Of the Right Use of the Church Part I

An Homily of the Right Use of the Church or Temple of God and of the Reverence Due Unto the Same

The First Part

Where there appeareth at these days a great slackness and negligence of a great sort of people in resorting to the church, there to serve God their Heavenly Father according to their most bounden duty; as also much uncomely and unreverent behavior of many persons in the same, when they be there assembled; and thereby may just fear arise of the wrath of God and his dreadful plagues hanging over our heads for our grievous offence in this behalf amongst other many and great sins which we daily and hourly commit before the Lord: therefore, for the discharge of all our consciences and the avoiding of the common peril and plague hanging over us, let us consider what may be said out of God’s holy book concerning this matter; whereunto I pray you give good audience, for that it is of great weight, and concerneth you all.

Although the eternal and incomprehensible Majesty of God the Lord of Heaven and Earth whose seat is Heaven and the Earth his footstool,[1] cannot be enclosed in temples or houses made with man’s hand, as in dwellingplaces able to receive or contain his Majesty; (according as is evidently declared of the Prophet Esay[2], and by the doctrine of St. Stephen and St. Paul in the Acts of the Apostles, and where king Salomon, who builded unto the Lord the most glorious temple that ever was made, saith[3] Who shall be able to build a meet or worthy house for him? If Heaven, and the Heaven above all Heavens, cannot contain him, how much less can that which I have builded! And further confesseth, What am I, that I should be able to build thee an house, O Lord? But yet for this purpose only it is made that thou mayest regard the prayer of thy servant and his humble supplication; much less then be our churches meet dwellingplaces to receive the incomprehensible Majesty of God) and indeed the chief and special temples of God, wherein he hath greatest pleasure, and most delighteth to dwell and continue in, are the bodies and minds of true Christians and the chosen people of God; (according to the doctrine of the holy Scripture, declared in the first epistle to the Corinthians:[4] Know ye not, saith St. Paul, that ye be the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God doth dwell in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him will God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which ye are: and again in the same Epistle:[5] Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost dwelling in you, whom ye have given you of God, and that ye be not your own? For ye be dearly bought: glorify ye now therefore God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s) and therefore, as our Saviour Christ teacheth in the Gospel of St. John, they that worship God the Father in spirit and truth,[6] in what place soever they do it, worship him aright; for such worshippers doth God the Father look for: for God is a Spirit and; and those which worship him must worship him in Spirit and in truth, saith our Savior Christ: yet, all this notwithstanding, the material church or temple is a place appointed, as well by the usage and continual examples expressed in the Old Testament as in the New, for the people of God resort together unto, there to hear God’s holy word, to call upon his holy Name, to give him thanks for his innumerable and unspeakable benefits bestowed upon us, and duly and truly to celebrate his holy Sacraments, in the unfeigned doing and accomplishing of the which standeth that true and right worshipping of God aforementioned. And the same church or temple is by the Scriptures, both of the Old Testament and the New, called the house and temple of the Lord, for the peculiar service there done to his Majesty by his people and for the effectuous presence of his heavenly grace, wherewith he, by his said holy word, endueth his people so there assembled. And to the said house or temple of God, at times by common order appointed, are all people that be godly indeed bound with all diligence to resort, unless by sickness or other most urgent causes they be letted therefor. And all the same so resorting thither ought with all quietness and reverence there to behave themselves in doing their bounden duty and service to Almighty God in the congregation of his saints. All which things are evident to be proved by God’s holy word, as hereafter shall plainly appear.

And first of all I will declare by the Scriptures, that it is called, as it is indeed the house of God and temple of the Lord. He sweareth by the temple, saith our Saviour Christ, sweareth by it, and him that dwelleth therein[7], meaning God the Father: which he also expresseth plainly in the Gospel of St. John, saying Do not make the house of my Father the house of merchandise.[8] And in the book of the Psalms the Prophet David saith, I will enter into thine house, I will worship in thy holy temple in thy fear. And it is in almost infinite places of the Scripture, specially in the Prophets and book of Psalms, called the house of God, or the house of the Lord. Sometime it is named the tabernacle[9] of the Lord[10]; and sometime the sanctuary, that is to say, the holy house or place of the Lord.

And it is in like wise called the house of prayer. As Salomon, who builded the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem, doth oft[11] call it the house of the Lord in which the Lord’s name should be called upon. And Esay in the fifty-sixth[12] chapter: My house shall be called a house of prayer amongst all nations: which text our Saviour Christ allegeth in the New Testament,[13] as doth appear in three of the Evangelists and in the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican which went to pray; in which parable our Saviour Christ saith[14] they went up into the temple to pray. And Anna, the holy widow and prophetess, served[15] the Lord in fasting and prayer in the temple night and day. And in the story of the Acts[16] it is mentioned that Peter and John went up into the temple at the hour of prayer. And that St. Paul[17] praying in the temple at Jerusalem, was rapt in spirit and did see Jesus speaking unto him. And, as in all convenient places prayer may be used of the godly privately, so is it most certain that the church or temple is the due and appointed place for common and public prayer.

Now it is likewise the place of thanksgiving unto the Lord for his innumerable and unspeakable benefits bestowed upon us, appeareth notably in the latter end of the Gospel of St. Luke and the beginning of the story of Acts; where it is written, that the Apostles and disciples, after the ascension of the Lord,[18] continued with one accord daily in the temple, always praising and blessing God. [19]

And it is likewise declared in the first Epistle to the Corinthians, that the church is the due place appointed for the reverent use of the Sacraments.[20]

It remaineth now to be declared, that the church or temple is the place where the lively word of God (and not man’s inventions) ought to be read and taught, and that the people are bound thither will all diligence to resort; and this proof likewise to be made by the Scriptures, as hereafter shall appear.

In the story of the Acts of the Apostles we read, that Paul and Barnabas preached the word of God in the temples of the Jews at Salamin.[21] And when they came to Antiochia, they entered on the sabbath day into the synagogue or church, and sat down and after the lesson or reading of the Law and the Prophets, the ruler of the temple sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if any of you have any exhortation to make unto the people, say it. And so Paul, standing up, and making silence with his hand, said, Ye men that be Israelites, and ye that fear God, give ear, and so forth, preaching to them a sermon out of the Scriptures as there at large appeareth.[22] And in the same story of the Acts, the seventeenth chapter, is testified how Paul preached Christ out of the Scriptures at Thessalonica. And in the fifteenth chapter James the Apostle, in that holy council and assembly of his fellow Apostles,[23]saith: Moses of old time hath in every city certain that preach him in the synagogues or temples, where he is read every sabbath day. By these places yet may see the usage of reading of the Scriptures of the Old Testament among the Jews in their synagogues every sabbath day, and sermons usually made upon the same. How much more then is it convenient that the Scriptures of God, and specially the Gospel of our Saviour Christ, should be read and expounded to us, that be Christians, in our churches; specially our Saviour Christ and his Apostles allowing this most godly and necessary usage, and by their examples confirming the same!

It is written in the stories of the Gospels, in divers places[24], that Jesus went round about all Galilee teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom; in which places is his great diligence in continual preaching and teaching of the people most evidently set forth.[25] In Luke ye read how Jesus according to his accustomed use, came into the temple and how the book of Esay the Prophet was delivered him;[26] how he read a text therein, and made a sermon upon the same. And in the nineteenth is expressed how he taught daily in the temple. And this it is written in the eight of John: Jesus came again early in the morning into the temple and all the people came unto him, and he sat down and taught them.[27] And in the eighteenth of John[28] our Saviour testifieth before Pilate, that he spake openly unto the world, and that he always taught in the synagogue and in the temple, wither all the Jews resorted, and that secretly he spake nothing. And in St. Luke: Jesus taught in the temple, and all the people came early in the morning unto him, that they might hear him in the temple.[29] Here ye see, as well the diligence of our Saviour in teaching the word of God in the temple daily, and specially on the sabbath days, as also the readiness of the people resorting all together, and that early in the morning, into the temple to hear him.

The same example of diligence in preaching the word of God in the temple shall ye find in the Apostles, and in the people resorting unto them (Acts the fifth); how the Apostles, although they had been whipped and scourged the day before, and by the name of Jesus, yet the day following they entered early in the morning into the temple, and did not cease to teach and declare Jesus Christ. [30] And in sundry places of the story of the Acts ye shall find like diligence, both in the Apostles teaching, and in the people in coming to the temple to hear God’s word.[31]

And it is testified in the first of Luke, that when Zachary, the holy priest, and father to John Baptist, did sacrifice within the temple, all the people stood without a long time praying: such was their zeal and fervency at that time.[32] And in the second of Luke appeareth what great journeys men, women, yea, and children took, to come to the temple on the feast day, there to serve the Lord; and specially the example of Joseph, the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother to our Saviour Christ, [33] and of our Saviour Christ himself, being yet but a child; whose examples are worthy for us to follow. So that if we would compare our negligence in resorting to the house of the Lord, there to serve him, to the diligence of the Jews in coming daily, very early, sometime great journeys, to their temple, and, when the multitude could not be received within their temple, the fervent zeal that they had, declared in standing long without and praying, we may justly in this comparison condemn our slothfulness and negligence, yea, and plain contempt, in coming to the Lord’s house (standing so near unto us) so seldom, and scarcely at noon time; so far is it from a great many of us to come early in the morning, or give attendance without, who disdain to come into the temple. And yet we abhor the very name of the Jews, when we hear it, as of a most wicked and ungodly people. But it is to be feared, that in this point we be far worse than the Jews, and that they shall rise at the day of judgement to our condemnation, who, in comparison to them, show such slackness and contempt in resorting to the house of the Lord, there to serve him, according as we are of duty most bound.

And besides, this most horrible dread of God’s just judgement in the great day, we shall not in this life escape his heavy hand and vengeance for this contempt of the house of the Lord and his due service in the same, according as the Lord himself threateneth in the first chapter of his Prophet Aggeus after this sort: Because you have left my house desert and without company, saith the Lord, and ye have made haste every many to his own house; for this cause are the heavens stayed over you, that they should give no dew, and the earth is forbidden that it shall bring forth his fruit;[34] and I have called drought upon the earth and upon the mountains and upon the corn and upon wine and upon oil and upon all things that the earth bringeth forth and upon men, and upon beasts, and upon all things that men’s hands labour for. Behold, if we be such worldlings that we care not for the eternal judgements of God (which yet of all other are most dreadful and horrible) we shall not escape the punishment of God in this world by drought and famine and the taking away of worldly commodities, which we as worldlings seem only to regard and care for.

Whereas, on the contrary part, if we would amend this fault of negligence, slothfulness, and contempt of the house of the Lord and his due service there, and with diligence resort thither together, together to serve the lord with one accord and consent in all holiness and righteousness before him, we have promises of benefits both heavenly and worldly. Wheresoever two or three be gathered in my name, saith our Saviour Christ, there am I in the middle of them.[35] And what can be more blessed than to have our Saviour Christ amongst us? Or what again can be more unhappy or mischievous than to drive our Saviour Christ from amongst us, and to leave a place for his and our most ancient and mortal enemy, the old dragon and serpent, Satan the devil, in the middle of us? In the second of Luke,[36] it is written how that the mother of Christ and Joseph, when they had long sought Christ, whom they had lost, and could find him no where, that at the last they found him in the temple sitting in the middle of the doctors. So if we lack Jesus Christ, that is to say, the Saviour of our souls and bodies, we shall not find him in the market place, or in the guild hall much less in the alehouse or tavern amongst good fellows (as they call him), so soon as we shall find him in the temple, the Lord’s house, amongst the teachers and preachers of his word, where indeed he is to be found. And concerning worldly commodities we have a sure promise of our Saviour Christ: Seek ye first the kingdom of God and the righteousness and all these things shall withal be given unto you.[37]

And thus we have in the first part of this Homily declared by God’s word, that the temple or church is the house of the Lord, for that the service of the Lord (as teaching and hearing of his holy word, calling upon his holy Name, giving thanks to him for his great and innumerable benefits, and due ministering of his Sacraments) is there used. And it is likewise declared already by the Scriptures, how all godly and Christian men and women ought, at times appointed, with diligence to resort unto the house of the Lord, there to serve him and glorify him, as he is most worthy and we most bound. To whom be all glory and honour world without end. Amen.

  1. Matthew, xi, 25
  2. Isiah Ixvi, Acts vii, and xvii
  3. Kings viii, 27; 2 Chron. Ii, 6; vi 18,19
  4. 1 Corinthians iii, 16-17
  5. Ibid, vi, 19-20
  6. John iv, 23-24
  7. Matthew xxii, 21
  8. John ii, 16
  9. Psalm cxxxi, Psalm cxxxii, 5, 7
  10. Chron. Ii 4; vi 10, 20-40; Isaiah lvi, 7
  11. 1 Kings viii, 29-49; 2 Chron. Ii 4
  12. Isaiah lvi, 7
  13. Matt xxi, 13; mark xi, 17; Luke xix, 45
  14. Luke xviii, 10
  15. Luke ii, 37
  16. Acts iii, 1
  17. Acts xxii, 17-18
  18. Luke xxiv, 53
  19. Acts ii, 46
  20. 1 Cor. Xi 20-34
  21. Acts xiii, 14-41
  22. Ibid xvii, 1-3
  23. Ibid xv, 21
  24. Matt, iv 23; ix 35
  25. Mark I 14, 39; Luke iv 15, 44; Matt xii, 54; Luke xiii, 10; Luke iv, 16-22
  26. Ibid xix 16-22
  27. John viii 2,
  28. John xviii, 30
  29. Luke xxi, 37-38
  30. Acts v, 21, 28, 40, 42
  31. Acts xiii; xv; xvii
  32. Luke I, 9-10
  33. Luke ii, 41-44
  34. Hag. I, 9-11
  35. Matthew xvii, 20
  36. Like ii, 46
  37. Matt vi, 33

Robert Ramsey

Robert is the Executive Editor of The North American Anglican. He is also a warden and church planter at Christ Church Anglican South Bend. In his spare time he likes fixing old espresso machines and cars from the 90s.


'Of the Right Use of the Church Part I' have 2 comments

  1. May 20, 2020 @ 11:13 am Frank Freeman

    Author?
    Date?

    Reply

  2. May 21, 2020 @ 9:06 am Cynthia Erlandson

    Sounds like we’d better get back into our churches.

    Reply


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