Homily 1.12 - Against Strife and Contention

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  1. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    The First Book of Homilies - Homily 12

    Against Strife and Contention

    Good Christian people, today I want to talk about how unprofitable shameful and dishonest contention, strife, and arguing are. I want you to see it, as if it were on a table painted before your eyes, so the evil and deformity will lead you to a gut level reaction to rise against it, and to detest and abhor the sin, which is much to be hated for it is pernicious and hurtful to all. Among all the kinds of contention, none is more hurtful than contention in matters of religion. Saint Paul says “Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness” (2 Timothy 2.23-24).

    This Contention and strife was in Saint Paul's time among the Corinthians, and today among us. For too many are on the Ale-benches or other places, delighting to set forth certain questions, not pertaining to edification, as to vain glory, and showing their own cleverness, to drunk to reason, so when neither part will give place to the other, they fall to chiding and contention, sometimes from trash talk to brawling. Saint Paul could live with words of discord or dissention among the Corinthians, saying, “‘I belong to Paul’, and another, ‘I belong to Apollos’, are you not merely human? (1 Corinthians 3.4):

    What would Paul say, if he heard the contentious words which now are almost in everyone’s mouth? They are pharisees, they are true believers, they born again, they are of the old faith, they are separated brethren, they are good catholics, they are papists, they are heretics. How the Church is divided? How are the cities so cut and mangled? How is the coat of Christ, once without seam, now rent and torn? O mystical Body of Christ, where is that holy and happy unity, outside of which we are not in Christ? If one member be pulled from another, where is the body? If the body be drawn from the head, where is the life of the body? We cannot be joined to Christ our head, except we be glued with concord and charity one to another. For those who are not of this unity, are not of Christ’s Church, a congregation or unity together, and not a division. Saint Paul says, “For as long as there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations?” (1 Corinthians 3.3).

    And Saint James says, “if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth” (James 3.14). Where contention is, there is no steadfastness, and all evil deeds. And why do we not hear Saint Paul saying, “Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you should be in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose” (1 Corinthians 1.10).

    If his desire be reasonable and honest, why don’t we do it? If his request is for our benefit, why do we refuse? And if we prefer not to hear his appeal, let us hear his exhortation, where he says, “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling,one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4.1-5).

    He says there is but one body, of the which one can be no lively member, and at variance with the other members. There is one Spirit who joins and knits all things in one. And how can this one Spirit reign in us, when we among ourselves are divided? There is but one faith, so how can we then say, ‘they are of the old faith’, or ‘they are of the new faith’? There is one Baptism, so all who are Baptized are one? Contention causes division so it ought not be among Christians. One Faith and one Baptism joins joins us in unity.

    But if we fight Saint Paul's request and exhortation, at the least let us regard his earnest entreating, in the which he earnestly charges us and in this way, “If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves” (Philippians 2.1-3). Who has any bowels of pity, who will not be moved with these clear words? Whose heart is so set in stone, that the sword of these words, sharper than any two edged sword, may not cut and break asunder? So let us endeavour ourselves to fulfil Saint Paul's joy, here in this place, which shall be at length to our great joy in another place.

    How We Should Read the Scripture.

    Let us read Scripture, so we may live better rather than become more contentious debaters. If any thing be necessary to be taught, reasoned, or disputed, let us do it with all meekness, softly with mercy. If any thing shall chance to be said wrong, let one bear anothers frailty. If we are at fault, let us amend, rather than defend what is spoken amiss, lest we fall by contention from foolish error to obstinate heresy. For it is better to give place meekly, than to win the victory with a breach of charity, which happens when one defends their own opinion obstinately.

    If we are Christian, why do we not follow Christ, who says, “learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11.29)? A disciple must learn the lesson of his teacher, and a servant must obey the commandment of his master.

    St James says “Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy” (James 3.13-17).

    It is easy to be obedient, not not resenting to learn, and to give place to those who teach better for reform. For there will never be an end of striving and contention, if we contend who in contention is the boss, and has the over hand. We shall heap error on error, if we continue to defend that obstinately, that which was spoken unadvisedly.

    The truth is, stiffness in maintaining an opinion, breeds contention, brawling and chiding, which is a very nasty vice and destroys common peace and quietness. It stands between two persons or parties, for nobody commonly scolds themselves. Two most detestable vices: one is picking quarrels, with sharp and contentious words: the other stands in contrary answers, and multiplying evil words again. The first is so abominable, that Saint Paul says, “now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one” ( 1 Corinthians 5.11).

    Against Quarrel Picking.

    Consider how Saint Paul numbers an abuser, a brawler, or a picker of quarrels, among thieves and idolaters, and often there less damage by a thief, than by a railing tongue: for the one takes away one’s good name, the other takes only goods, which are of much less value and worth than a good name. A thief hurts but the one from whom he steals: but the evil tongue, troubles the whole town, where they live, and sometimes the whole country. And a railing tongue is such a contagious pestilence that Saint Paul wills Christians to avoid the company of such, and neither to eat nor drink with them (1 Corinthians 5.11).

    Paul says a Christian woman should not forsake her husband, although he is an infidel, or that a Christian servant should not depart from his master, who is an infidel and a heathen, and so allows a Christian man to keep company with an infidel: yet he forbids us to eat or drink with an abuser, or quarrel picker. In the first letter to the Corinthians, he says, “Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6.9-10).

    It must needs be a great fault, that moves and causes a father to disinherit his natural son. How can it be otherwise, but that this cursed talk is a most damnable sin, which causes God our most merciful and loving Father, to deprive us of his most blessed kingdom of heaven?

    Against Contrary Answering.

    Another sin is in exchanging taunt for taunt with another. Christ says “Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous” (Matthew 5.39, 44-45).

    In this doctrine of Christ agrees with the teaching of St. Paul, chosen vessel of God, who exhorts us, saying, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12.14, 17-18).
     
  2. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    THE SECOND PART OF THE SERMON AGAINST CONTENTION.

    We have seen the trouble comes of contention in matters of religion. How when no one makes room to the other, there is endless contention and discord. The unity which God asks of Christians is neglected and broken. Contention stands chiefly in two points, picking quarrels, and contrary answers. Hear what St. Paul says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:19-21).

    An Objection

    The courageous and strong, who do not allow a word against them to go unchecked, may say, ‘If I am reviled, shall I stand still like a goose, or a fool, with my finger in my mouth? Shall I be a dumb idiot, to let everyone say what they like, to rave on, to spew out venom against me at their pleasure? Is it not good if they speak evil, it should be answered? If I am lenient and soft, I shall both increase their criticism, and encourage others to do the same.’ Such reasons mean they suffer nothing and defend of their impatience.

    An Answer

    If by blunt answering to a rude person, we hope to remedy rudeness, we should less offend and so may answer, not of anger or malice, but only with this intent, that the one who is so contrary or malicious, may be reformed. If you cannot amend another’s fault, or cannot fix it without your own fault, better one should perish, than two. If you cannot quiet them with gentle words, at least do not respond with wicked or uncharitable words. If you pacify them with suffering, well and good, and if not, it is better to suffer evil, than to do evil, to speak well, than to speak evil. To speak well against evil, comes of the Spirit of God, but to render evil for evil, comes of a contrary spirit. Those that cannot temper or rule their own anger, are weak and feeble, more like a sapling than a strong tree.

    For true strength is to overcome wrath, to ignore injury and another’s foolishness. Those who ignore the wrong done to them, people will see it was said or done without cause. Those who fume and chase after it, help the cause of the foe, giving the suspicion it is true. And revenging evil, we show ourselves evil, and while we will punish and revenge another’s folly, we double any concern about our own folly. Many who so act are stubborn, covering their own impatience. They say my enemy is not worth gentle words or deeds, being so full of malice or difficulty. The less worthy, the more you are encouraged by God, and the more you are commanded by Christ, for whose sake you should render good for evil, because he has commanded you. Your neighbour has somehow with a word offended you: remember how many words and deeds you daily grievously offend our Lord.

    What were we, when Christ died for us? Were we not enemies unworthy of his favour and mercy? Even so, with what gentleness and patience does he show, and tolerate, and suffer us, although he is daily offended by us? Forgive therefore a light trespass to your neighbour that Christ may forgive you many thousands of trespasses, which are everyday offences. For if you forgive one who sins against you, then you have a sure sign and token, that God will forgive you, to whom we all are debtors and transgressors.

    How would you have God merciful to you, if you are cruel to others? Can you not find in your heart to do to another, your equal, that which God has done to you, his servant? Ought not one sinner forgive another, seeing that Christ who is no sinner, did pray to his Father for those without mercy, who put him to death? “When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).

    What goes on in your brain if you labour not to be in the body? You are not a member of Christ, if you do not follow in the steps of Christ. The Prophet says he, “was like a lamb that is led to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7), but opened his mouth to pray for them that crucified him, saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23.34). St Stephen followed Christ’s example (Acts 7.60), so to St. Paul “When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly” (1 Corinthians 4:12-13).

    What St. Paul taught he did, true to his word. Bless he says those who persecute you: bless and do not curse. Is it a great thing to speak well to your adversary, to whom Christ commands you to do well? David, when Samuel called him for nothing, did not whinge, but said patiently, let him speak evil, if by chance the Lord will have mercy on me.

    History is full of examples of heathens who took meekly both scornful and reproachful words, and injurious or wrongful deeds. Shall those heathen excel in patience over us, we who profess Christ, the teacher and example of all patience? Lysander, when they raged against him, reviling of him was not moved, but said, ‘Go on, speak against me as much and as often as you will, and leave nothing out, if this means you may discharge yourself of the wickedness, which has hold of you’.

    Many speak evil, because they can say nothing good. The wise avoid them, the reproachful words spoken to them, imputing and laying on them the sickness of the adversary. Pericles when a certain critic and railing person reviled him, answered not a word again, but went into a room, and after towards night, when he went home, this critic followed him, raging still more and more, because he saw Pericles set nothing by him. After that he came to his gate (being dark night) Pericles commanded one of his servants to light a torch, and to bring the critic home to his own house. He not only with quietness suffered this brawler patiently, but also repaid an evil turn with a good turn to his enemy.

    Is it not a shame for us who profess Christ, to be worse than the heathen, in a thing chiefly pertaining to Christ's religion. Shall philosophy persuade them more than God's word shall persuade us? Shall natural reason prevail more with them, than religion shall with us? Shall our wisdom lead us to those things, where the heavenly doctrine cannot lead us? What blindness, willfulness, or rather madness is this (Pericles being provoked to anger with many villainous words answered not a word. But we are stirred but with one little word, what foul work we make? How we fume, rage, stamp, and stare like mad folk? Many of every trifle will make a great matter, and of the spark of a little word will kindle a great fire, taking all things in the worst part.
     
  3. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    Reasons to Stop Picking Quarrels

    But how much better is it, and more like the example and doctrine of Christ, to make rather of a great fault in our neighbour, a small fault, reasoning with ourselves after this sort. They said words, but in a sudden heat, or maybe the drink spoke, or they were said at the motion of another, or spoken while ignorant of the truth, or spoken not against me, but against someone mistaken as me. As touching evil talk, those ready to speak evil against others, first let them examine themselves, if they are faultless and clear of the fault which they find in another. For it is a shame when he that blames another for a fault, is either guilty of the same fault, or of a greater. It is a shame for the blind to call another blind, and it is more shame for someone completely blind to call someone blinkerd for that is pure blindness. For this is to see a straw in another’s eye, when one has a block in one’s own eye.

    Consider, those who use evil talk, shall often have evil spoken against them. And those that speak what they will for pleasure, will be compelled to hear what they would prefer not to hear. So remember the saying, “I tell you, on the day of judgement you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter” (Matthew 12.36). How much more then shall we make reckoning for our sharp, bitter, brawling and chiding words, which provoke our brother to anger, in breach of love?

    Reasons to Avoid Contentious Answers

    As to evil answering, even if much provoked by another's evil speech, yet we do not respond to their contentiousness with evil words. Anger is a kind of madness, and those who are angry, are for the time in a frenzy. So beware, least in fury you say anything which you will regret later. And those who think anger is not rage, but reason. Try even when most angry, to reason with themselves while angry. Now I am so moved and chafed, but in a little while I will be calm: so should I not say anything in my anger, which later I would rather not have said? So I shall not do anything, now, out of my wits for which when I shall come to myself again, I shall be very sad? Why does not reason, why does not godliness, yes why does not Christ obtain this now of me, which later shall be mine?

    If one is called an adulterer, usurer, drunkard, or by any other shameful name, consider earnestly, if it is true or false. If true, then amend the fault, that the adversary may not charge you again. If these things are laid against you falsely, consider if you have given occasion to be suspected of such things, and so you may both be above suspicion, which gave rise to the slander, and in other things shall live more warily.

    And so we may take no hurt, but rather much good, from the rebukes and slanders of our enemy. For the reproach of an enemy may be for many a quicker spur to the amendment of life, than the gentle motion of a friend. Philip of Macedonia, when he was criticised by the chief rulers of the city of Athens, thanked them heartily, because by them he was made better, both in his words and deeds, for I study, he said, so both by my words and actions I may prove them liars.
     
  4. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    THE THIRD PART OF THE SERMON AGAINST CONTENTION.

    You heard in the last part of the Sermon against strife and brawling, how we may answer those who maintain their argument in contentious sayings, and seek revenge with words such evil as others do to them, and finally how we may according to God's will order ourselves, and what to do when we are provoked to contention and strife with railing words. Now in the same matter, you should know the right way how to disprove and overcome your adversary and enemy.

    This is the best way to win over your adversary is so to live, that all shall know your honesty, and may bear witness that you are slandered unworthily. If the fault, be such, that for the defence of honesty, then you must answer. Answer quietly and softly, in this fashion, that those faults laid may be seen to be false. For it is truth that the wise man saith, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15.1). The sharp answer of Nabal, provoked David to cruel vengeance: but the gentle words of Abigail quenched the fire again that was all aflame (1 Samuel 25.10-35). And a special remedy against malicious tongues, is to arm yourselves with patience, meekness, and silence, lest with multiplying words with the enemy, we be made as evil as them.

    An Objection.

    But they that cannot bear one evil word, per chance for their own excuse will allege that which is written: Those who despises his good name, are cruel.

    Answer.

    Also we read, “Answer fools according to their folly” (Proverbs 26.5). And our Lord Jesus did held his peace at certain evil sayings: but to some he answered diligently. He heard men call him a Samaritan, a Carpenter’s son, a wine drinker, and he held his peace: but when he heard them say, you have the devil within you, he answered, to that earnestly. The truth is there is a time when it is good to answer a fool according to the foolishness, lest they should seem in conceit to be wise. Yet sometimes it is not profitable to answer a fool according to foolishness, lest the wise be seen in the same light as the fool. When the infamy or reproach done to us is joined with the peril of many, then it is necessary to answer, to be quick and ready.

    We read that many holy men of good zeal, have sharply and fiercely both spoken and answered tyrants and evil men. Their sharp words came not of anger, rancour, or malice, or desire of vengeance, but of a fervent desire to bring them to the true knowledge of God, and from ungodly living, by an earnest and sharp rebuke and chiding. In this zeal, John the Baptist called the Pharisees and Sadducees “You brood of vipers!” (Matthew 3.7): and Saint Paul called the Galatians, “fools” (Galatians 3.1): and “Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons” (Titus 1.12): and the false Apostles, he called dogs, and crafty workmen (Philippians 3.2). And his zeal is godly, and it is allowed, as it is plainly proved by the example of Christ, who though he were the fountain and spring of all meekness, gentleness, and softness: yet he called the obstinate Scribes and Pharisees, blind guides, fools, whitewashed tombs, hypocrites, snakes, brood of vipers, a corrupt and wicked generation (Matthew 23.16).

    Also he rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16.23). Likewise St. Paul reproves Elimas, saying, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now listen—the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind for a while, unable to see the sun” (Acts 13.10-11).

    And Saint Peter reprehended Ananias very sharply, saying, Ananias, “‘why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit” (Acts 5.3)? This zeal has been so fervent in many good people, that it has stirred them; not only to speak bitter and eager words, but also to do things, which might seem to some to be cruel, but indeed they be very just, charitable, and godly, because they were not done of anger, malice, or contentious mind, but of a clear mind, to the glory of God, the correction of sin, and done by those men called to that office.

    For in this zeal “Making a whip of cords, (our Lord Jesus Christ) drove all of them out of the temple” (John :.15). In this zeal when he saw “the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets from his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain” (Exodus 32:19). In this zeal Phinehas son of Eleazar, did thrust through with his sword, Zimri, and Cosbi, whom he found together joined in an unclean act (Numbers 25:8).

    These are not to be for everybody, but those called to office and set in authority.

    So now to return again to contentious words, and especially in matters of religion, and God's Word, which ought be used with all modesty, soberness, and chastity. The words of St. James ought to be well marked, and memorised, where he says, that out of contention all evil rises. And the wise King Solomon says, “It is honourable to refrain from strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel” (Proverbs 20:3).

    And because this vice is so much hurtful to society and to a community, in a well ordered city common brawlers and mockers are punished appropriately. And those who are unworthy to live in a community, who lie and with brawling and derision disturb the quietness and peace of the place. “And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another” “He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly” (1 Peter 5:5, Luke 1:52).

    If we are good and quiet Christians, let it be seen in our speech and language. If we have forsaken the Devil, let us use no more Devil’s tongue, Those who have been a railing scowlers, now let them be sober in counsel. Those who have been a malicious slanderers, let them now be loving comforters. Those who have been a vain railers, let them now be wise teachers. Those who have abused the tongue in cursing, now let them use it in blessing. Those who have abused the tongue in evil talk, now let them use it in speaking well. Avoid all bitterness, anger, railing, and blasphemy. If you can, as far as possible, never be angry. But if you can not avoid getting angry, then temper and bridle it, so you are not stirred up to contention and brawling. If you are provoked with evil talk, arm yourself with patience, mercy, and silence, either speaking nothing, or else being very soft, meek, and gentle in answering. Overcome your adversary with goodness and gentleness.

    Above all things, keep peace and unity. Be not peace breakers, but peace makers. Then there is no doubt, that God the author of comfort and peace, will grant us peace of conscience, and such concord and agreement, that with one mouth and one mind, we may glorify God the Father of our Lord Iesus Christ, to whom be all glory, now and forever. AMEN.

    - o - o - o -​

    Later will follow Sermons of Fasting, Praying, Alms; The Work of Christ - Nativity, Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension; of the due receiving of Christ’s blessed Body and Blood under the form of Bread and Wine; against Idleness, against Gluttony and Drunkenness, against Covetousness, against Envy, Anger, and Malice, with many other matters as well, to help Christians, and for the increase in godly living.

    God Save the King.
     
  5. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    This Homily was a bit of a surprise for me. Certainly in the first section, I felt it was as if they had written a letter to the Anglican Church 500 years from now. Of course when you put the Homily in the context of the social upheaval of the day, within ten years of the first act of supremacy, the dissolution of the Monasteries, the Pilgrimage of Grace, several Queens, and the continent awash with Reformation and the response of the council of Trent, there was a lot of religious opinion about.

    I had to look up Lysander ( a Spartan admiral who commanded the Spartan fleet in the Hellespont which defeated the Athenians at Aegospotami in 405 BC), and one has a feeling that he may have been better known on the day than he is today. In reality it is possible that few of us know much about Pericles either, yet somehow it seems OK to include it here. My conclusion is that these stories of the Classic period of Greece were better known then than they are today. Of course I may be wrong.

    Numbers of the topics listed to be followed up, appear to be sermons that were included in the Second Book of Homilies which seem to have been collected between 1547 and 1562.
     

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