None may discern these two parties verily from each other, wandering in this second church, for their likeness, and that they have in common many heavenly things. For our Lord hath in his church, labourers about his vineyard, fasters, prayers, and wakers: alms doers are in this church, with preachers, and readers of lessons, and singers also, with ministers of sacraments, with studiers in God’s law, and men that make love days (Times appointed for the settlement of differences.). And the like servants hath the fiend in the third church, but they do their service in a strange manner. Nevertheless, they are hard to know, therefore we shall mark how wonderfully they vary in these aforesaid conditions.
Fasters in Christ’s church abstain from lusts, to abate their rebel flesh, and keep their bodies clean, and subject to their soul. The soul is not a debtor to follow the life after the flesh, but on contrariwise, the flesh must needs be mortified; and when thou leavest foul desires then is thy flesh mortified. This is the deed that we shall do, this is the office of our warfare. But fasters in the fiend’s church fast for ungrounded, cause; some fast for hypocrisy, and show themselves sorrowful to the people. Such Christ blameth, and calleth them sorrowful hypocrites, Matthew 6. For of the vain praises of man’s mouth, they have received all their reward. Some deny themselves both meat and drink, to spare their purse; and Gregory saith, this fasting is for their satchel and not for God! And this is to pain our flesh, and lose our reward, as the wise man saith, Ecclesiasticus 6. Some fast for a medicine, to get them bodily health, neither for God, nor for the soul, but to cleanse their beauty. St. Jerome blames this fasting. “Abstinence of body is holiness to God when the mind fasteth from vices. What profits it to tear the body with hunger, when the mind within swells with pride? What fasting is this to withdraw food, and to rage in envy or foul hastiness?” God saith by the prophet Isaiah Iviii. When ye fast ye make strife and debates among yourselves; this is not the fasting that I choose, saith the Lord God. The fiend neither eateth nor drinketh, neither is wrapped in clothes, yet he shall be ever in pain, for he lacketh charity. This then is an evidence that all such reckless fasters are members of the fiend’s church in following their father.
Prayers that are in Christ’s church pray with devotion, with all the strength of their hearts, and their mouths accordingly. Freshly bringing to their minds the kindness of God; how he hath ruled them in this hfe, and kept them from mischief, as though he had no more than one : so he saveth all them that love him. Then they think on their foul sins, and feel that they have done both wittingly and wilfully against God’s will. They have been careless in God’s service, and that grieves them sorely. And when they think on this world, how it passes suddenly, and of the torment in hell that damned souls shall suffer, and on the bliss that God hath ordained for his true servants, they find a well that springeth from the heart, and runs forth from their eyes by many warm streams. But prayers* in. the fiend’s church make much noise, mumbling with their lips. As Christ saith. Matt. xv. This people worship me with their lips, but their heart is far fi-om me. When thy body is in the church, but thy heart in the world, or cumbered with unclean thoughts, and with vain fantasies, and thy tongue in minstrelsy or foolish jangling, and thy wits overset with worldly cares, art not thou then wretchedly divided in thyself? St. James saith, Suppose not, vain man, that he may take any thing of the Lord that suffereth his heart to sleep in sin. And God saith to wicked livers, Isaiah i. When ye have multiplied your prayers, I shall not hear you giaciously. Christ saith, Matt, xxiii. Wo to you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites, that eat the houses of w^idows by your long prayers; for this ye shall have the larger judgment. Upon this saith Chrysostom, “The sleights or wiles of hypocrites, women may not easily know; and because of their religion they will soon bow to them; for they are tender and wave about as the wind.” These flattering glosers most haunt widows’ houses. Christ wisheth them wo, and warneth priests that they forsake this sinful manner. For it is too cursed a deed to hide sin under a painted religion, and to clothe wickedness in hypocrisy, till it is beUeved for very pity; and in the armour of Jesus Christ. They do the fiend’s work of hell when they enlarge their long prayers as nets that are spread abroad, and with craft they catch away the goods of these simple widows. These widows we shall understand both for women and for men that want wisdom of Jesus Christ, who is the spouse of man’s soul. For Jesus Christ nowhere delights but in them that love his law.
Wakers that are in Christ’s church, wake in virtue and devout prayer, and avoid all devices; for they will not be neghgent, but keep awake their inward eye, which faithfully sees the works of God, and then rises up, as St. Paul saith, a new man formed after God, and serves him in righteousness, truth, and holiness. This is waking to God’s worship and their own salvation, and profits their fellow christian. For St. Paul means, this work chases the fiend, so that he flees from all such wakers, and has no power to hurt body or soul. Certainly the thought foreknown turns away the mind fi^om sin, and great infirmity makes a sober soul.
But wakers in the fiend’s church use a fleshly watch, for they are ever slumbering. When any good deed is to be done, they are overcome with the dead sleep that brings them to mischief, as the wise man saith, Proverbs vi. Napping, slumbering, and dead sleep are the fiend’s officers. Men nap when they consent to do the fiend’s stirring. When they work openly what the fiend desires, in the sight of the world, they are slumbering. But when they maintain boldly whatever they do amiss, then they are in dead sleep, and wake in their sins, changing night into day. Alms doers in Christ’s church, relieve in due time, with their plenty, them that suffer need, as St. Paul saith, (2 Corinthians 8) Look that your abundance fulfils the need of others; for ye, thus doing, shall receive the blessing of God; as (Psalm 41) Blessed be he that taketh heed on the needy and poor. In four things God’s servants meedfully do their alms.
- They seek God’s will, and do it to his worship.
- Of true gotten goods, clearly in their conscience.
- That they know their brother lives a gracious life.
- That he suffers need without any feigning.
But alms doers in the fiend’s church feed many wretches, as strong stiff beggars, and strikers over the land, and groaners without cause, that need not their goods. Yea, to minstrels, to jugglers, and other vain japers, they deal largely their goods and call it alms. But true men say goods are thus dispended all amiss. And if they do any thing as need is, presently they seek vain glory, and lose all their reward. St. Isidore saith, “When the poor man is fed because of vain glory, then the work of mercy is turned into sin.” When thine intent is not well ruled, thou gettest no reward whatsoever thou do.
Preachers that are in Christ’s church, come freely among the people, as Christ came from heaven, and gave this charge to his disciples. (Matthew 10) Freely ye have your wisdom, freely give it again. And these preachers preach truly to edify the people in virtue, as Christ commanded his disciples, (Mark 16) Going forth into all the world, preach ye the gospel to each creature, that is to each man.
And they live virtuously themselves, according to their preaching, to strengthen their holy words by the spirit of life, when they give a true example, according to their saying. And this is the teaching of Jesus Christ, (Matthew 5) Look that your light so shine before men of this world, that they may see your good works, and glorify not you, but your Father that is in heaven, of whom cometh all your grace.
But preachers in the fiend’s church, preach under pretence, to take gifts. And they preach chronicles with dreamings, and many helpless tales that are of no avail. They clout falsehood to the truth with the much-ungrounded matter, hindering the people from true belief And these preachers waver about in many fleshly lusts, as Jude saith, These are spots, feasting and feeding themselves without any dread, worshipping the persons of men for gain.
Readers in Christ’s church read holy lessons, and attend to their reading with devotion: as Jerome saith, “So read thou holy writ, that thou ever have mind that the words thou readest are God’s blessed law, who commanded it not only to be read, but also that the readers should keep it in their works. What profit is it to read things to be done, and not fulfil them in deed? As a clean mirror of life, the lesson of holy writ is to be had, that all which is good may be made better, and that which is evil may be amended.” And these readers read diligently that which is treatable, and openly, without interruption, without corrupting, or passing over letter, word, or syllable, and do all things in order.
But readers in the fiend’s church jangle their lesson, as jays chatter in the cage, and wot not what they mean; striving for nought of rules of their ordinal and many vain questions. And if they understand the lesson when it is read, or any part of God’s law when it is declared, soon they tread it under foot in their works. God saith by Jeremiah 48 to these vain readers. Cursed be he that doeth the work of God fraudulently, that is to say, falsely, or deceivably. And Gregory saith, “Only that man doeth no fraud in God’s service, who waketh in study of good deeds, and neither boweth to reward of bodily things, nor seeketh the word of man’s praising, neither looketh after favour of foolish judgment.”
Singers in Christ’s church are they that sing heavenly songs, and with their sweet melody please God. As Paul saith, (Colossians 3) Suffer ye the word of God to dwell plenteously among you in all manner of heavenly wisdom, increasing you in virtue, teaching and admonishing yourselves in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing in grace with fervent devotion in your hearts to your God. And whatever ye shall do in word or in work, do ye that perfectly in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, yielding thanks to the Father by that same Jesus Christ. He that is occupied in heavenly desires, though his tongue be still, and make no noise, he sings a song, as St. Augustine saith, that God liketh best.
But singers in the fiend’s church break curious notes. And that is but a puff of wind, as saith St. Bernard wisely, “To please the people with their voice, and to fill their ears with vain din.” But St. Gregory saith, according with St. Bernard, “When fair and glosing voice is sought, perfect life is forsaken, and the people are led into sin;” as God saith by his prophet Ezekiel 33:31, 32 And again by Amos 5 Do thou away from me the pride of thy chanting: and I shall not hear the songs of thy harp. What may this mean that priests in the churches give themselves so much to song, and so little to preaching? In few places or none of the new testament shall we ground this manner of song, neither among our doctors. But they are often charged to preach, under great pain, and always that they do what they may that the people be truly taught to lead a sober life. Therefore Gregory smote them with a curse that busied themselves in the court of Rome about such feigned singing, whereby the office of preaching was hindered.
Ministers of sacraments that are in Christ’s church, bethink them how these sacraments come of Christ and of his holy passion, taken of his blessed body for treasure of his church, and they are salve and medicine for all those sick members that will show their sores to God’s priests of wise discretion, and use these sacraments in their kind. As St. Paul teaches, (1 Corinthians 5) Christ is offered our Passover, that nourisheth us with his sacraments, and therefore let us rejoice in this spiritual food, not in anger, and malice, and wickedness; but in the fair, pure, bread of holiness and of truth. These two virtues teach us to cleanse body and soul, whether we give or take these sacraments.
But ministers that are in the fiend’s church, minister these sacraments, and treat them unworthily, and all such, both learned and ignorant, are in spirit children of Judas. Thus it is with the fiend’s children when they receive the sacraments; they go to them unworthily, and so to their damnation — some there are, as Simon’s heirs, that sell these sacraments; and some are ready with their money, as chapmen in a fair, to buy of these merchants, merit, as they sup! ose. But both the buyers and the sellers merit endless pain. Some make letters for the more subtle hypocrisy, to sell all their suffrages;t wherever they find chapmen that will pay largely, then is the bargain made. How study these limbs of the fiend in the deeds of the apostles, where such merchandise is condemned, as it is said of Simon Magus, Acts 8? These that we have marked are Simon’s heirs, for they think when they have money to grant the people these spiritual gifts. But Peter blamed this man, and gave a rule that ever shall last, that curses and condemns both the givers and the takers. Judas made a covenant with the Jews and sold his master, Jesus Christ, whose death is our redemption; but therefore his name is, cursed Judas; but his children do much worse in selling the sacraments, and for less price, that are not mortal, and may not suffer. Neither any profits come of such sale, but vengeance here and elsewhere. Alas! When will these wretches beware?
Studiers in Christ’s church, study day and night, in the law of the Lord, as the prophet saith (Psalm 1) Well is it with him that so may study to find these precious fruits, to make fair their own soul with flowers of holy writ. Then Christ will take his resting place in the chamber of their conscience. St. Jerome counsels in his prologue upon the bible, “I pray thee, brother, that thou have thy study in thy mind, among the lessons that are in holy writ; busy thee nothing else to know, nothing else to seek. Set thine heart in holy study, and pursue after with all thy strength, and thou shalt in short while find it more sweet than the honeycomb.”
But studiers in the fiend’s church study in their made laws, all for riches, and for pride, and for their worldly worship. Yea, so far that scarcely any man is found who abideth with God’s law clear without meddling, but draweth him to man’s law, for that savours of gain, and there they study earnestly and sorely. But at their last end this shall be their payment, as God saith by his prophet Jeremiah, Cursed must that man be that setteth his faith in man, and suffereth his heart to go away from his Lord God, &c. (Jeremiah 17:5, 6) Such men slander Christ, who is both God and man, and hath both hallowed his laws with his precious death, and hath put in them the Spirit of life by the quickening of his blood, to rear souls from death, and bring them again to life. Christ saith, John 11, Whoso believeth in me, yea, though he be dead he shall live again, both in grace and in glory. But it is not in man’s law, that may give this power. Then is this foul slander of them that study in man’s law as if it were the better, and therefore such froward thoughts part their souls fiom God. Of all these Jeremiah speaks, (Jeremiah 6:13-15.)
Peacemakers in Christ’s church move men to the rest that Christ promised to his disciples when he was here among them, John 14. My peace I give you, my peace I leave with you. His peace he left with us when he went to heaven. His peace he shall give us in the world’s end. His peace he gave to us, to help us in this world. His peace he shall grant to us, to solace us in bliss. He hath left us his peace to be our trusty clothing, for if we are clad therein we shall overcome our enemies. He shall grant us his peace, and then we shall be sure to reign, world without end, without any enemies. He hath left us his peace that we deem not falsely of our neighbours beside us, of things that are uncertain. He shall give to us peace, when he shall make known the hidden thoughts of man’s heart; and then shall be praising of every man to God, after he hath discerned. Christ hath left among us peace, that we should love together, hating sin and loving virtue, for thus he loved us. For there is no charity unless sin be hated and plucked up by the roots in us and all others. Then Christ shall give us full peace when we may never be at discord. Thus saith St. Augustine.
Now ground we upon this in our minds that these peacemakers, for that they would have this peace among them, stand armed at all pieces, for dread of their enemies, in the armour of Jesus Christ, that Paul teaches, Ephesians 6. Six armours the apostle rehearses that arm the soul, five to defend, the sixth to assail.
- A girdle of chastity, (truth,) and thereby we may know that Paul speaks of the knowledge of the soul, and leaves bodily armour. Take up this girdle, that ye may stand perfect in the peace of your soul, against all fleshly stirrings.
- A habergeon of righteousness is the second armour, that is thick mailed, for falsehood should not enter to grieve God or man, or disturb this true peace.
- Leg harness, or showing of affections in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and then they are disposed to make peace among men. Not as the world asketh, but that they stand perfectly in all adversity, with Christ and his gospel to the death day.
- A shield of faith. In this they shall quench all the fiend’s burning darts, that are his temptations. Then may no deadly blow steal upon that man who hath the shield of true belief hanging on his heart.
- A helm of health, which is called trusty hope; for it bears off the strokes the fiend throws at man’s soul, with pitiless (en)gins; the one is obstination or hardness of heart, the other is desperation or wanhope (despair). But whoso hath the helm of hope, though strikes light on him, they shall in no wise burst his headpiece or sink into his soul. Therefore he liveth peaceably in hope of God’s mercy.
- Is the sword of the Spirit, that is God’s word. With this sword Jesus Christ assailed the fiend of hell, when Christ said. Go, Satan; and he fled away. For this sword is full sharp, and biteth on both sides; it parteth at a stroke the soul from the body; and it parteth in this life virtue from sin; and it shall part at doomsday the good from the evil. God give us grace to take this sword, for all that take up this sword, and stand in this armour, Christ our Captain blesseth them, and calleth them his children. Matthew 5 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. And Christ saith. Love ye your enemies; do ye well to them that hate you, and pray for your pursuers and your slanderers; that ye may be the sons of your Father that is in heaven.
But peace-makers in the fiend’s church confederate together in a false peace, after the manner of this world. This Christ’s gospel condemns, Matthew 10, Luke 12 where he saith, I come not to maintain vicious peace. And this, sinful wretches throw under feet. Faith, truth, and righteousness, they count at no price; for they lead the country after their own pleasure. David sorrowed for this mischief, (Psalm 13) But priests and knights are most to blame for this sin. Priests that should be spiritual physicians, and reconcile the people by good counsels to their God, and heal them with his law; what with pride and covetousness, and many fleshly lusts, they are so blinded that they know no wisdom. And they fail spiritual sight and wisdom to search into any spiritual sickness; or to search about the peril of a wound; yet they are presumptuous to offer false medicine, and undertake great cures to make men whole. But they hurt them much sorer than they were before, as the Lord moveth by the prophet Jeremiah 8:11, 12 And he saith, (Jeremiah 23). Hear ye not the words of these preachers, that preach and deceive you; they speak the vision of their heart, but not of the Lord’s mouth; they say to those that blaspheme me. The Lord speaketh that peace shall be to you. And they have said to each that walketh in the wickedness of his heart, There shall no evil come upon you. The gospel beareth witness. (Matthew 15). When the blind lead the blind, fall they not both into the lake? Yes, plainly. These preachers are no preachers, but only in name, as a lushborne (forged currency) is called a penny that is worth nought.
Knights also are to blame, that misuse their power and will not read in God’s law, nor learn their office, and therefore the wise man blameth them in the sixth chapter of the book of Ecclesiasticus. How should ye knights maintain peace when ye forsake it yourselves? These priests and knights, through their vicious deeds, lead the commons in their ways, and hold them in sin, so that all this world is set in uproar, in battle, and in war. But now are proved the words that God hath said by the prophet Jeremiah 9 to teach his chosen servants, And shall I not visit upon these things, saith the Lord God, shall not my will be venged upon such a folk?
But haply here some will say, God will not take vengeance upon his Christian people; God will not lose that which he dearly bought with his precious blood. To the first we answer by the mouth of the prophet Jeremiah 16. The Lord saith. Your fathers have forsaken me, and gone after strange gods — but ye do much worse than your fathers ever wrought. Lo, each of you walketh after the wickedness of his evil heart, that he hears not me, saith the Lord God, and I shall cast you away into a land that is unknown to you, and to your fathers, and there ye shall do service to alien gods, that shall give no rest to you, day nor night.
To the second we answer, as Christ saith (Matthew 22) Friend, how entered thou hither, not having the bridal garment? And he was dumb. Then this king, Jesus Christ, said to his ministers, Bind this wretch hand and foot, and send him into the utter darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Understand by this, both man and woman that hold the name, but want the works of true belief. Therefore Christ awardeth them to the pains of hell.