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Ploughboy Notes and News

Ploughboy Group Notes: Journal 24

David Ireson, Ploughboy Group Convenor

The Society continues to grow and this has caused some difficulties in recent months. Growth in both Britain and North America demanded we have two membership secretaries (see inside back cover for details). Charlotte Dewhurst is thus now able to focus on work essential to the Society’s future.

We Ploughboys have much to do. How often do people meet us and catch something of our enthusiasm but then do not follow it through to joining us and starting on that fascinating study of Tyndale and the Reformation? People of every Christian denomination are eager to read and learn so much. There are others of no faith who immerse themselves in the study of history or the study of language with equal enthusiasm. We are keen to welcome them all.

Please do write to me with your ideas. If you feel you could give talks to local groups, then let me know too. The Ploughboy Group needs a lot more active volunteers!

‘Obedience’: a book for every Ploughboy to read!

David Ireson

Fundamental questions, which are still relevant today, are brought into focus in Tyndale’s 1528 ‘The Obedience of a Christian Man’. In Tyndale’s day everyone was subject to the authority of the King and the Church. His book looked at the obedience we owe to others, to parents, landlords, princes, kings and rulers and of course, the Church.

William had begun to question the authority of the Church in his ‘Parable of the Wicked Mammon’, but in the ‘Obedience’ his thoughts are made plain. As David Daniell explains in the introductory essay, Tyndale followed the thinking found in the first two sentences of Luther’s ‘On the Liberty of a Christian Man’. The first sentence reads: “A Christian man is a free lord over everything and subject to no one”. Fine! But then the second sentence reads: “A Christian man is an obedient servant in everything and subject to everyone”.

William sets out his understanding of the social structure created by God and how we all, kings included, owe obedience to God. He condemns the way in which the Church demands support. The clergy demand payment for their teaching; but their teaching is false, placing works before faith. William made it clear that the King was accountable directly to God and not to the Pope. No wonder Henry VIII said that the ‘Obedience’ was a book for him and every king to read.

There are many insights into life in Tyndale’s day. William was angry with the church for its ‘threatening and forbidding lay people to read the scripture’. This was not motivated ‘for the love of your souls (which they care for as the fox doth for the geese)’ (p24). But there was little condemnation of other books readily available: ‘they permit and suffer you to read Robin Hood and Bevis of Hampton, Hercules, Hector and Troilus with a thousand histories and fables of love and wantonness and of ribaldry as filthy as heart can think, to corrupt the minds of you withal, clean contrary to the doctrine of Christ and of his apostles’.

The ‘Obedience’ is a book for every ploughboy to read. Here is my favourite passage (p31):

‘God for a secret judgment and purpose and for his godly pleasure, provided an hour that thy father and mother should come together, to make thee through them. He was present with thee in thy mother’s womb and fashioned thee and breathed life into thee, and for the great love he had unto thee, provided milk in thy mother’s breasts for thee: moved also thy father and mother and all other to love thee, to pity thee and care for thee. so hath he cast thee under the power and authority of them, to obey and serve them. saying: honour thy father and mother. Understand that whatsoever thou doest unto them (be it good or bad) thou doest unto God’.

After his Biblical writings, this was William’s most important book. If you have not read it yet, order the Penguin Classic edition quickly; there are still copies available but Penguin will have to reprint soon!

CD Bible issues
Victor Perry is very knowledgeable on CD Bible issues. He drew the editor’s attention to Still Water Revival Books work in this field both in their Puritan Bookshelf series and their Reformation Bible series. Anyone interested in this line of research could contact him on email

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