The following Curiosity is extracted from the Cotton Library, Vespasian A. folio 53.
A SERMON preached by Parson Hyberdines, which he made at the command of certain Thieves, after they had robbed him, beside Harthrow
in Hampshire, in the Fields, and spoke in their presence.
I GREATLY marvel that any man will presume to dispraise you thieves; and think the doer thereof worthy of death, considering that it is a thing cometh near unto virtue;
being used by many in all countries, and commanded and allowed of by God himself.
Such things, perhaps, I cannot compendiously shew unto you at so short a warning, and in such sharp weather; but I shall desire you, gentle audience of thieves,
to take in good part these things which at present cometh to my mind, not misdoubting, but that you, of your good knowledge, are able to add much more unto this
which I shall utter unto you. - First, Fortitude and stoutness of courage, and also boldness of mind, is commended by some men to be virtuous, which being granted, who is it then that
will not judge thieves to be virtuous? for they be of all men most stout, hardy, and most without fear.
So thievery is a thing most usual among all men; for not only you that be here present, but many others in divers places, both men, women, and children,
rich and poor, are daily of this faculty, as the hangman of Tyburn can testify, and that that is allowed of by God himself, as is evident from the
following texts of scripture; for if you look into the whole course of the Bible, you shall find that thieves have been beloved of God; for Jacob,
when he came out of Mesopotamia, did steal his uncle Laban's kid; the same Jacob did steal his brother Esan's blessing, and yet God said,
"I have chosen Jacob and refused Esau."
The children of Israel, when they came out of Egypt, did steal the Egyptian's jewels of silver and gold, and God commanded them so to do.
David, in the days of Lebiathar the high priest, did come into the temple and did steal the hallowed bread, and yet God said,
"David is a man after my own heart."
Christ himself, when he was here on earth, did take an ass and a colt that was none of his, and you know that God said of him,
"this is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased."
Thus, you see, that God delighteth in thieves.
But most of all I marvel that men despise you thieves:
whereas in all points almost, you are like unto Christ himself.
For Christ had no dwelling place; no more have you.
Christ went from town to town; and so do you.
Christ as hated of all men saving his friends; and so are you.
Christ was laid wait upon in many places; and so are you.
Christ at the length was caught; and so shall you be.
He was brought before the judges; and so shall you be.
He was condemned; and so shall you be.
He was hanged; and so shall you be.
He went down to hell; and so shall you do.
Marry, in the one thing you differ from him; for he arose again and ascended into heaven; and so shall you never do, without God's great mercy,
which I pray God grant you.
To whom with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory for ever and ever.
Thus the sermon being ended, they gave him his money again that they took from him, as also two shillings to drink, for his sermon.