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A Brief Exhortation to England,
for the Speedy Embracing
of the Gospel
Heretofore by
the Tyranny of Mary
Suppressed and Banished

by John Knox

The earth, which drinketh in the rain, that oft cometh upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them that dress it, receiveth blessing of God: but that ground, which beareth thorns and briars, is reproved and is nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned (Hebrews 6:7-8).

Extracted from: Selected Writings of John Knox: Public Epistles, Treatises, and Expositions to the Year 1559

Editor's Note

In November 1558, Bloody Mary died, much to the relief of the entire Protestant world. Most of the Englishmen in Knox's congregation in Geneva made plans to return quickly to their native country.

About this same time, Knox addressed a letter to the English nation, calling for national repentance over the recent apostasy during Mary's reign, and explaining the urgency of a thorough reformation.

Some historians have reflected negatively on the vehemence of Knox's remarks. Perhaps they should peruse the long list of the martyrs named in the appendix to this work. Critics may then find a clue for understanding the reformer's zeal. Knox is discussing serious matters of life and death ­ spiritual issues which affect us deeply in this life, and for eternity.

A Brief Exhortation to England,
for the Speedy Embracing
of the Gospel
Heretofore by
the Tyranny of Mary
Suppressed and Banished

To the realm of England, and to all estates within the same, John Knox wishes true repentance to be given from God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, with the Spirit of wisdom, discretion, and true understanding.

[1]After I had considered, what from the beginning have been the great mercies of God towards his afflicted people; and also what have been his severe judgments executed against such as, either preferring darkness to light, did follow the devices and inventions of men,[2] either that, enraged by the malice of Satan, have declared themselves open enemies to God and to his verity revealed;[3] I thought it my duty (in few words) to require of you, and that in God's name, O England in general, the same repentance and true conversion unto God that I have required of those to whom before particularly I wrote. For, in very deed, when in dolour of heart I wrote this former letter, I neither looked, nor could believe, that the Lord Jesus would so suddenly knock at your gate (Rev. 3), or call upon you in your open streets (Prov. 1), offering himself to pardon your iniquity: yea, to enter into your house, and so to abide and make his habitation with you (John 14), who so disobediently had rejected his yoke, so disdainfully had trodden under foot the blood of his testament (Heb. 10:29), and so cruelly had murdered those that were sent to call you to repentance (Luke 11-12). This your horrible ingratitude considered, I did rather look for punishments and plagues universally to have been poured forth, than for mercy (by the sound of his trumpet) so suddenly to have been offered to any within that miserable isle.

But when I did more deeply weigh, that such is the infinite goodness of God, and that such are also the bright beams of his most just judgments, that whensoever he takes into his protection (by the covenant of his word) any realm, nation, province, or city, so that of mercy he becomes to them conductor, teacher, protector, and father;[4] that he never casts off the same care and fatherly affection, which in his word he does once pronounce, until they do utterly declare themselves unworthy of his presence ­ when this (I say) I did consider and weigh, I was in judgment somewhat reformed. For I find that such was his care and constant love to the whole seed of Abraham (I mean of those that descended of Jacob), that albeit in many things they provoked him to anger, yet did his infinite goodness ever find, and make a way by the which his mercy was sensibly felt of that people, even in their greatest extremities. [5]For not only did he oft pardon their offences, long keep them in the land which he had promised and given to the seed of Abraham, but also he was with them in fire and water; yea, when they were as rotten carrions, buried, as it had been in their graves, in Babylon, yet did he lay in pledge the glory of his own name for their deliverance; yea, and faithfully above man's expectation did he perform it, for he broke down the pride of Babylon, and so did open the prison, and broke up the gates of iron which held them in thralldom (Gen. 12-13; Ps. 66; Isa. 43; Ezek. 20; Isa. 42-43; Ezra 1; Neh. 2). And why so? He himself does answer, saying, "For mine own name's sake will I do this, and my glory will I give to none other," etc. (Isa. 14, 43, 48; cf. Isa. 42:8)

And so this his love and fatherly care was so constant and immovable, that nothing could utterly change it from the people, until his dear Son, Christ Jesus, did come of them and amongst them (Matt. 1), to notify and declare that sovereign felicity promised to Abraham: I mean, that all nations should be blessed in his seed (Gen. 12:3), which was Christ Jesus, who, coming amongst his own, was of them rejected, denied, refused, and shamefully put to death upon a cross, betwixt two thieves (John 1:11; Luke 23:13-25). And yet, so tender was God's care over them, that before their polluted and wicked hands were externally almost washed from his blood, he sent unto them the message of reconciliation, not only to those that were at Jerusalem, but even to such as were dispersed amongst the Gentiles, as in the Acts of the apostles (ch. 2) is plainly witnessed. [6]For this prerogative ever had the Jews, that first to them were offered the glad tidings of the kingdom, unto such time as they declared themselves (by open blasphemies, continual resistance, and cruel persecution) most worthy to be deprived of that honour (Acts 13-14, 17-19, 21-22, 28). This long sufferance and careful calling of that unthankful people, proceeded from the same fountain from the which their first vocation did proceed and flow: that is, from his eternal goodness, which did so long fight against their malice, that all creatures must justify God in his fearful, but yet most just judgments,[7] once executed and yet remaining upon that rebellious people.

The same order, I see, does God keep with you, O you happy and most unhappy England! [8]Happy, not only because your God, by his own hand, has oft delivered you from corporeal bondage of diverse and strange nations, as of Saxons, Romans, Goths, and Danes; but especially for that, by the power of his eternal verity (and that of his free grace, without your deserving), he did of late years break and destroy the intolerable yoke of your spiritual captivity, and brought you forth as it had been from the bottom of hell, and from the thralldom of Satan (in which you were held blinded by idolatry and superstition) to the fellowship of his angels, and to the possession of that rich inheritance prepared to his dearest children, with Christ Jesus his Son (Matt. 25). But, O unhappy, and more than unhappy, that have declared yourself so unthankful and rebellious to so loving and so merciful a Father, who first gave you life, when you did lie polluted in blood and dead in your sin, and now does offer himself to be your God, Governor, and Father, after you, most traitorously conspiring, with Satan by solemn oath, have renounced his verity (Ezek. 16). [9]O unhappy and more than unhappy are you (I say), if this your treasonous defection, and God's loving-kindness (yet calling you to his favours), does not pierce your heart with unfeigned repentance. For as this mercy and love of your God far surmounts the reach of all men's understanding, so his just judgments cannot long delay to pour forth those horrible vengeances which your monstrous unthankfulness has long deserved, if you (as God forbid) now shut up your ears, blind your eyes, and so harden your heart, that neither will you hear, see, nor understand the gravity of your fall, and that inestimable goodness of your God thus lovingly calling you to your ancient honours and dignity again.

I neither dare nor will cease now by my pen (be it never so rude) to cry unto you that which sometimes, from the mouth of my Master Jesus Christ, I have pronounced in the hearing of many: [10]that if you shall not know this merciful visitation of the Lord your God, and so prepare yourself with a penitent and thankful heart to receive, yet while time is, his large graces offered, that then your habitation shall be left desolate (Ezek. 12); and where you have of long time been the delectable garden, planted by the Lord's hand, you shall become a barren wilderness, apt for nothing but to be burnt and consumed by fire (Zech. 7).

The warrant of this my proclamation and sentence (how foolish and vain soever it appears to man's reason), I have not by conjecture nor opinion of man, but from the mouth of my God, thus speaking by Moses: "Beware (says he) that amongst you be not a root that buddeth forth gall and wormwood; so that when he shall hear the words of this execration, [he] shall yet promise to himself felicity in his heart, saying, 'Peace shall be to me although I walk after the lust of mine own heart,'"etc. "The Lord will not be merciful," says Moses, "to such a one, but the fury of the Eternal, and his hot displeasure, shall burst forth against such a man, and upon him shall lie (that is, continually abide) all the execrations that are written in this book. And the Lord shall blot out his name from under the heaven," etc. (Deut. 29:18-20).

Thus far speaks he against particular men; and against the whole multitude he proceeds in this manner: "The generation following, your sons which shall arise after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far country, when they shall see the plagues of this land, and the incurable diseases by the which it shall languish and consume, as it were by brimstone and salt, burning the whole land; so that it cannot be sown, neither yet in it does any herb spring up nor rise," etc. "Then shall all nations say, 'Why hath the Lord done thus to this land?' And they shall answer, 'For because they have left the covenant of the Lord, the God of their fathers, which he did make with them when he brought them forth of Egypt.' [11]For they have gone and served other gods (I say), whom they knew not; and therefore was the fury of the Lord kindled against this land, so that he brought upon it all the execrations and curses written in this book. And the Lord, in his wrath, fury, and great indignation has rooted them out of their own land, and hath dispersed them in another land, as this day doth witness," etc.

This same is written, with greater circumstances, in the book of Leviticus (ch. 26): which place, if you consider with this, and considering God's eternal verity to have its effect in every age and nation which does so offend (Jer. 7), then shall you see, O England, that this is the judgment which you shall not, nor cannot escape, if speedily you repent not [of] your shameful defection, and with all humility return to the Lord, whom so traitorously and so publicly of late days you have refused (2 Kings 25). For these severe judgments, once executed against Israel and Judah, may be to you, who once have professed yourself subject to God, and have unthankfully departed from his service, and yet of mercy are called again: [12]to you (I say) may those severe judgments be a mirror and glass, in which you may behold what shall be your final and miserable destruction, if by unfeigned and speedy repentance you remove not the vengeance which hangs over your head. And to the end that better you may try and examine yourself, I will shortly touch the stubborn disobedience of that people, the long patience and gentle dealing of God, with their most miserable and lamentable destruction.

[13]Three hundred years and more, from the departure of the ten tribes from the house and royal seat of David, did Judah provoke God to displeasure: now by idolatry, now by hill altars, now by confederacy and joining hands with wicked princes and ungodly nations, by whom they were drawn from depending and trusting upon God, to the vain trust and confidence of men. Against these and other vices from time to time did God send his prophets to call them to repentance, and did also raise up sometimes good and godly kings to make public reformation as touching the religion (2 Kings 14-15; 1 Kings 16; 2 Kings 8; 2 Chron. 17, 19). But what reformation was found in life, manners, and conversation; what reverence did the multitude bear unto God; how was the religion embraced in their hearts, and how long was it retained in such perfection as was commanded: the prophets do teach, and histories bear witness and plainly affirm, that even in the days of the most godly kings (of Hezekiah and Josiah, I mean), [14]the scribes and the lawyers did write deceitfully, to thrust out the weak ones from their cause, to spoil the widow, and to oppress the orphan (Isa. 10:1-4).

[15]Their judges were bribers, and their princes were partakers with thieves (Isa. 1). They said that evil was good, and good evil; they would have pleasing things spoken unto them, and commanded that no mention should be made of the Holy One of Israel, for his word was a burden to them (Isa. 5, 57). [16]Of the nobility, some were traitors, some avaricious, some inconstant as wavering reeds, some greedy dogs and insatiable wolves (devouring the prey wheresoever they might catch it) [Jer. 23]. [17]The people of the land were deceitful; all handicrafts, merchandise, and victuals were corrupted by their covetous practices. They were ready but to slander and oppress the poor, the needy, and the stranger (Isa. 56:10-12). [18]The conjuration of the prophets was in the midst of them, even as a roaring lion, etc. They healed the sores and botches of the people, princes, and governors, with unprofitable plasters, and laid soft pillows under the heads of such as slept securely in all iniquity. The priests had violently rent in sunder the law of God; [19]they had profaned his sanctuary by their own inventions, and by retaining such a mixed and envenomed religion as from old idolaters they had received; and because it pleased their kings, chief rulers, and governors, it must needs be good, and please them. They made no difference betwixt that which was holy and clean (because it proceeded from God), and that which was profane and filthy, which wicked idolaters had invented and devised (Ezek. 8-9, 22).

[20]Finally, the pastors were become dumb dogs; their watchmen were blind, given to excess, slothfulness, and sleep. And to be short, they came to that corruption, that the Lord did seek a man to repair the hedge again, and to stand in the gap before him, that the land should not be wasted, but yet he found none (Ezek. 22). For all were declined, all sought their own advantage. "No man called for justice and equity; no man judged of faith and verity. They brought forth cockatrice eggs; their feet ran to mischief; they made haste to shed innocent blood. They neither knew, neither yet would know, the way of peace" (Isa. 59:4-5, 7-8). [21]But to such horrible confusion came all things, that the verity was banished, and whosoever departed from iniquity was made as a prey to all men. "Which things when the Lord did consider, and did see that none would set themselves, no man (I say) that opposed himself to so horrible iniquity, his own arm gave him salvation, and his own justice did hold him up," etc. "He poured forth (after diverse plagues) his fury upon that nation at once, and in the hot fire of his anger did he consume them; and so did reward their wicked ways upon their own heads," as before was threatened by the mouth of Moses.

These testimonies, and many more (which to avoid prolixity I omit), we have of the prophets, how corrupt was the whole body even in the days of the most godly kings, yea, even in the days when the plagues were upon them. [22]And the histories do witness, that no sooner did ever any idolater rise, but that so soon from the highest degree to the lowest, from the prince to the prophet (a mean number excepted), all were ready to obey whatsoever was commanded by such as were placed in honours and authority.

The history does further witness, that the princes of Judah, after the death of Jehoiada ­ by whose wife Joash was preserved in that most cruel murder of all the kingly seed made by Athaliah; and by whose most faithful diligence the same Joash was, in the seventh year of his age, made king over Judah; [23]the covenant and league, before broken by idolatry, was renewed again betwixt God and the people, and betwixt the people and the king: to wit, that the one and the other should be the people of the Lord; by renewing of which covenant, unhappy and cruel Athaliah was killed; the people did enter into the house of Baal, broke it down with his altars and images, even to powder; and finally, before the altars of Baal, did most justly kill Mattan, Baal's great priest ­ after the death (I say) of Jehoiada, by whose godly providence all things were brought to pass, [24]the princes of Judah came and bowed themselves unto the king, making, no doubt, this petition unto him, that they might have the religion which long had been retained amongst the kings of Judah, even from the days of Solomon, and that they should not be so straitly bound as the covenant made by Jehoiada commanded; so they would not return (as may appear they did allege) to Baal, but stand content with their hill altars, their thickets of wood, and ancient idols (2 Chron. 24; 2 Kings 11).

And that this was their petition, the history gives plain light. For it says, "And the king heard them; and they, leaving the house of the Lord, the God of their fathers, served thickets and idols" (2 Chron. 24:18). Which thing, albeit it did so displease the Lord that he sent his prophets sharply to rebuke their unthankful defection, yet was there no redress. For the king, princes, and people were conspiring against God, and so from idolatry proceeded to cruel murder, as the histories do witness in the days of Ahaz. The same admonition remained in all estates. For Urijah the high priest himself, at the commandment of the king, built an altar, as the king had sent him a pattern from Damascus, and so left the altar of the Lord, and burnt sacrifices upon that great altar, etc. (2 Kings 16).

In the days of Hezekiah (that zealous and godly king), what were the hearts of the nobility and people towards God's true religion, it may appear by the sequel. For, straight after his death, the whole multitude does return with Manasseh unto idolatry, abominations, and cruel murder. Yea, even while the king did live, [25]that treasonous traitor, Shebna (enemy to God, to his true worship, and to his prophets) was treasurer, and in highest authority.

Jeremiah and Ezekiel do witness that the princes, prophets, and people were so corrupt (even to the very day of the destruction, yea, and after the same) that Zedekiah (of nature, by all appearance, not very cruel, but yet faint-hearted for lack of faith) was compelled at their commandment to put Jeremiah in prison and give them permission to put him to death at their pleasure; whose life by God's mighty providence yet preserved; and being called to the presence of the king, to whom he gave, in God's name, most wholesome counsel; yet durst not the king, for fear of his princes, neither follow the same, neither yet let them understand what communication was betwixt the prophet and him (Jer. 36).

Ezekiel, in his vision, saw the people and princes declined from God, and did also hear these words spoken by God: "The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is great above measure; the earth is full of blood, and the city full of defection. For they have said to me, 'The Lord hath left the earth, and the Lord seeth us not'" (Ezek. 8:12; 9:9).

After that most miserable destruction of Jerusalem, when a remnant of the poor people and nobility (who had escaped the edge of the sword) were left in the land with the prophet Jeremiah, and with Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, their old venom of rebellion against God and his revealed will was nothing purged (Jer. 40). For albeit that the princes (Johanan the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah), with the whole people, had promised unto Jeremiah, by a solemn oath, to do whatsoever the Lord should command unto them by his mouth; yet when he commanded unto them, in the name of the Lord, to abide in the land, and not to carry the people to Egypt, they neither feared nor shamed to say unto him, "Thou speakest a lie; the Lord hath not sent thee to us, commanding that we should not go to Egypt," etc. "To Egypt will we go, and we will serve the queen of heaven," etc., "even as our ancient kings and fathers did before us" (Jer. 42-44; 44:17). And so, in despite of God, of his prophet, and of his word revealed unto them, [they] departed from the land which the Lord had given to the seed of Abraham, unto Egypt infected with all idolatry. And thus, from their origin, they continued in rebellion, even to the end, when they did utterly forsake God. For whatsoever they pretended, it was nothing else but a plain denial of God, of his league, and of his covenant, to contract familiarity, alliance, or peace, against his plain precept, with that nation, from whose tyranny God had before delivered their fathers. And therefore he gave them most strait commandment, that they should never return to that bondage again.

How long and how patiently did God fight against this their rebellion, is easy to be understood by the histories and prophets; [26]but how severe, in the end, were the plagues and just vengeance poured upon the kings, princes, and the people, did very ethnics [pagans] themselves give testimony and record. Their land and cities were spoiled, burnt, and left desolate; women for hunger [were] compelled to eat their own children. Oft were they brought in thralldom and subjection of strangers; and, finally, the glory of the Lord was removed from his sanctuary, which he himself did sware that he would profane by reason of their great abominations (2 Kings 6; Ezek. 9; Jer. 39). And so he did; for it was burnt, the vessels and ornaments of it carried to Babylon; the whole nobility of Judah and the king's sons were killed in his own presence; after which most miserable sight, his own eyes were put out, he led to Babylon, where he remained prisoner until his death. Those that departed to Egypt did never return again to Jerusalem, but perished most miserably, as the prophet did threaten (Jer. 43).

[27]This is the glass, this is the mirror, O England! in which I would that daily you should behold what shall be the final end of those that do abuse the long-suffering of God, most mercifully calling all to repentance. If you shall think yourself pure and clean from any of the crimes which before are noted in that people, alas! you shall declare yourself more than impudent. For, all others [of] your iniquities omitted, this your last and universal turning from God, by the open denial of his gospel professed, declares you, from the highest to the lowest, manifest traitors against his godly Majesty. It is you all together, who most cruelly have shed the blood of a number of your brethren and sisters,[28] who, from under the altar, cry to be avenged (Rev. 6:9-10). There is no person guiltless in God's presence, who has bowed his knees to idolatry (whatsoever excuse they list to pretend); but as all are idolaters, so are they (and shall be) reputed murderers before God, which do not wash away that infamy and innocent blood by unfeigned repentance.

No other assurance will I require, that your plagues are at hand, and that your destruction approaches, than that I shall understand that you do justify yourselves in this your former iniquity. Absolve and flatter, you who so list: God the Father, his Son Christ Jesus, his holy angels, the creatures sensible and insensible in heaven and earth, shall arise in judgment, and shall condemn you, if in time you repent not. [29]The cause that I wrap you all in idolatry, all in murder, and all in one and the same iniquity, is that none of you has done your duty, none has remembered his office and charge, which was to have resisted to the uttermost of your powers that impiety in the beginning. But you have all followed the wicked commandment, all have consented to cruel murder, insofar as, in your eyes, your brethren have most unjustly suffered, and none opened his mouth to complain of that injury, cruelty, and murder (Hos. 5, 7). I do ever except such as, either by their death, by abstaining from idolatry, or by avoiding the realm, for the iniquity in the same committed, did give testimony that such a horrible falling from God did inwardly grieve them. These I except ­ but all the rest, even from the highest to the lowest, I fear no more to accuse of idolatry, of treason committed against God, and of cruel murdering of their brethren, than did Zechariah (the son of Jehoiada) fear to say to the king, princes, and the people of Judah, "Why have you transgressed the commandments of the Eternal? It shall not prosperously succeed unto you, but even as you have left the Lord, so shall he leave you" (2 Chron. 24:20).

And albeit my blood should be shed for this my affirmation (as his was), yet having the testimony of a good conscience, that I speak not nor write not of private malice against any person, I will still cry as before. For at your hands (unless that speedily and unfeignedly you repent) God shall require all the blood, not only which lately has been shed by your most wicked permission, but also of all those that for the same cause have suffered from the beginning (Matt. 23:34-35). [30]Tremble, therefore, fear, confess, and unfeignedly repent, that you may escape the vengeance prepared. Your humiliation, confession, and repentance may now obtain no less of God's great mercy than did Josiah, his nobles, and people, in the same case, to whom in all things you are so alike, as one bean is to another (2 Chron. 34). For no crime is so heinous which God will not cast into the bottom of the sea, and bury in perpetual oblivion, if you with unfeigned hearts turn to the Lord your God, whom so grievously you have offended. This conversion and repentance requires, no doubt, a reformation, removing and suppressing of all abuses, all wrong, all violence, all oppression and fraud, how long, in whom, and by whomsoever they have been maintained, practiced, or permitted.

But, remitting all such things as be without the religion to such as God shall further move with his Holy Spirit to instruct you, I say that your conversion unto God and unfeigned repentance requires two things: [31]first, that the religion and true honouring of God may be at once brought to that purity which his word requires; secondly, that order may be taken, so far as in you lies, that the same religion which God approves, may be kept inviolate amongst you for ever, and that the people universally may be instructed in the same.

For the first point, touching reformation of religion, you must at once so purge and expel all dregs of Papistry, superstition and idolatry: that you, O England! must judge and hold execrable and accursed whatsoever God has not sanctified unto you by his word, or by the action of our master Christ Jesus. [32]The glistering beauty of vain ceremonies, the heaping of things pertaining nothing to edification (by whomsoever they were invented, justified, or maintained), ought at once to be removed, and so trodden under the obedience of God's word, that continually this sentence of your God be present in your heart and mouth: "Not that which appeareth good in thy eyes shalt thou do to the Lord thy God, but what the Lord thy God hath commanded thee, that shalt thou do: add nothing to it; diminish nothing from it" (Deut. 4, 12).

Let not the king in his proceedings (whatsoever they be, not agreeable to his word) be a snare to your conscience. O cursed were the hearts that first devised that phrase in matters of religion, whereby the simple people were brought to one of these two inconveniences: to wit, that either they did esteem every religion good and acceptable unto God, which the king and Parliament did approve and command;[33] or else, that God's religion, honour, and service were nothing else but devices of men. O England, England! let this blasphemy be first of all others removed. For how horrible is it to remember [think] that the religion and honouring of the eternal God shall be subject to the appetites of foolish and inconstant men! Let God's word alone be the rule and line to measure his religion. What it commands, let that be obeyed; what it commands not, let that be execrable, because it has not the sanctification of his word, under what name or title soever it is published.

[34]Halt no longer on both parts; let not these voices prevail in your Parliament: "This to our judgment is good and godly; this the people can well bear; this repugns not to God's word; and when the people are better instructed, then may we proceed further," etc.

O dissembling hypocrites! plain messengers of Satan, now I do write, which sometime I have said to your faces, that whatsoever God (in matters of religion) has not sanctified by his expressed word, the same, I say, before his Majesty remains execrable, polluted, and defiled. And so, in few words, this is the first point which your true conversion requires: to wit, that only his word reform his religion.

The inviolable preservation of God's religion (which is the second point) requires two principal things: the one, that [neither] power nor liberty be permitted to any, of what estate, degree, or authority that ever they be, either to live without the yoke of discipline commanded by God's word; either yet to alter, to change, to disannul, or dissolve the least one jot in religion, which from God's mouth you have received. But let his holy and blessed ordinances, by Christ Jesus to his church commanded, be within your limits and bounds so sure and established; [35]that if prince, king, or emperor would enterprise to change or disannul the same, that he be of you reputed [an] enemy to God, and therefore unworthy to reign above his people: yea, that the same man or men, that go about to destroy God's true religion once established, and to erect idolatry (which God detests), be adjudged to death, according to God's commandment (Deut. 13)[36] ­ the negligence of which part has made you all (those only excepted whom before I have expressed) murderers of your brethren, deniers of Christ Jesus, and manifest traitors to God's sovereign majesty.

Which horrible crimes, if you will avoid in time coming, then must you (I mean the princes, rulers, and people of England) by solemn oath renew the covenant betwixt God and you, in the same form as Asa, king of Judah, did in the like case. "They made a covenant," says the history, "that they would seek the Lord God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul; and that whosoever should not seek the Lord God of Israel, he should die the death, whether he were great or small, man or woman. And they did sware unto the Lord with a great oath, and with the sound of trumpet and of shaumes [cornets]. [37]And of this oath did all the Jews rejoice; for with their whole heart they did sware, and they sought God with unfeigned affection, and he was found of them. And the Lord gave them rest on every side" (2 Chron. 15:12-15). This is your duty, and this is the only remedy, O England! to stay God's vengeance which long you have deserved, and shall not long escape, if his religion and honour be subject to mutation and change as oft as your rulers list, or as by reason of death they shall be changed. And so this briefly is the first thing which you must, with invocation of God's name, provide for establishing of his true religion.

The other part, touching the instruction of the people, stands much in the faithful diligence of those to whom the charge of preaching shall be committed. But when I remember that horrible confusion which before was maintained, even by those which would be esteemed chief pillars of religion, I do more fear to be plain in this matter than in all that which before I have spoken. For it may be, that in speaking the simple truth, I may displease those whom willingly I would offend for no earthly profit. Nevertheless, seeing the cause is not mine, but pertains to Christ Jesus, and to the feeding of that flock which so earnestly and tenderly he did commend to Peter [John 21:15-17] (and to all his faithful pastors to the world's end), whatsoever man shall judge, I dare not cease, in God's name, to require of you a severe reformation of those things which were before utterly disordered (Isa. 56).

[38]And first, in the name of the Lord Jesus, I require of you, that no dumb dog, no poisoned and pestilent Papist, none who before has persecuted God's children, or obstinately maintained idolatry, be placed above the people of God, to infect and poison (for other profit they shall do none) the souls of those whom Christ Jesus has redeemed with his precious blood.

[39]Secondly, that benefice upon benefice be heaped upon no man, but that a sufficient charge, with a competent stipend, be assigned to the workman. For, O! how horrible was that confusion that one man should be permitted to have two, three, four, five, six, or seven benefices, who scarcely in the year did so often preach! yea, that a man should have the charge of them whose faces he never saw. Let that pestilence, proceeding from avarice, be utterly avoided. Let not men, at their pleasure, preach when and where they list; but so soon as a godly order may be established, let the parts and bounds be assigned to every one. [40]London, in times past, was indifferently [moderately] provided for; but, alas! what barbarous ignorance was in the rest of the realm?

Thirdly, let no man be charged, in preaching of Christ Jesus, above that which one man may do; I mean that your bishoprics be so divided, that of every one as they be now (for the most part) be made ten; and so in every city and great town there may be placed a godly learned man, with so many joined with him, for preaching and instruction, as shall be thought sufficient for the bounds committed to their charge. The utility whereof you shall understand, within a few years, greatly to redound to the profit of the simple flock. [41]For your proud prelates' great dominions and charge (impossible by one man to be discharged) are no part of Christ's ministry, but are the maintenance of the tyranny first invented, and yet retained, by the Roman Antichrist.

Fourthly, that diligent heed be taken, that such to whom the office of preaching is committed, discharge and do their duties; for it is not, nor will not be, the chanting or mumbling over of certain psalms, the reading of chapters for matins and even-song, or of homilies only, be they never so godly, that feed the souls of the hungry sheep. [42]Christ Jesus himself, his holy apostles, and that elect vessel, Paul, do teach us another lesson, all commanding us to preach, and that to preach Christ Jesus crucified, etc. What efficacy has the living voice above the bare letter read, the hungry and thirsty do feel to their comfort. But the other makes for Master Parson's purpose, who retaining in his hands a number of benefices, appoints such in his place as are altogether destitute of the gift of preaching. But let all such belly-gods be whipped out of God's holy temple (Phil. 3:19; Matt. 20).

[43]Fifthly, let none that are appointed to labour in Christ's vineyard be entangled with civil affairs (and, as you call them, the affairs of the realm), except it be when the civil magistrate and ministers of the word assemble together, for execution of discipline, which is a thing easy to be done, without withdrawing any person from his charge, if that which is before expressed be observed. For, as touching their yearly coming to the Parliament, for matters of religion, it shall be superfluous and vain, if God's true religion be once so established, that after it is never called into controversy.

[44]And as touching execution of discipline, that must be done in every city and shire where the magistrates and ministers are joined together, without any respect of persons; [45]so that the ministers, albeit they lack the glorious titles of lords, and the devilish pomp which before appeared in proud prelates, yet must they be so stout, and so bold in God's cause, that if the king himself would usurp any other authority in God's religion, than becomes a member of Christ's body, that first he be admonished according to God's word; and after, if he contemns the same, be subject to the yoke of discipline; to whom they shall boldly say, as Azariah the priest said to Uzziah, the king of Judah, "It is not lawful for thee, O Uzziah, to offer incense, but it appertains to the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated, to burn it. Pass out, therefore, for thou hast offended; which thing shall not redound to thy glory," etc. (2 Chron. 26:18). This is the duty (I say) of all Christ's faithful ministers, whensoever any man, be he king or emperor, usurps to himself authority against God: to rebuke him openly, to resist and stand against him to the uttermost of their power, whom the Lord, by the Spirit of this mouth and power of his word, shall confound, even as he did the pride of Uzziah, if they [the ministers] are strong and valiant in God's cause.

[46]Now, last (omitting things of no less importance to your wisdoms), for the preservation of religion, it is most expedient that schools be universally erected in all cities and chief towns: the oversight whereof to be committed to the magistrates and godly learned men of the said cities and towns, that of the youth godly instructed amongst them, a seed may be reserved and continued, for the profit of Christ's church in all ages.

[47]It remains briefly to answer to two things which may give you occasion to faint in this the Lord's work: first, the lack of workmen to put things in such order as is requisite; and secondly, the fear of tumult and sedition within yourselves, or invasion of foreign nations. In God's name, I fear not to affirm, that neither the one nor the other shall hurt you in the end, if you, with your whole hearts, seek God's glory to be promoted and all sorts of abominations to be rooted out.

For if you pray with earnest affection, he shall endue such as you know not with wisdom and knowledge to rule in his church, to the comfort of his flock. There are more labourers than the eyes of man sees, that profitably would work in the Lord's harvest. And as for fear of enemies: they may with Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, conspire against Moses and Aaron (Num. 16); with the Moabites and Ammonites against Jehoshaphat; or with proud Sennacharib against Hezekiah and afflicted Zion (2 Chron. 20, 32): but rather, ere you shall be confounded, if with a perfect heart you seek the Lord your God, rather (I say) shall the earth open and devour such rebels (Num. 16); rather shall your enemies every one murder [the] others; and, rather, shall the angels of the Lord fight for deliverance, or [than] the work be hindered, and perish in your hands (2 Kings 20).

But if you, O England! for any respect delay your repentance and conversion unto God; if you shall still foster in your bosom the generation of vipers; if you shall retain in honour and authority such as have declared themselves enemies to God and to his eternal truth, not by any infirmity, but of determined malice and set purpose, to murder and destroy God's chosen children; if, finally, you shall not study to root out and cut off such rotten members, as can do nothing but infect the whole body; "then call I to witness against you both heaven and earth" (Deut. 4:26), that I and others (the servants of God) who faithfully, and in time, have warned you of your duty and [of] vengeance to come,[48] are and shall be clean from your blood which shortly shall perish, if you contemn the admonitions of God's messengers. Too late it shall be for you to howl and cry, when the flame of God's hot displeasure shall begin to burn. It will not then be the flattering enticements and vain policies of such as seek more themselves than Christ's glory that will extinguish it. No, it shall burn and shall destroy the head and the tail, the prince and the false prophet, the root and the branches of such impiety. Be warned, therefore, if you list escape vengeance, which is already prepared for the disobedient!

[49]But, O you that in sorrow of heart see these abominations, that lament, and do not pollute yourselves with them: let your hearts rest upon the Eternal, who shall be to you a rock, and a strong castle of defence. And then, although the heaven and the earth should be confounded, yet shall his mercy deliver you from danger; and in very experience and joy of heart you shall sing, "O Lord, thou art our God; we shall exalt and confess thy name, for thou hast done wondrous things. Thy counsels are profound, far off to man's judgment; but yet are they true and sure. The strong tents and the palaces of the proud thou hast brought to ruin, so that they shall never be restored again; and therefore the strong people shall glorify thee. Yea, the cities of tyrannical nations shall fear thee," etc. (Isa. 25:1-3). "Behold, this is our God, whom we have abidden; he hath saved us. This is the Lord, whom we looked for; we shall rejoice and be joyful in his salvation," etc. (Isa. 25:9). This, I say, shall be the song which, in experience of the Lord's deliverance, your hearts shall sing, even when God's most severe judgments shall, in your eyes, be executed against the ungodly; and therefore call you for strength to continue to the end.


God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the power of his Holy Spirit so illuminate and so move your hearts, that clearly you may see, and perfectly understand, how horrible has been your fall from his verity; how fearful and terrible it is to fall into his hands without hope of mercy; and what is that his unspeakable mercy which yet again he offers unto you; and that it may please his eternal goodness to endue you with such wisdom, prudence, and fortitude, that seeing his good pleasure in his word revealed, without all fear you may follow the same, to the advancement of his glory, to the consolation of his afflicted church, and to your everlasting comfort, through our only Mediator, Redeemer, Peacemaker, and Lawgiver, Christ Jesus our Lord, whose Holy Spirit rule your hearts in his true fear. So be it.

From Geneva, the 12th of January 1559.

[John Knox]


The names of some part of those most faithful servants and dear children of God, which lately in you, and by you, O England! have been most cruelly murdered by fire and imprisonment, for the testimony of Christ Jesus and his eternal verity: whose blood, from under the altar, cries loud to be avenged on them that dwell upon the earth, as before is mentioned (Rev. 6:9-11); besides a great number of God's children who, under the pretence of treason, suffered for Christ's religion.

The Year of 1554


at London
4th ­ John Rogers, preacher

at Coventry
Laurence Saunders, preacher

at Hadliegh
Rowland Taylor, preacher

at Gloucester
9th ­ John Hooper, late bishop of Gloucester

at Carmarthen
22th ­ Robert Ferrar, bishop of St. Davids


at London
5th ­ Thomas Tomkins, weaver

at Brentwood
15th ­ William Hunter, apprentice

at Horndon on the Hill
25th ­ Thomas Higbed, gentleman

at Raleigh
Thomas Causton, gentleman

The Year 1555


at Braintree
27th ­ William Pygot, weaver
28th ­ Stephen Knight, butcher
William Dighel

at Colchester
John Laurence, preacher


2nd ­ John Alcock, died in Newgate prison

at Westminster
24th ­ William Flower, alias Branche, whose hand was first cut off, for striking a priest in his zeal, being at Mass.

at Westchester
George Marsh, preacher


at London
31st ­ John Cardmaker
[Sir John Taylor]
John Warne, upholsterer


at London
4th ­ William [John] Tooley, serving-man, was hanged, buried, and then taken up and burnt, because at his death he prayed thus: "From the tyranny of the bishop of Rome," requiring the people to say with him, "Good Lord deliver us."

at Chelmsford
10th ­ Thomas Watts, linen draper

at Coggeshall
11th ­ Thomas Haukes

at Rochford
John Simson, weaver

at Raleigh
John Ardeley
Nicholas Chamberlain

at Maningtree
Thomas Osmunde

at Harwich
12th ­ William Butler [Bamford]


at London
1st ­ John Bradford, preacher
John Liefe [Leaf], apprentice
2nd ­ William Ming, minister, died in Maidestone prison

at Canterbury, in one fire
12th ­ John Bland, minister
John Frankesh, minister
Nicholas Sheterden
Humfrey Middleton

at Dartford
John [Christopher] Wade

at Lewes
Dirick Harman [Carver]

at Stenning
John Lauder [Launder]

at Chichester
Thomas Everson
Richard Hooke, a lame man

at Rochester
Nicholas Hall

at Tunbridge
Joan [Margery] Polley

at Reading
30th ­ William Aleworth died in prison


at St. Edmonds Bury
2nd ­ James Abbes

at Uxbridge
John Denleye [Denly], gentleman

at Stratford Bowe
Warne's widow [Elizabeth Warne]

at Canterbury
23th ­ William Cocker,gentleman
Richard Collier
Henry Laurence
William Hopper
William Stere
Richard Wright

at Tauton
24th ­ Roger Corier

at St. Albans
26th ­ George Tankerfelde [Tankerfield]
William Baumeford

at Uxbridge
Patrick Packingham

at Stanes [Uxbridge]
Robert Smith

at Stratford
30th ­ Steven Harwood

at Ware
Thomas Fust

at Saffron Walden
31st ­ John Newman

at Barnet
William Hale


at Ipswich
2nd ­ Robert Samuel

at Walsingham
3rd­ William Allen

at Chetford
Thomas Cobb

at Texford
Thomas Coe [Roger Coo]

at Canterbury
6th ­ George Brodbridge
James Tutty
George Catmer
Robert Streter [Streater]
Antonie Burward

at London
11th ­ John Liefe died in Newgate prison

at Lichfield
Thomas Hayward
Thomas [John] Goreway
Tingle died in Newgate prison
Richard Smith died in [the] Lollard's Tower, and was burned in the fields

in Lollard's Tower
died, George Bing [King]
William Androwes[Andrew]

at Coventry
19th ­ Robert Glover, gentleman
Cornelius Bungayne [Bungey]

at Ely
William Wolsey, weaver
Robert Pigot, painter


at Oxford
4th ­ Nicholas Ridley, bishop of London
Hugh Latimer, before bishop or Worcester

at Canterbury
16th ­ John Web [Webbe], gentleman

at Canterbury
31st ­ George Roper
Gregory Painter [Park]


at Colchester
7th ­ James Gore died in prison

at London
14th ­ William Wiseman died in Lollard's Tower, and was cast into the fields, and commandment given that he should not be buried; but in the night godly men buried him.

in London
18th ­ John Philpot, archdeacon of Winchester
Thomas Whittle, minister


[in London]
27th ­ Bartlet Greene, gentleman
Thomas Brown
John Tudson
John Went
Agnes [Isabel] Foster
Joan Lushford [Joan Warne]

at Canterbury
31st ­ John Lowmas [Lomas]
Anne Albright [alias Champnes]
Joan Soalle [Sole]
John Painter [Catmer]
Agnes Snoth

at Ipswich
19th ­ Anne [Agnes] Potten
Joan Trunchfield, wife of Michael Trunchfield

at Oxford
21st ­ Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, whose worthy works remain

at Salisbury
24th ­ [John] Spicer
[John] Maundrell
[William] Coberley, a tailor

The Year 1556


at Cambridge
2nd ­ John Hullier, minister

at Rochester
[John] Harpol [Harpole]
[Joan] Beach, widow

at London

10th ­ William Tymmes, minister
Robert Drakes, alias
Gyen, minister
George Ambrose
John Cavel
Thomas Spurge
Richard Spurge

at Colchester
28th ­ Christopher Lyster, minister
John Mace
Richard Nichols
John Spencer
John Hamond
Simon Joyne


at Gloucester
5th ­ Thomas [Drowry], a blind boy
[Thomas] Croker

at London
13th ­ Margaret Eliot, maiden, condemned, died in Newgate, and was buried in the fields.

at Stratford-le-Bow
15th ­ John Apprice, a blind man
Hugh Laverock, a lame man

in London
16th ­ Katharine Hut, widow
Joan Horns, maiden
Elizabeth Thackvel
at Beckels in Suffolk
21st ­ three women [three men, according to John Foxe: Thomas Spicer, John Denny, Edmund Poole]

in the King's Bench [Prison]
William Slech died, and was buried on the backside


at Lewes
6th ­ Thomas Harland
John Oswald
Thomas Rede
Thomas Abington
Thomas Hood [Whood], minister
20th ­ Thomas Milles

In the King's Bench [Prison]
23rd ­ William Adheral, minister, died, and was buried on the backside
25th ­ John Clement, wheelwright, died in the King's Bench [prison], buried on the backside

at Leicester
A merchant's servant

at Stratford-le-Bow
26th ­ Henry Adlington
Rodulphe [Ralph] Jackson
William Hallywel
Thomas Bowyer
Laurence Parman [Parnam]
Lyon Cawch
Henrie Wie [Wye]
John Derifall
John Routh
Edmund Hurst
George Searles
Elizabeth Pepper
Agnes George

in the King's Bench [Prison]
27th ­ Thomas Paret and Martin Hunt died, and were buried on the backside

at Edmonds Burye
30th ­ Three persons [Roger Bernard, Adam Foster, and Robert Lawson]


in the Kings Bench
1st ­ John Carels [Careless], weaver died, and was buried on the backside

at Newbury
16th ­ John Gwyn, shoemaker
[Thomas] Asken
Julius Palmer

at Grinstead
18th ­ Thomas Dingat
John Forman [Foreman]
Mother Trie [Tree]


at Derby
1st ­ A blind woman [Joan Waste]


at Mayfield
24th ­ John Hart
Thomas Ravensdalle
A shoemaker
A currier
Nicholas Holden, weaver

at Bristol
A young man, a glover [Edward Sharp?]

at Newent
John Horne

at Wootton-under-Edge, in Gloucestershire
A woman

in Canterbury
died, John Clarcke
Dunstone Chittenden
[John] Archer
Potkins's wife [Alice Potkins]
William Foster


at Northampton
18th ­ A shoemaker

Three died in Canterbury Castle, and were buried in the fields


at Canterbury
22nd ­ Thomas Fynall [Final]
[William] Foster
[Nicholas] Fynall's servant
and three more

at Ashford
Two [Nicholas Final and Matthew Bradbridge]

at Wie
Two [Thomas Stephens and John Philpot]

The Year 1557


in London
12th ­ Thomas Loseby
Henry Ramsey
Thomas Sturley [Thirtel]
Agnes Stanley
Margaret Hide


in St. George fields
29th ­ Stephen Gratwicke
William Morrant
Thomas King


at Maidstone
6th - Joan Bradbridge
Walter Appleby, and Petronil, his wife
Edmund Allin and Katherine Allin, his wife
John Manning's wife
Elizabeth, a blind maid

at Bristol

at Canterbury
19th ­ John Fishcock
Nicholas White
Nicholas Pardue
Barbara Final, widow
Bradbridge's widow
Alice Benden, wife of Edward Benden
Wilson's wife

at Lewes
22nd ­ Richard Woodman
George Stevens
Margery Morris
James Morris, her son
Dionyse Burges
William Mainerd
Alexander Hosman,
Mainerd's servant
Thomasin à Wood, maiden
Ashdoune's wife
Grove's wife

in Maidstone Prison
died one Ambrose


at Norwich
12th ­ Simon Miller, yeoman
Elizabeth Cooper


at Colchester, in Forenoon|
2nd ­ Alice [Agnes] Silverside [alias Smith]
Helen Ewring, wife of John Ewring
Elizabeth Fookes [Folkes]
with three more [William Bongeor, William Purcas, Thomas Benold]

There in the Afternoon
four more [William Mount, John Johnson, Alice Mount]

at Colchester
5th ­ Margaret Thurston
Agnes Bongeor, wife of William Bongeor

at Rochester
20th ­ Robert Frier, an aged man
a man
a woman

at Norwich
23rd ­ Cicely Ormes


at Litchfield
10th ­ Joice Lewes

at Islington
17th ­ Ralph Allerton
James Austoo
Margerie Austoo, his wife
Richard Rothe


in London
13th ­ John Hallingdale carpenter
[William] Sparrow
Richard Gibson, gentleman


in London
22nd ­ John Rough, preacher to the congregation in London
Margaret James [Mearing]


in London
27th ­ Cutbert Sympson, one of the deacons first chosen in the congregation in London
John Devenish, wool winder
Hugh Foxe, hosier

The Year 1558


at Huntington


15th ­ John Mainerd died in Newgate, and was buried in the fields


at Colchester
26th ­ William Harris
[Richard] Day
Christian George


at Norwich
Three [William Seaman, Thomas Carman, Thomas Hudson] died in Newgate and were buried in the field.
Thomas Taylor
Matthew Wythers
27th ­ Henry Pond
Matthew Ricarby
John Holiday
John Floyd
Reinald Eastland
Roger Holland
Thomas [Robert] Southam


at Brentford
13th ­ John Slade and five more
[Robert Mills, Stephen Cotton, Robert Dymes (Dynes), Stephen Wight, William Pikas (Pikes)]

at Winchester
29th ­ Thomas Benbridge, gentleman


If the examinations and unjust accusations of these our dear brethren, with the names of their wicked accusers, false judges, and cruel tormenters, had been sent unto us, as these few names were, we would most gladly have done our diligence, that the wonderful constancy of the one, and the great rage and cruelty of the other should have been witnessed unto the world: which thing, nevertheless, we mind hereafter more largely to perform, to the glory of God, to the comfort of his church, and to the perpetual confusion of those murderers and members of Satan, whom the Lord shall confound by the glorious coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ.


1. Marginal Note: In delivering them out of the bondage of Egypt and captivity of Babylon

2. Marginal Note: Jeroboam and Rehoboam, kings of Israel and Judah, with their posterity

3. Marginal Note: As Joash and Manasseh

4. Marginal Note: As he did the seed of Abraham

5. Marginal Note: In casting out seven nations before them, and delivering them from their oppressors

6. Marginal Note: Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, preached first to the Jews

7. Marginal Note: God's fearful judgments upon the Jews even to this day

8. Marginal Note: God's unspeakable mercies bestowed upon England

9. Marginal Note: The shameful defection of England

10. Marginal Note: God's mercies once again offered to England

11. Marginal Note: Idolatry was the cause of those horrible plagues

12. Marginal Note: Let the just punishments of other nations move you, O England, to repentance

13. Marginal Note: In this time reigned Rehoboam, Abijah, Joram, and ten others, all idolatrous kings

14. Marginal Note: Lawyers

15. Marginal Note: Judges and princes

16. Marginal Note: Nobles

17. Marginal Note: Commons

18. Marginal Note: Prophets and priests

19. Marginal Note: The corruption and mixture of religion

20. Marginal Note: Pastors

21. Marginal Note: Behold, O England, this universal defection! Compare it with your former and yet present state, and be warned

22. Marginal Note: Such as the prince is, such commonly are the people

23. Marginal Note: This had been your bound duty, O England, in the days of that most execrable idolatress, Mary

24. Marginal Note: Note this practice and success thereof

25. Marginal Note: Shebna, treasurer

26. Marginal Note: Behold the fruits of idolatry

27. Marginal Note: A glass for England

28. Marginal Note: The names of so many as could be now gotten are annexed in the end

29. Marginal Note: The duty of England when idolatry was first erected

30. Marginal Note: By true repentance you shall escape God's vengeance

31. Marginal Note: Two things required in the reformation of religion

32. Marginal Note: Vain ceremonies, and such as serve not to edification, ought to be abolished

33. Marginal Note: No prince nor parliament ought to do anything in matters of religion without the assurance of God's word

34. Marginal Note: The voices and counsel of such as are neither hot nor cold

35. Marginal Note: None compelling God's people to idolatry ought to be permitted to reign over them

36. Marginal Note: Idolaters ought to be punished

37. Marginal Note: The Lord is found of all that unfeignedly seek him

38. Marginal Note: No dumb dog nor poisoned Papist ought to have any charge of Christ's flock

39. Marginal Note: Plurality of benefices reproved

40. Marginal Note: London

41. Marginal Note: The great dominions and charges of proud prelates are an invention of Antichrist

42. Marginal Note: The office of true ministers

43. Marginal Note: The ministers of the word ought not to exercise any civil office, or to be entangled with the affairs of the realm

44. Marginal Note: Discipline must be executed without respect of persons

45. Marginal Note: The ministers must be stout and bold in God's causes, albeit they want [lack] the glorious and vain titles of lords

46. Marginal Note: Schools to be universally erected

47. Marginal Note: An answer to two objections

48. Marginal Note: Be warned, O England! if you will escape God's vengeance

49. Marginal Note: Such as unfeignedly fear the Lord shall find comfort in their greatest danger

Copyright © 1995 by Kevin Reed
Presbyterian Heritage Publications
P.O. Box 180922
Dallas, Texas 75218

This edition has been edited to reflect contemporary spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Bracketed words are supplied where needed to complete the sense of a sentence. Bracketed words in italics are inserted following some antiquated terms or phrases as a convenience to the modern reader. Therefore, the words in brackets are not a part of the original text.

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