Of the Right Use of the Church Part II

The Second Part of the Homily of the Right Use of the Church

It was declared in the first part of this Homily 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 already declared 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 to glorify him, as he is most worthy and we most bounden. Now it remaineth, in the second part of the Homily concerning the right use of the temple of God, to be likewise declared by God’s word, with what quietness, silence, and reverence those that resort to the house of the Lord ought there to use and behave themselves.

It may teach us sufficiently how well it doth become us Christian men reverently to use the church and holy house of our prayers, by considering in how great reverence and veneration the Jews in the old law had their temple; which appeareth by sundry places, whereof I will note unto you certain. In the twenty-sixth of Matthew it was laid to our Saviour Christ’s charge before a temporal judge, as a matter worthy death, by the two false witnesses, that he had said he could destroy the temple of God, and in three days build it again;[1] not doubting but, if they might make men believe that he had said any thing against the honour and majesty of the temple, he should seem to all men most worthy of death. And in the twenty-first of the Acts, when the Jews found Paul in the temple, they laid hands upon him, crying, Ye men Israelites, help: this is that man who teacheth all men everywhere against the people and the law and against this place; besides that, he hath brought the Gentiles into the temple, and hath profaned this holy place.[2] Behold how they took it for a like offence to speak against the temple of God, as to speak against the law of God; and how they judged it convenient that none but godly persons and true worshippers of God should enter into the temple of God. And the same fault is laid to Paul’s charge by Tertullus, an eloquent man, and by the Jews, in the twenty-fourth of the Acts, before a temporal judge, as a matter worthy death, that he went about to pollute the temple of God.[3] And in the twenty-seventh of Matthew, when the chief priests had received again the pieces of silver at Judas’ hand, they said, It is not lawful for us to put them into Corban (which was the treasure house of the temple,) because it is the price of blood.[4] So that they could not abide that not only an unclean person, but also any other dead thing that was judged unclean, should once come into the temple or any place thereto belonging.

And to this end is St. Paul’s saying in the second Epistle to the Corinthians, the sixth chapter, to be applied: What fellowship is there betwixt righteousness and unrighteousness? Or what communion between light and darkness? Or what concord between Christ and Belial? Or what part can the faithful have with the unfaithful? Or what agreement can there be between the temple of God and images?[5] Which sentence, although it be chiefly referred to the temple of the mind of the godly, yet, seeing that the similitude and pith of the argument is taken from the material temple, it enforceth that no ungodliness, specially of images or idols, may be suffered in the temple of God, which is the place of worshipping God, and therefore can no more be suffered to stand there, than light can agree with darkness, or Christ with Belial; for that the true worshipping of God and the worshipping of images are most contrary, and the setting up of them in the place of worshipping may give great occasion of the worshipping of them.

But to return to the reverence that the Jews had to their temple. You will say they honoured it superstitiously and a great deal too much, crying out, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord,[6] being notwithstanding most wicked in life, and be therefore most justly reproved of Jeremy, the Prophet of the Lord. Truth it is, that they were superstitiously given to the honouring of their temple. But I would we were not as far too short from the due reverence of the Lord’s house, as they overshot themselves therein. And, if the Prophet justly reprehended them, hearken also what the Lord requireth at our hands, that we may know whether we be blameworthy or no.

It is written in Ecclesiastes, the fourth chapter: When thou dost enter into the house of God, saith he, take heed to thy feet; draw near that thou mayest hear: for obedience is much more worth than the sacrifice of fools, which known not what evil they do. Speak nothing rashly there, neither let thine heart be swift to utter words before God: for God is in heaven and thou art upon the earth; therefore let thy words be few[7]. Note, well-beloved, what quietness in gesture and behavior what silence in talk and words, is required in the house of God, for so he calleth it. See whether they take heed to their feet (as they be here warned) which never cease from uncomely walking and jetting up and down and over thwart the church, shewing an evident signification of notable contempt both of God and all good men there present: and what heed they take to their tongues and speech which do not speak words swifty and rashly before the Lord, (which they were here forbidden,) but also oftentimes speak filthily, covetously, and ungodly, talking of matters scarce honest or fit for the alehouse or tavern in the house of the Lord; litter considering that they speak before God, who dwelleth in heaven, (as is here declared,) when they be but vermin here creeping upon the earth in comparison to his eternal Majesty; and less regarding that they must give an account at the great day of every idle word[8] wheresoever it be spoken, much more of filthy, unclean or wicked words spoken in the Lord’s house to the great dishonor of his Majesty and offence of all that hear them.

And indeed, concerning the people and multitude the temple is prepared for them to be hearers rather than speakers; considering that as well the word of God is there read or taught whereunto they are bound to give diligent ear with all reverence and silence, as also that common prayer and thanksgiving are rehearsed and said by the public minister in the name of the people and the whole multitude present, whereunto they giving their ready audience should assent and should say, Amen as St. Paul teacheth in the first Epistle to the Corinthians; and in another place, Glorifying God with one spirit and mouth,[9] which cannot be when every man and woman in separate pretense devotion, prayeth privately, one asking, another giving thanks, another reading doctrine, and forceth not to hear the common prayer of the minister. And peculiarly, what due reverence is to be used in the ministering of the Sacraments in the temple, the same St. Paul teacheth in his Epistle to the Corinthians, rebuking such as did unreverently use themselves in that behalf. Have ye not houses to eat and drink in? saith he. Do ye despise the Church or congregation of God? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you. In this I praise you not.[10]

And God requireth not only his outward reverence of behavior and silence in his house, but all inward reverence in cleansing of the thoughts of our hearts; threatening by his Prophet Ose, in the ninth chapter, that for the malice of the inventions and devices of the people he will cast them out of his house;[11] whereby is also signified the eternal casting of them out of his heavenly house and kingdom, which is most horrible. And therefore in the nineteenth of Leviticus God saith, fear you with reverence my sanctuary, for I am the Lord.[12] And according to the same the Prophet David saith, I will enter into thine house, I will worship in thy holy temple in thy fear[13]; shewing what inward reverence and humbleness of mind the godly men ought to have in the house of the Lord.

And to allege somewhat concerning this matter out of the New Testament, in what honour God would have his house or temple kept, and that by the example of our Saviour Christ, whose authority ought of good reason with all true Christians to be of most weight and estimation. It is written of all the four Evangelists,[14] as a notable act, and worthy to be testified by many holy witnesses, how that our Saviour Jesus Christ, that merciful and mild Lord, compared for his meekness to a sheep suffering with silence[15] his fleece to be shorn from him, and to a lamb led without resistance to the slaughter,[16] which gave his body to them that did smite him, answered not him that reviled, nor turned away his face from them that did reproach him and spit upon him, and according to his own example gave precepts of mildness[17] and sufferance to his disciples, yet, when he seeth the temple and holy house of his heavenly Father misordered, polluted, and profaned, useth great severity and sharpness, overturneth the tables of the exchangers, subverted the seats of them that sold doves, maketh a whip of cords and scourgeth out those wicked abusers and profaners of the temple of God, saying, My house shall be called the house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves; and in the second of John, Do not ye make the house of my Father the house of merchandise.[18] For, as it is the house of God when God’s service is duly done in it, so, when we wickedly abuse it with wicked talk or covetous bargaining, we make it a den of thieves or house of merchandise. Yea, and such reverence would Christ should be shewed therein, that he would not suffer any vessel to be carried through the temple.[19] And, whereas our savior Christ (as is before mentioned out of St. Luke)[20] could be found nowhere, when he was sought, but only in the temple amongst the doctors, and now again exerciseth his authority and jurisdiction, not in castles and princely palaces amongst soldiers, but in the temple, ye may hereby understand in what place his spiritual kingdom, which he denieth to be of this world[21] is soonest to be found and best to be known of all places in this world.

And, according to this example of our Saviour Christ, in the primitive Church (which was most holy and godly and in the which due discipline with severity was used against the wicked) open offenders were not suffered once to enter into the house of the Lord, nor admitted to common prayer and the use of the holy Sacraments with other true Christians, until they had done open penance before the whole Church. And this was practiced not only upon mean persons, but also upon the rich, noble, and mighty persons, yea upon Theodosius, that puissant and mighty Emperor, whom, for committing a grievous and willful murder, St. Ambrose, bishop of Millain, reproved sharply, and did also excommunicate the said Emperor, and brought him to open penance. And they that were so justly exempted and banished (as it were) from the house of the Lord were taken (as they be indeed) for men divided and separated from Christ’s Church and in most dangerous estate, yea, as St. Paul saith, even given unto Satan[22] the devil for a time; and their company was shunned and avoided of all godly men and women, until such time as they by repentance and public penance were reconciled. Such was the honour of the Lord’s house in men’s hearts and outward reverence also at that time; and so horrible a thing was it to be shut out of the church and house of the Lord in those days, when religion was most pure, and nothing so corrupt as it hath been of late days. And yet we willingly either, by absenting ourselves from the house of the Lord, do, as it were, excommunicate ourselves from the Church and fellowship of the saints of God; or else, coming thither, by uncomely and unreverent behavior there, by hasty, rash, yea, unclean and wicked thoughts and words before the Lord our God, horribly dishonor his holy house, the Church of God, and his holy Name and Majesty, to the great danger of our souls, yea, and certain damnation also, if we do not speedily and earnestly repent us of this wickedness.

Thus ye have heard, dearly beloved, out of God’s word, what reverence is due to the holy house of the Lord, how all godly persons ought with diligence at times appointed thither to repair, how they ought to behave themselves there with reverence and dread before the Lord, what plagues and punishments, as well temporal as eternal, the Lord in his holy word threateneth, as well to such as neglect to come to his holy house, as also to such who, coming thither, do irreverently by gesture or talk there heave themselves. Wherefore if we desire to have seasonable weather, and thereby to enjoy the good fruits of the earth; if we will avoid drought and barrenness, thirst and hunger, which are plagues threatened unto such as make haste to go to their own houses, to alehouses, and to taverns, and leave the house of the Lord empty and desolate; if we abhor to be scourged, not with whips made of cords out of the material temple only (as our Saviour Christ served the defilers of the house of God in Jerusalem), but also to be beaten and driven out of the temple and house of the Lord (which is his heavenly kingdom) with the iron rod of everlasting damnation, and cast into outward darkness, where is weeping and gnashing of teeth;[23] if we fear, dread, and abhor this, I say, as we have most just cause so to do, then let us amend this our negligence and contempt in coming to the house of the Lord, this our unreverent behavior in the house of the Lord; and reverent hearing of the Lord’s holy word, calling on the Lord’s holy name, giving of hearty thanks unto the Lord for his manifold and inestimable benefits daily and hourly bestowed upon us, celebrating also reverently of the Lord’s holy Sacraments, serve the Lord in his holy house, as becometh the servants of the Lord, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life: [24] and then we shall be assured after this life to rest in his holy hill[25]and to dwell in his tabernacle, there to praise and magnify his holy Name in the congregation of his saints[26] in the holy house of his eternal kingdom of heaven,[27] which he hath purchased for us by the death and shedding of the precious blood of his Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. To whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one immortal Majesty of God be all honor, glory, praise, and thanksgiving world without end. Amen.

  1. Matt xxvi, 61
  2. Acts xxi, 27-28
  3. Acts xxiv, 6
  4. Matt xxvii, 6
  5. 2 Cor, vi (14-16)
  6. Jer vii, 1-15
  7. Eccles, iv 17; 5, 1
  8. Matthew xii, 36
  9. Cor xiv, 16; Rom xv, 6
  10. 1 Cor xi, 22
  11. Hosea ix, 15
  12. Lev xix, 30
  13. Ps V, 7
  14. Matt, xxi 12-13; Mark xi, 15-17; Luke xix, 45-46; John ii, 15
  15. Is liii, 7; Acts viii, 32
  16. Is I, 6; 1 Pet ii, 23
  17. Matt 5, 38-48
  18. John ii, 16
  19. Mark xi, 16
  20. Luke ii, 46
  21. John xviii, 36
  22. 1 Cor, v; 1 Tim I, 20
  23. Matt viii, 12; xxvii, 13; xxv, 30
  24. Luke I, 75
  25. Ps xv, i
  26. Ps cxlix, 1-3
  27. Eph ii, 21; iii 21

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.

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