The second church is the coming together of good and evil, in a place that is allowed, far from worldly occupation. There sacraments should be ministered, and God’s law both read and preached. In this place our gracious Lord heareth our prayers in special manner, and boweth his ear to his servants, as he granted to Solomon, 1 Kings 9. 2 Chronicles 7. Mine eyes, saith God, shall be open, and mine ears shall be lift up to the prayer of him that hath justly prayed in this place. And this is called a material place, for it is made by man’s craft, of lime, of timber, and of stone, &c.
For man’s profit this place is made, but not so man for the place, as Christ marketh in his gospel, for man should not be beguiled. Matthew 12, Mark 2, Luke 6. The sabbath is made for man, and not man for the sabbath. Man, by virtue of God’s word, halloweth this place, but this place may not hallow man. Alas! What madness is this, to boast of holy places, and we ourselves to be such vicious fools! Lucifer was in heaven, and that is most holy place, but for his sin he fell to hell; the place could not hold him. Adam was in paradise, the happiest place, and for his sin he was driven out; the place might not defend him. Thou that art neither in heaven nor in paradise, but in this wretched world, where thinkest thou to find a place to hallow thee that leavest not thy sin? Be thou sure, as God is in heaven, that it will not be; for God is fair served in no place but where his law is fair kept of the people.
Much people deem it a good work to deceive men’s eyes with curious buildings, and many vain staring sights in their churches; but Jerome forbids this, and condemns it utterly for great sin, now in this time of Christ’s gospel. Many build arches and pillars of the church, they pave with shining marble stones, the beams glister all in gold, the altars are diversely arrayed with precious stones, but of the ministers of God there is no choice. Let no lich man allege the temple in Jewry, boards, lamps, censers, pans, cups, and such other things made of gold, for then these things were approved of the Lord, when priests offered sacrifices, and blood of beasts was remission of sins — though all these things went before in figure, nevertheless they are written for us unto whom the ends of the world are come. But now Christ, our poor Lord, hath hallowed the house or the church of our poverty. Let us bear the cross of Christ, and account riches as clay. Bernard saith, “O vanity among all vanities! And’ no greater vanity. The church shineth in buildings, and she needeth in the poor. She lappeth her stones in gold, and her sons she forsaketh naked. Of the stores for the needy is made a vain service for rich men’s eyes.”
But our new, feigned sects, in this are most to blame, that make great buildings, their least need were of them, as monks, canons, and friars, [nuns, sisters, and hospitalers.] For people should draw to parish churches, and hear the word of God there as God’s law hath limited, else they are to blame. What mean these waste places of these hidden hypocrites, but to tell men by their synagogues where Satan’s seat is! There lurk together many ravening wolves that despoil the people with many false signs.
Four reasons of holy writ declared by doctors, shall teach you this great fault if ye will amend. But here I dread, as Paul saith, (2 Corinthians 4) that the God of this world, who is called mammon, hath cast his powder before your eyes, and blinded your spiritual sight, that it may not know the gospel, to the true understanding. Each corruptible work, or each work that is rotten in the root, shall fail in the end. And he that is founder of such ungrounded work shall fail, and be worth to nought therewith in the last days. God never planted these new sects in either of his laws, neither approved such manner of life; for Christ in his living pulled them up by the roots that were in his days, as Essenes, Sadducees, and Pharisees, and condemned their ordinances. Each plant, saith Christ, (Matthew 15) which my Father of heaven hath not planted, shall be rent up utterly, the roots and all.
The first reason is, These sects are dead from the world, as they say in word. St. Paul teaches in his epistle to the Colossians, Ye that are dead from the manners of this world, your life is hid with Christ in God; and therefore mortify or make dead your members that are upon earth, which are fornication, foul desires, with corrupt liking of fleshly lusts, and foul covetousness of your heart, and avarice of greedy gathering. For of these cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of misbelief If ye sects forsake this lore, the wrath of God shall soon assail you.
The second reason against such building is, that business about such costly buildings, with manifold worldly occupation to repair and hold them up, brings in negligence of good manners, quenching virtues and good qualities. Bernard saith, “I see what may not be seen without great sorrow. Some men after they have entered into the knighthood of Christ, that is to forsake this world, and willingly endure painful living, often drown themselves in earthly covetousness, and are employed with worldly deeds, in great business. They rear up houses, but they are negligent in good qualities. What profit is it to have high temples, and their houses gilded with gold, when the Spirit of God is wanting? God hath no delight in such wretched, sinful sects. But God willeth that your temples, which are your own souls, be honoured with holy virtues, and continue to the end in good works,”
The third reason is mighty and strong, it springs with the others from God’s law. That such as part themselves from the common life of other men, should always be in this way, as strangers that are far from home, and pilgrims in their pilgrimage. As Paul speaks to the Hebrews 8. We have here no dwelling place, but we seek that which is to come. — How dare these men, for shame, with poor men’s goods, and pillage of lords, defend their foul apostacy against their God and holy saints, and tell ignorant people by words of hypocrisy that they do thus to God’s worship.
The fourth reason is this, God’s law chargeth to love thy neighbour as thyself. But this love is best made known by good example in word and deed. In what may these sects profit that here reverse Christ’s rule, and give evil example to their neighbours in pride and covetousness, and show themselves richest and most worldly, in meat, clothes, and curious building. Bernard forbids this, saying, “Lowly houses and poor restrain covetousness, and we ought rather to marvel at the sight of heaven, than at the sight of buildings of man’s handiwork. Much more should we marvel at the great works of God, than at the works of mortal men that endure but for a time.”
All holy saints agree that our material churches, which are for parishioners when they come together, shall be made with virtuous means and in an honest measure. But it must be avoided that in this church there be show or pride, or passing over the bounds of poverty, either in the building or in the ornaments. And diligently this must be marked, that they avoid vain glory of this world, and glorify the cross of God. But this word of Christ’s cross is folly to them that shall be damned. Paul commends the coming of Christ and his humbling in his manhood, Ye ought to know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; for when he was rich in all things, he was made poor as man for you, that ye should be rich in spiritual things through this virtuous need of Christ. Christ who blameth all vicious means in the service of his people, will not authorize it to himself or in his house, as saith Matthew 24. Mark 13. and Luke 21. Christ wept over the city, for man’s building stood full strong, but body and soul, which he made to be his own dwelling place, were fallen from keeping of his law, into sin. Christ said. Wo to you scribes and pharisees, that cleanse all that is outward, but within ye are replete with ravening and uncleanness. Ye build the tombs of holy prophets, and wonderfully honour their graves; but ye follow your father’s footsteps in pursuing of righteous blood. And these sects do the same, but with more malice in word and deed. How shall ye flee the judgment of hell? Thus saith our Lord Jesus Christ. Whereto make ye shrines for saints, and yet ye draw, hang, and burn them that hold the way of Christ, and follow after his holy saints; and though this appear not in outward deed, ye do this slaughter in word and will. As pharisees, with priests, in the third hour, forejudged our Lord with their tongues, and afterwards knights at the sixth hour hanged his body upon the cross; so these sects go before to smite the people with their tongues, and afterwards knights of Herod’s house, are full ready to make an end. But stint thou not, though thou art slandered, if thou live just life; to mend this put to thy hand, and think on Christ’s reward, (Matthew 10) Who that hath lost his life for me, and for the gospel, he shall make his soul safe into the bliss of heaven.