I now speak of the third church, belonging to the devil, which is the number of those that are in bondage to serve him, according to his enticings, against God’s commands.
First, we shall take our ground in the words of Psalm 26. I have hated the church of malicious livers. These are they that stray away after their own desires, walking in the large way that leadeth them to hell. They will be governed neither by law nor by grace; neither will they for dread nor love cease and go from sin, because this world is full of lusts, and proffers its lovers “a joy that soon passeth away; but they that seek after bliss suffer pain here. Therefore, fools without number joy with this world, as Christ saith. (Matthew 7) Enter ye by the strait gate; for large is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to damnation, and many there are that enter by it. How painful is the gate and how strait is the way that leadeth to life, and few there are that find it. For St. John saith, (1 John 2) All this world, that is, all those men and women that are overcome with this world, are set in malice; that is, burning in the fire of foul covetousness. For all that is in this world, either is the covetousness of the eye, or else the desire of the flesh, or else it is the pride of this life. And therefore this church is grounded upon the devil, in the gravel of false covetousness, as Paul saith, I Tim. vi. For the root of all evils is covetousness, which some desiring, have erred from true belief, and have joined themselves to many sorrows.
The rearing up of this church is in gluttony and licentiousness, as the wise man saith in the book of Wisdom, (Wisdom 2) when rehearsing the words of those that shall be damned. And the raising of this church is pride and highness of life, as the prophet “saith, (Psalm 37) I have seen the unpiteous and the wicked raised and uplifted as the cedar trees of Libanus, and they are the highest trees of this world. But as smoke rises suddenly, and soon vanishes to nought, so the proud are praised for a time, and presently they fall away, and we know not where they become.
The prophet speaks, (Psalm 4) of the business and occupation of dwellers of this church. Night and day wickedness shall compass about this church upon her walls, and travail in the midst of it; and unrighteousness, deceit, and treachery have not ceased in her ways. Of this church, with this manner of building, Christ speaks in his gospel. (Matthew 7. Luke 6.) Whoso heareth my words, and doeth them not, shall be like a foolish man, that hath built his house upon the gravel of covetousness and misbelief. And the rain of gluttony and lechery came down on this church, and the winds of pride blew upon this church; and these sins fell fiercely upon this church and drove it down, and her fall was great, for she fell from grace and glory to pain and mischief without end. As St. Augustine saith, “That is not the body of the Lord which shall not be with him without end; for hypocrites are not said to be with him, though they seem to be in his church.”
Certainly the devil is head of all the wicked, which are in some manner his body, to go with him into the torment of everlasting fire. For when they took baptism they promised faith and truth to keep God’s commands, as the prophet saith, speaking in the person of all the general church, (Psalm 119) Lord, I have sworn and ordained to keep thy commandments. Upon this covenant Christ took them to his marriage; and with the ring of stedfast faith he solemnized his holy spousal. But now they leave this chaste love, our Lord Jesus Christ, in breaking this covenant, and have chosen the fiend, who is a spouse-breaker. For St. John Chrysostom saith, “Every soul either is Christ’s spouse, or an adulteress of the devil.” For Christ and the devil may in no wise rest together in man’s soul; for they are so contrary, that whatever, the one biddeth, the other forbiddeth. Christ seeketh salvation, the fiend damnation; Christ loveth virtue, the fiend loveth sin; Christ gathereth together, the fiend scattereth abroad. As Paul saith, (2 Corinthians 6) What participation of righteousness is there with wickedness? What fellowship is there of light to darkness? What communication of Christ with Belial? Or what part is there of a faithful man with an unfaithful man? Or what consent of the temple of God to idols? Certainly none; for each of these gainsays the other according to its own working.
Now we shall tell what they are that dwell with the fiend, to serve him in his church, that is, in the temple of idols. Paul saith, (1 Corinthians 6). These are vile speakers, liars, glossers, backbiters, murderers, swearers, and forswearers. As St. John saith. (Revelation 21) To all liars, their part shall be in the pool burning with fire and brimstone, that is the second death. There are unchaste, robbers and extortioners, tyrants and oppressors. For the prophet saith, (Zechariah 5) There are untruth-tellers, unfaithful servants, reckless hired-men, rebellious disciples, and unprofitable labourers. For Christ saith, (Matthew 25) Cast ye out the unprofitable servant into outward darknesses. There are all unclean men and women, as St. John saith, Rev. xxii. and as Christ saith, (Matthew 24) The Lord shall put his part with the hypocrites; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. There are all that pray, serve or give gifts for church or spiritual benefices; all false possessioners, all mighty, wilful oppressors, and all their sturdy maintainers. For St. Jude saith. Wo to them that went the way of Cain, and were evil by the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Korah. There are the men that boose out their breasts, pinch in their bodies, part their hose, crakowin (carve) their shoes, and all disguisers of their garments. There are those that nicely dress their faces, that bridle their heads with head-bands, that set above honeycombs, with much other attiring to make themselves keen to sin, and expose themselves to catch men with their lime-twigs. For God saith by the prophet Isaiah, Because the daughters of Zion are become so proud, and come with stretched forth necks, and with vain, wanton eyes, seeing they come in tripping so nicely with their feet, I will make bald and smite the daughters of Zion. There are false law maimers, God’s law haters, finders of customs, destroyers of virtues, authors of sin. In this church are idolaters, heretics, enchanters, &c., and all those that believe that health may come of using God’s word written, but only hanged on or carried about by man, or that so carried or borne about they are profitable to body or to soul.
There are merchants, chapmen, victuallers, vintners, changers, buyers, sellers, who use deceit in weight, number, or measure. In this church are usurers, false jurors, and all false witness bearers, as the prophet saith, (Psalm 15) In this church are pleaders, lawyers, sequestrators, commissaries, officials, summoners, all such of them as sell truth or sin to take money, as is said, (Psalm 26) In this church are auditors, receivers, treasurers, procurators, judges, all such as accept persons without a cause.
This church, when it is beaten, it waxes the harder; when it is blamed, it waxes the duller; when it is taught, it is the more ignorant; when it is done well to, it is the more opposed. And it falls down and comes to nought, when in man’s eyes it seems most strongly to stand. St. Augustine saith, that Christ’s church pursues evil-livers, in charity, by way of amendment. But the fiend’s church pursues Christ’s church in malice, by way of slander and slaying. And thus Cain, that false, envious, accursed man, slew his brother Abel, that blessed, simple, innocent man. As the expositors say, Cain was the beginning of Babylon, and antichrist shall be the end. And Abel was the beginner of Jerusalem, and Christ shall be the ender. Ishmael persecuted Isaac, but Isaac did not so to Ishmael. Esau pursued his brother Jacob; but not so Jacob, by the counsel of his mother he fled into Mesopotamia from the wrath of his brother, till it was assuaged. Thus our mother, holy church, counsels her children to flee the malice of the fiend’s church, till it be slaked, (Matthew 10) When the fiend’s church shall pursue you in this city, flee ye to another. But this must be done with discretion, that we hurt not our brother’s conscience. Christ pursued not the Jews, but the Jews pursued Jesus Christ. Heathen men slew the apostles, but the apostles slew not heathen men.
See now the forwardness of this world, that hath been from the beginning. When Isaiah, the holy prophet, prophesied and preached unto the people, they would not hear his words, nor suffer him to live. But people that rose after his death, read his books and said, If we had lived in his days, he should not have been put to death. And yet, they slew Jeremiah, who by the Spirit of God told things that were to come, and taught them the truth. His successors took his books, and read them in their temples, and bewailed him for a holy man, that he was so slain amongst them; but they slew Ezekiel and many others more! Then the Jews, such as were scribes and pharisees, made fair the tombs of these prophets, and said in hypocrisy, if they had been in their days, they should not have been slain. But they gave the counsel that Christ, who is the head of all saints, should be dead, with most dispiteous death. The fiend’s church in these days praise above the clouds Christ and his holy saints, with words and with signs; but they pursue to death the lovers of his law! And thus Christ saith in his gospel, (Luke 6). Right as ye do now, so did your fathers to their prophets in their days. And therefore, wo to you, for Christ saith, In this world ye are rich, fat fed, laughing while pursuing others; weep ye, and make ye sorrow, for your pain shall be much in hell. Oh, these shall have a dreadful day when they are arraigned at the bar of judgment, when Christ shall rear up his cross, the banner of his sufferings!
Of the day of judgment speaketh the prophet, (Zephaniah 1) The great day of the Lord is nigh, and cometh fast, and wonders approach quickly; it shall not long tarry. In that day, he that is strong and mighty shall be troubled; for the voice of the Lord is bitter to the damned. That day is a day of wrath, a day of tribulation; that is a day of anger, of grief, of ruin, and of wretchedness. It is a day of darkness and of thick smoke, a day of clouds and of the raging whirlwind; it is a day of the trumpet and of hideous noise. For then they shall see their Judge above them, stirred to wrath. Then shall they see hell open beneath them, angels on their right side hastening them to hell, fiends on their left side drawing them to hell, saints approving God’s doom, and all the world accusing; and then their own conscience open as a book, in which they shall read their own damnation ! These wretches, beholding the great glory of those whom they despised in this world, then shall say, in the words of the wise man, (see the book of Wisdom 5) “These are they whom we sometime had in scorn and upbraiding; we foolish thought their life to be folly and madness, and we guessed their end should have been without honour. How now, for they are counted among the sons of God, and they take their lot among his saints? Therefore, we have erred from the way of truth, and the light of righteousness shone not to us : we are weary of the way of wickedness and damnation. What profit hath our pride done to us? or our great avaunt, or boast of riches? What hath it given to us? All those things are passed from us as the shadow!” Then shall the Judge sternly say unto them, (Matthew 25) ” Go away from me, ye accursed, into the fire of hell everlasting, which is ordained for the devil and his angels.” Then may the soul say to the body these words, ” Come, thou accursed carrion, come and go with me, for I am compelled to come again to thee, that we may go again to other shame, to take our reward, as we have deserved pain for evermore. That which we loved, now it is gone from us ! and all that we hated is turned upon us! Now is our joy turned into sorrow, and our mirth into weeping. Now is our laughter turned into mourning, and all our pleasure into wailing. Nothing remaineth for us but fire, hot, burning horrors everlasting; fear intolerable, dread unspeakable, always discord without friendship, and full despair of any end!”
Strive in this life to leave the fiend’s church, and to bring yourself, both body and soul, into the church of Jesus Christ while grace and mercy may be granted. Ask of Him who offered himself willingly upon the cross, to save us all when we were lost. For thus it is written of the words of God, which he speaketh to a sinful soul. Turn thee again, turn thee again, thou sinful soul; turn thee again, turn thee again, that we may behold thee, (Canticle 6.13). For God knoweth thy misgovernance, and will not forsake thee, if thou wilt turn again. As he saith in the prophet Jeremiah 3. Thou hast gone after many lovers, nevertheless turn thee to me, saith the Lord, and I shall receive thee, and take thee to grace. Upon this saith St. Gregory, “Herein God showeth how much he loveth us; for when we forsake him, he forsaketh not us.” St. Augustine saith, “O man, mistrust thou not the mercy of God, for more is his mercy than thy wretchedness.” And thus Abner said of king David, (2 Samuel 3). Ye that will have king David as a merciful lord to you, ye must bring with you this woman, Michal, if ye will see his gracious face. Here we consider David the king to bear the figure of Jesus Christ, and the name Michal, when it is declared, means the water, or sorrow, of all. Let us think it thus to mean — Ye that desire in all your might, to find and to have the mercy of God, and to see his gracious face in bliss, ye must have the sorrow of true repentance from your heart, with full contrition of will, never to turn to sin. And if ye will to be true, and no more to break this covenant, God will not that ye be dead, but that ye have everlasting life.
AMEN, AMEN, SO MAY IT BE.