Atheos. I thank you Sir.
Zelotes. How far do ye travel this way?
Atheos. Twenty miles.
Zelotes. Do you dwell in Essex?
Atheos. Yea, not far from Chelmsford.
Zelotes. What call ye the town where ye dwell?
Zelotes. Have ye a Preacher there?
Atheos. We have an honest man our Curate.
Zelotes. Doth he teach his flock?
Atheos. He doth his good will, and more ye cannot require of a man.
Zelotes. Ye did commend him even now, to be an honest man.
Atheos. Commend him? yea I may commend him: I am persuaded we have the best Priest in this country, we would be loathe to forgo him for the learnedest of them all.
Zelotes. I pray ye let me hear what his virtues be, for which ye do commend him so highly.
Atheos. He is as gentle a person as ever I see: a very good fellow, he will not stick when good fellows and honest men meet together, to spend his groat at the alehouse: I cannot tell, they preach and preach, but he doth live as well as the best of them all. I am afraid when he is gone, we shall never have the like again.
Zelotes. Be these the great virtues which ye do commend him for? He may have all these and yet be more meet for to keep swine, than to be a shepherd over the flock of Christ: is he able to teach the people, and doth he instruct them in God's word?
Atheos. I know not what teaching ye would have, he doth read the Service as well as any of them all, and I think there is as good edifying in those prayers and homilies, as in any that the Preacher can make: let us learn those first.
Zelotes. That is not all which is required in a Minister, for a boy of ten years old can do all this: doth he not teach them to know the will of God, and reprove naughtiness among the people?
Atheos. Yes that he doth, for if there be any that do not agree, he will seek for to make them friends: for he will get them to play a game or two of bowls or cards, and to drink together at the alehouse: I think it a godly way to make charity: he is none of these busy controllers for if he were, he could not be so well liked of some (and those not of the meanest) as he is.
Zelotes. Do ye call the Preachers of God's word busy controllers? Do they go further than God's word doth lead them?
Atheos. We may call them busy controllers. I think we shall do nothing shortly, as poor a man as I am, I would not for forty shillings that we had one of them, there be more of my mind.
Zelotes. Some poor men perhaps.
Atheos. Nay, the best in the Parish, who would not so well like of our Curate, if he should meddle that way.
Zelotes. I perceive now what manner of man your Curate is, and I see, like master like scholar.
Atheos. Why so pray ye?
Zelotes. Why so, I smell how unmeet [unfit] he is, and also how ignorant you are, Let me question a little while with ye concerning that which ye have uttered.
Atheos. I trust I have uttered nothing but that which doth become an honest man.
Zelotes. Nay, all your speech doeth bewray [betray] that you are a carnal man, for you have made a very fine description of a good Curate: what mean ye when ye say, he is good fellow, and will not stick to spend his money among good fellows, is it not because he is a pot companion?
Atheos. Do ye mislike good fellowship, is it not lawful for honest men to drink and be merry together?
Zelotes. I do not mislike true fellowship, which is in the Lord, knit in true godliness, but I mislike this vice, which overfloweth everywhere, that drunkards meet together and sit quaffing, and the minister which should reprove them, to be one of the chief: when he should be at his study, to be upon the ale-bench at cards or dice.
Atheos. I perceive you are one of those curious and precise fellows, which will allow no recreation: what would ye have men do? We shall do nothing shortly. You would have them moping always at their books. I like not that.
Zelotes. Nay my friend, I do not allow that recreation, which profane men call so, which is no recreation, but a torment to a godly mind, to see men drunken, to hear them swear and rail, to spend their goods and their time so lewdly; and he that should teach them, to be a ring leader: as there be many as it seemeth, which are entered into the ministry, for none other purpose, but to live an idle life, to have leisure to play cards, or tables, and bowls all the week; and therefore they have no skill to teach but unsavory salt, are not good even for the dunghill.
Atheos. These things were used before you were born, and will be when you are gone, so long as men think no hurt when they play and be merry. . . .
Atheos. That is true, but I will follow our forefathers: now there is no love, then they lived in friendship, and made merry together: now there is no neighborhood: now every man for himself, and are ready to pull one another by the throat.
Zelotes. There are but a few of your mind in this thing, are there?
Atheos. Yes the greatest part: for I know almost none, but they will affirm this matter. . . .
Atheos. I will not learn the way to heaven of any man, for I hope I have as good a faith, and as good a soul Godward as the best learned of them all.
Zelotes. Whereby do you try your goodness and your faith, any other way than by your own blind fantasy?
Atheos. I mean well: I hurt no man: nor I think no man any hurt: I love God above all: and I put my whole trust in him: what would ye have more? they preach and teach, they can tell us no more but this, when they have all said what they can. . . .