The Lord has never left Himself without witnesses. Although we typicl think of the Middle Ages as an era of spiritual darkness, the Lord, in fact, raised up many witnesses to His truth. Nicholas Ore was one such witness. The sermon posted below was preached by Nicholas Orem, on the 4th Sunday of Advent in the year 1363 - before Pope Urban V. The courage involved in such an act is astounding.
A Copy of a Sermon made before Pope Urban V., the fourth Sunday in Advent, a.d. 1363, by Nicholas Orem. (From Book V of John Foxe's Acts and Monuments.)
"Juxta est salus mea, ut veniat, ct justitia," &c. That is, "My saving is near at hand to come, and my righteousness to be revealed," [Isa. lvi.] After the sentence cf St. Paul, Rom. ii. and in divers other places, before the nativity of Christ the whole world was divided into two sorts of men, sorts of the Jews and Gentiles — the Jews, who waited for the opening of the door paradise by the blood of the Saviour to come: the Gentiles, who yet sitting in darkness were to be called to light, and to be justified by faith, as it is written in Romans, chap. 5
This salvation, pertaining both to the Jew and Gentile, God promised before time to the fathers by the prophets, to stir up the desire thereof in their hearts the more, and to increase their firm hope and faith in the same. As first, in Micah vi., the voice of the Lord crieth, "Health and salvation shall be to all men which fear my name." And Isaiah xlvi., "I will give in Sion salvation, and in Jerusalem my glory," &c, with divers other such places. And forasmuch as hope which is deferred many times, doth afflict the soul, and conceiveth weariness of long deferring; he, therefore, prophesying of the nearness of the coming thereof, saith moreover [Isa. xiv.], "His time is near at hand to come." Also [Hab. ii.], " He will come, and will not tarry." With many such other places more. So then the holy fathers being in Limbo, looked and hoped that he should bring out them that sat bound, and which in the house of prison sat in darkness, as we read in Isaiah xli. Then the time drew on, in which came the fulness of the Gentiles, and in which the Lord would declare the riches of this mystery hidden from the world, and from generations. [Col. i.] Wherefore the Lord, in this text, doth both certify our fathers of the coming of our Saviour, and doth comfort them touching the nearness thereof, and also teacheth the justification of the Gentiles by faith, approaching now near at hand, according to the words of my text, "my salvation is near." Which words were fulfilled then, what time the Lord did manifest his salvation, and did reveal his righteousness in the sight of all the Gentiles. And it is divided into three parts; of which the first speaketh of the nearness of his coming, where it is said, " my salvation is near." The second concerneth the mystery of the advent of Christ and his incarnation, where he saith, " ut veniat," &c. Thirdly, is considered the severity of God, his terrible revenging judgment to be revealed, where he saith, "ut reveletur," &c, which is to be expounded of his primitive justice, whereof speaketh Amos [chap, v.], saying, " And judgment shall be revealed like a flood, and righteousness like a strong stream." Wherefore, for our contemplation of tlie solemnity of the most holy vigil, let us receive with joy the word of God the Father, "My Salvation is nigh," that is, Christ To whom he saith [Isa. xlix.], " I have given thee to be a light to the Gentiles, and to be my salvation throughout the ends of the world:" and again [Isa. xlvi.], " My salvation shall not slack," &c.
As touching the nearness thereof, it is in these days opened to us by the gospel, where we read in St. Matthew, When the virgin Mary was espoused unto Joseph, before they did come together, she was found with child by the Holy Ghost. By this it was evident to understand, that our Saviour ought shortly to proceed out of the chaste womb of the virgin, according as the prophet did foretel, saying, "Behold a virgin shall conceive and bring forth a son," &c. For as the grape, when it waxeth great and full, is near to the making of wine; and as the flower, when it shooteth abroad, hasteth to the fruit; so the salvation of the world, in the swelling and growing of the virgin's womb, began to draw nigh to mankind. For then appeared the grace and benignity of our Saviour, whom his mother was found to have in her womb by the Holy Ghost, as is declared in that which followeth by the angel, saying, " For that which is born of her is of the Holy Ghost."
Touching the second part of that which is said, "ut veniat:" this may be applied to the contemplation of the mystery of Christ coming in the flesh; whereof speaketh Haggai the prophet [chap, ii.], "He shall come who is desired and looked for of all nations," &c. Albeit the same also may be applied to the second advent, spoken of in Isaiah [chap, in.], " The Lord shall come to judgment," &c.; in memorial whereof the fourth Sunday was dedicated in the old time, of the fathers. And of this day of judgment it is written in the prophet Zeph. [chap, ii.], "The day of the Lord is near, great and mighty, it is approaching at hand, and wondrous short," &c. And albeit not in itself, yet it may be expounded in tribulations that go before, as preambles unto the same; as Gregory saith, "The last tribulation is prevented with many and sundry tribulations going before, although the end of all be not yet."
Wherefore now coming to the third part of my sermon or theme, let us see, of those tribulations that go before the last coming of Christ, if there be any such tribulation approaching nigh at hand, whereof this last part of my theme may be verified, where he said, "Ut reveletur," that my righteousness shall be revealed; to wit, the righteousness primitive, that righteousness may be brought, and the prophecy of Daniel fulfilled [Dan. ix.], concerning which matter four things here come in order to be declared.
First, Concerning the revealing of tribulation, according to that part of my theme, "Ut reveletur," &c.
Secondly, Concerning the nearness of the tribulation coming, according to '— that part of my theme, " Quia juxta est," &c. £°"4r.5ub"
Thirdly, Of the false opinions of some upon this part of my theme, " Ut veniat," &c.
Fourthly, What means and consultation we ought to take, "
Ut juxta est" As for the first, it is so notorious and so common in the Scriptures that the church should suffer and abide tribulation, that I need not here to stand in alleging anything touching either the causes to be weighed, or the term to be conjectured thereof. As concerning which causes I will give two rules to be noted before, for the better opening of that which is to follow: The first rule is, that by the two kingdoms of the nation of the Hebrews which were in the old time, to wit, by the kingdom of Israel, whose head was Samaria, is signified in the prophets the erroneous synagogue; and by the second kingdom of Judah, of whose stock came Christ, whose head metropolitan was Jerusalem, is signified the true church. And this rule is not mine, but is the gloss of St. Jerome, and also is the rule of Origen in the last homily upon the Old Testament, and is approved by the church.
The second rule is, that by the brothel-house and fornication mentioned in Judah the prophets, are signified simony, and abused dispensations, and promotions of persons unworthy, for lucre's sake, or else for any other partial favour, who, by unlawful ways, by all laws of the world, come to office and honour. "Merx dicitur namque a merendo;" that is, because gain or price is derived of gaining; for the which gain or price, that is sold, which by nature ought not to be sold. Therefore, to give anything for respect of gain or lure, which ought to be given freely for virtue's sake, is a kind of spiritual corruption, and as a man would say, a whorish thing; whereof the prophet [Isaiah, chap, i.] complaineth, speaking of Jerusalem, and saying, "The city which once was faithful and full of judgment, how is it now become a whorish city? " And in like manner Hosea also, the prophet [chap, ix.], "Jerusalem, thou hast fornicated and gone a whoring from thy God. Thou hast loved like a harlot to get gain in every barn of com." And in many other places of Scripture, where fornication cannot be otherwise expounded.
These two rules thus premised, now let us mark the Scriptures, and, according to the same, judge of the whole state of the church, both what is past, and what is to come: First, treating of the causes of tribulation to come: Secondly, of the vicinity of time of the said tribulation to come.
And first, concerning the state of the church, and of causes of tribulation, thus saith the Lord in the prophet Ezekiel [chap, xvi.], speaking to the church states of under the name of Jerusalem: "In the day of thy birth I came by thee, and saw thee trodden down in thine own blood," &c. Here he speaketh of the described, time of the martyrdom of the church. Then it followeth, "After this thou wast cleansed from thy blood, thou wast grown up, and waxen great; then i.xhe washed I thee with water, I purged thy blood from thee" (speaking of ceasing of persecution), "I anointed thee with oil, I gave thee change of raiment, I girded thee with white silk, I decked thee with costly apparel, I put rings upon church, thy fingers, a chain about thy neck, spangles upon thy forehead, and ear-rings upon thine ears. Thus wast thou decked with silver and gold, and a beautiful crown set upon thine head. Marvellous goodly wast thou and beautiful, even church, a very queen wast thou: for thou wast excellent in my beauty, which I put upon thee, saith the Lord God," &c. This prophecy, or rather history, speaketh of, and declareth, the prosperity of the church. And now hear the corruption and transgression of the church, for so it followeth: "But thou hast put confidence in thine own beauty, and played the harlot, when thou hadst gotten thee a name. Thou hast committed whoredom with all that went by thee, and hast fulfilled their desires; yea, thou hast taken thy garments of divers colours and decked thine altars therewith, whereupon thou mightest fulfil thy whoredom of such a fashion as never was done, nor shall be." Which whoredom can in no wise be expounded for carnal, but spiritual whoredom. And therefore, see how lively he hath painted out the corruption and falling of the church.
And therefore followeth now the correction and punishment of the church followeth, "Behold I stretch out my hand over thee, and will diminish thy store of food, and deliver thee over unto the wills of the Philistines, and of such as hate thee: and they shall break down thy stews, and destroy thy brothel-houses (that is, the place wherein thou didst exercise this wickedness) "they shall strip thee out of thy clothes: all thy fair beautiful jewels shall they take from thee, and so let thee sit naked and bare," &c. [Ezek. xvi.] Here is plainly to be seen what shall happen to the church, and more followeth in the said chapter: "Thine elder sister is Samaria, she and her daughters upon thy left hand: but the youngest sister that dwelleth on thy right hand is Sodoma with her daughters, whose sins were these: pride, fulness of meat, abundance, and idleness, neither reached they their hand to the poor. And yet, neither Sodoma thy sister, with her daughters, hath done so evil as thou and thy daughters: neither hath Samaria" (that is, the synagogue) "done half of thy sins; yea, thou hast exceeded them in wickedness. Take therefore and bear thine own confusion," &c. Again in Ezek. [chap, xxiii.], after the prophet had described at large the wickedness, corruption, and punishment of the synagogue, turning to the church, he saith, "And when her sister saw this, she raged and was mad with lust more than before; she was mad, that is, with fleshly lust, love of riches, and following voluptuousness. Her fornication and whoredom she committed with princes and great lords, clothed with all manner of gorgeous apparel; so that her paps were bruised, and her breasts were marred." And then speaking of her punishment, he saith, "Then my heart forsook her, like as my heart was gone from her sister also." And more over, repeating again the cause thereof, he addeth, "Thy wickedness and thy fornication hath wrought thee all this," &c.
The like we find also in Isaiah, Jeremy, Ezekiel, and in all the other prophets, who, prophesying all together in one meaning, and almost in one manner of words, do conclude with a full agreement and prophecy to come, that the church shall fall, and then be punished for her great excesses, and be utterly spoiled, except she repent of all her abominations. Whereof speaketh Hosea [chap, ii.], "Let her put away her whoredom out of her sight, and her adultery from her breasts, lest I strip her naked, and set her even as she came naked into the world," (that is, in her primitive poverty). So if she do it not, it shall follow of her as in the prophet Nahum [chap, hi.], " For the multitude of the fornication of the fair and beautiful harlot, which is a master of witchcraft, yea and selleth the people through her whoredom, and the nations through her witchcraft." And it followeth upon the same, "Behold I come upon thee, saith the Lord of hosts, and will pull thy clothes over thy head, that they nakedness shall appear among the heathen, and thy shame amongst the There- kingdoms" &C. Wherefore by these it is to be understood that upon this church the primitive justice of God is to be revealed hereafter. And thus church, much of the first of the four members above touched.
Now to the second member of my theme, "Juxta est; " concerning the nearness of time. Although it is not for us to know the moments and articles of time; yet, by certain notes and signs, peradventure, it may be collected and that the gathered, that which I have here to say. For the tractation whereof, first I ground myself upon the saying of the apostle Paul [2Thes. ii.], where he writeth, "That unless there "come a defection first," &c. By the which defection, Jerorne gathereth ond expoundeth allegorically, the desolation of the monarchy of Rome: between which desolation, and the persecution of the church by Antichrist, he putteth no mean space. And now, what is the state of that commonwealth, if it be compared to the majesty of that it hath been, judge yourselves. Another gloss there is that saith, how by that defection is meant, defection that from the church of Rome shall come a departing of some other churches.
The second note and mark is this, when the church shall be worse in manners than was the synagogue; as appeareth by the ordinary gloss upon the third of Jeremiah, where it is written, "The backslider Israel may seem just and righteous in comparison of sinful Judah;" that is, the synagogue in comparison of the church of God. Whereof writeth Origen saying, Think that to be spoken of us what the Lord saith in Ezekiel [chap, xvi.], "Thou hast exceeded thy sister in thine iniquities." Wherefore now, to compare the one with the other: First, ye know how Christ rebuked the Pharisees, who, as Jerome witnesseth, were then the clergy of the Jews, of covetousness, for that they suffered doves to be sold in the temple of God: Secondly, for that they did honour God with their lips, and not with their heart; and because they said, and but did not: Thirdly, he rebuked them, for that they were hypocrites. To church the first then, let us see whether it be worse to sell both church and sacraments together than to suffer doves to be sold in the temple, or not. Secondly, whereas the Pharisees were rebuked for honouring God with their lips, and not with their heart, there be some who neither honour God with heart, nor yet with lips, and who neither do well, nor yet say well; neither do they preach any word at all, but be dumb dogs, not able to bark, impudent and shameless dogs, that never have enough; such pastors as have no understanding, declining and straying all in their own way, every one given to covetousness from the highest to the lowest And thirdly, as for hypocrisy, there be also some whose intolerable pride and malice are so manifest and notorious, kindled up like a fire, that no cloak or shadow of hypocrisy can cover it, but they are so past all shame, that it may be well verified of them, which the prophet speaks, "Thou hast gotten thee the face of a harlot; thou wouldst not blush," &c.