweste, so that pore people can have no houses to dwell in, ground to occupye, no nor corne for their moneye. The Lorde hyms [...]lfe speakyng unto the earthe, sheweth wher is the faute: principes tui infideles. Thy head rulers and of fycers be unfaythfull disposers.


ocii furum, thevishe fellowes.

Omnes diligunt muner [...], they all love brybes, Section of [...]t sequuntur retributiones, and hunte for promocyons. What then o Lorde shall be the ende of all thys? Viuo ego dicit do minus. As trulye as I lyve sayth the Lord, propterea quod facti sunt greges mei in rapinam,

Because that my flock have [...] spoyled,et oves mee in devorationem omnius be [...]tiarum agri, and my shepe devoured of all wyld beastes of the fyelde, quia non esset pastor, Because there was no keper, Neque [...]nim quesiverunt pastores mei gregem meum, For these which were named my pastours, dyd take no heede unto my [...]cke, Sed pastores pascebant semetipsos, But those pastours dyd feede theym selves prowlyng for profyte, et greges meos non pascebant, and my flocke thy dyd not feede by dooyng of their dutyes. Propterea pastores audite [...]erbum domini.

Therfore ye keepers heare the word [Page] of the Lorde. What worde? that the flocke shalbe delyvered, & you shalbe destroyed: That is a true word: for qua mensura mensi fueritis, remecietur uobis: By thesame measure that you have served other, ye youre selves shall also be served: for as ye have served super [...]tycious papistes, so shall you your selves be served, beynge covetous Idolaters: yea and have as muche vauntage at the metynge, as is betwixte supersticion and Idolatrye. Howe be it, God gevynge you respite to loke for amendmente: offers more gentelnes, yf ye wyl take it. For in the. xx. of Jeremy he sayth: Ecce ego do cord uobis uiam uit [...]et uiam mortis:Behold I set before you the way of lyfe & the way of death: yf ye repend & amend, lyfe: If ye be styll stifnecked death: for the Lorde by Esaye. i. say eth: Si uolveritis et audieritis: If ye wyll heare to repent & amend, Bona terre comedetis, [Page] ye shall eat the good fruits y^Section of illegible text the earth shall brynge forth, to your co~sort. Si nolueritis, et me ad iracundi [...]pro uocaueritis, yf ye wyl not, but prouoke me to anger, gladius deuorabituos. The sworde shall eate you vp. Quia os domini locutum est. For it is Gods owne mouthe that hathe spoken it. For Gods sake beleue it: And do not by a Section of illegible textharde hearte voyde of repentance heape vnto your selues the wrathe of god agaynst y^Section of illegible text day of vengeance.

But thankfullye enbrasynge the ryches of goddes goodnes, pa [...]ience and long sufferyng, acknowlegyng that goddes kyndnes draweth you vnto repentance, yf ye haue so lytle spyrituall felyng and ghostlye vnderstandynge that ye can nothyng be perswaded or moued by the comfortable promyses, & terrible thretenynges of the invisible God: yet havynge corporall eyes and naturall [Page] reason, consyder the decaye of thys Realme, and the towardnes of the kynges magestye. Note the decaye of thys realme, and thereby ye shall learne to knowe that nothynge can make a realme wealthye, yf the inhabitauntes thereof be couetouse: for yf landes and goodes coulde haue made a realme happy notwyth standynge mennes couetousnes, then shoulde not thys realme soo vnhappylye haue decayed, when as by the suppressio~ of Abbeies, Colleges and Chaunteries, innumerable la~ds and goodes were gotten.



He knoweth that regratours of corne vyttals and of all manner of wares, make suche dearthe and scarcitie, that no diligence of good marchauntes by honest byinge and sellynge canne provyde anye thynges to be eyther good cheap or plentiful. It is well knowen to his gracious majesty, or at the least unto hys [Page] honourable councell that leasemungers takynge muche of tenauntes and paying lyttell unto the landlordes, have both theyr lyvynges, and doth the dutyes of neyther. For to theyr owne pryvate luker they take rentes of tenauntes, and fermes of land lordes: but when by occasyon they shall be requyred to serve the Kynge for a common wealth, then they wyll have neyther landes nor [...]erme to do the kyng servyce. Do not therfore imagyn you that be eyther of the cler gye or of the laytye in hyghe or lowe degree, that the Kynges Gracious Magestie and his honourable councell be so negligent that they do not espye, or so parcyall that they wyll not punyshe those whyche in thys realme hynder the prechyng of gods word, stoppe the adminystracion of justice and equitye, cause of all thynges a dearthe and scarsytye, and [Page] brynge Gentlemenne too poovertye, and husbandmen unto beggerye.

It is spyed and muste be punyshed, although it be delayed for a tyme, to se yf you of your selves wyllynglye wyll amende it.

Beware therefore that ye staye not your selfe unto a bryttell staffe, for it wyll brast in spylles and perce thorowe your handes. Do not stay your selfe upon thys ymaginacion to thynke that althoughe craftelye contrary to lawe and conscience ye do invade other mennes roumes, livynges and goodes, yet for because ye be so many in number that do it, therefore the kynge and hys councell eyther cannot or wyll not bee agaynste you in it: For trulye even therefore muste they nowe neades wythout delaye reforme and amend it. For as sedicious rebellion, so covetouse treason beynge in a fewe may [Page] be suffered at the fyrste in hope o [...]amendment, so long as they few by clokynge it secretelye, seme to be ashamed of their owne evyll doynges, or afrayed of the rulers power and authorytye: but beynge so many that they all together wythoute shame and feare, falle to open spoylynge of the realme, then wythoute delaye muste they needes be repressed, althoughe they both say and sweare, that they be the kyngs subjects, and breake no laws. If y [...]spoyle be found in theyr hands, it is neyther sayinge nor swearynge that can excuse them. Open spoile hath bene made of personages, prebendes, offices, fermes, wares, vyctuals, and of all manner of mens livinges. Therefore there is no long delay to be taken in hope o [...] amendemente, but spedye provision for redres must be made for feare of a generall destruccion.

You then that [Page]for wastynge and abusynge of the Lordes goodes be worthye and lyke ly sone to be displaced, yet in y [...]mean tyme whyles ye have respyte, playe the parte of a wyse steward. Restore unto preachers and offycers, benefyces and offyces: lette landelordes have their rentes, and fermoures theyr leases: cause byinge and sellyng to be a provysyon of good chepe and plentye, and not an occasyon of dearthe and scarsytye . Soo shall both God and the kyng perceyvyng your wyse provysion, allow your wel doyng, pardon your fautes, and confirme you in your offyces.

O refuse the seruyce, restore the iniuryes of wycked Mammon, that ye maye from hencefoorthe serue God and the kynge, prouydyng for the people in holynes and ryghtousnes all the dayes of youre lyfe: take hede when ye go from a meaner lyuynge [Page] vnto a better, frome a lower offyce vnto a hygher, that ye goo as menne called of Christe, not as bewitched and allured by Mammon, se that God by hygher authoritye perceyuyng [...] your faythfulnes in a lyttell, doo in at the doore of worthynes and honestye, admytte and receyue you to be trusted wyth more: beware leaste that the deuyll by flatteryng frendshyppe and couetous ambycion, perceyuynge your world lynes in a lytle, do in at the wyndow of wycked bryberye conuey and receyue you, to abuse and be abused wyth more. Se that ye obey the co~maundement of God, takynge paynes in youre duty e to feede and doo good. Do not co~sent v [...]to the temptacion of the Deuell, worshyppynge hym in worldlynes, for to gette gaynes. These thynges obserued, ye shal be estemed and taken as worthye [Page] minysters of Chryst, and Section of illegible textruaunts of God, for so much as appertayneth vnto the lawfull callyng and admission of you into youre rowmes, and also the fayethfull dylygence in vsyng of your selues in your roumes. Furthermore Paule geueth example of a lowly mynde whyche doeth not iustifye a mans selfe, and iudge euyll of other. For so it becommeth the seruauntes of God, and the mynysters of Chryste, euen when they haue done as they be commaunded, to acknowledge them selues vnprofytable seruau~ts. And not as proud Pha [...]iseis, prayinge in the presence of the Lorde, to make boast of theim selues, and fynde fautes wyth other men. No, for yf other menne prayse the~, they must not regarde it, no nor yf theyr owne conscience commende the~, excepte God also allow it.

This is a selection from the original text


corn, dearth, plenty, wealth

Source text

Title: A Sermon Preached at Pauls Crosse, the XIIII Day of December

Author: Thomas Lever

Publisher: Jhon Day

Publication date: 1550

Edition: 2nd Edition

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Early English Books Online: http://eebo.chadwyck.com/home Bibliographic name / number: STC (2nd ed.) / 15546.3 Physical description: [120] p. Copy from: British Library Reel position: STC / 1835:24

Digital edition

Original author(s): Thomas Lever

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) tp, images: 6-7, 42-49, 51-53


Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

Texts transcribed by: Muhammad Irshad Alam, Bonisha Bhattacharya, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, Kahkashan Khalil, Sarbajit Mitra

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Genre: Britain > non-fiction prose > religion: sermons

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