Thomas Stapleton, in his early and masterful biography of St. Thomas More, describes how clever the saint was at hiding his virtues from others, and at disguising the provenance of his literary works.
More’s Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation, for instance, pretends to be written “in the person of a Hungarian who speaks of the cruelty of the Turkish Emperor, the unrest in Hungary, and the fear of future evils.”
Actually, it is written in English by More himself, imprisoned by a wayward monarch and awaiting his own rigged trial and unjust execution.
While the evils referred to in the book are real in their own right, Stapleton takes them as referring obliquely to “Henry’s cruelty, to the disturbances in England, [and] to the fear and expectation of the spread of heresy there.”
In this excerpt, More places both sets of evils in a larger context, which we might do well to apply (with minimal modifications) to our own era:
I doubt not at all but that in conclusion, however base Christendom be brought, it shall spring up again, till the time be come very near to the day of judgment, some tokens of which methinketh are not come yet.
But somewhat before that time shall Christendom be straitened sore, and brought into so narrow a compass that, according to Christ’s words, “When the Son of Man shall come again”—that is, to the day of general judgment—“thinkest thou that he shall find faith in the earth?”—as though he should say, “but a little.”
For, as appeareth in the Apocalypse and other places of scripture, the faith shall be at that time so far faded that he shall, for the love of his elect, lest they should fall and perish too, abridge those days and accelerate his coming.
So I say that for mine own mind I have little doubt that this ungracious sect of Mahomet shall have a foul fall, and Christendom spring and spread, flower and increase again.
Howbeit, the pleasure and comfort shall they see who shall be born after we are buried, I fear me.
For God giveth us great likelihood that for our sinful wretched living he goeth about to make these infidels, who are his open professed enemies, the sorrowful scourge of correction over evil Christian people who should be faithful and who are of truth his falsely professing friends.
If Christendom once again finds itself in sore straits, let us strive to hasten its reflowering by living in true friendship with Christ, and with one another!
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