Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
Defence of Religious Orders
By Reginald Pecock (c. 13951460)
From Repressour, Part II.
FOR to turn now again into the matter of religious; though it be sufficiently now before answered to the second seeming skile1 made against those religious, yet into greater strengthening and enforcing of the same made answer and into the more clearing of this truth, that the said religious be not to be cut away from the church, I set thus much more here at this time: Though it were so, that no more excuse were to the said religious for to defend them from cutting away than which is before said (that out, from, and by them no sin cometh in the first said manner, but in the second said manner only; and therefore they deserve not to be cut away, namely sith they be means into great ghostly goods), yet more thereto for to excuse may be set thus: that greater sin would come from, by, and out of the cuttings away of those religious than cometh now from, by, and out of the havings and holdings of the same religious, and greater sin is letted by the being and holding of those religious than is all the sin by them coming; and therefore they ought much rather be maintained than be laid aside. That this is true, what is now said, I prove thus: Take me all the religious men of England, which be now and have been in religion in England this thirty years and more now ended, in which thirty years hath been continual great war betwixt England and France; and let see what should have worthe2 of the men in these years, if they had not been made religious. Let see how they should have lived, and what manner of men they should have been. Whether not they should have been as wellnigh all other men be and have been in this thirty-fourth winter3 in England; and therefore they should have been or guileful artificers, or unpitiful questmongers and forsworn jurors, or soldiers waged4 into France for to make much murther of blood, yea, and of souls, both in their own side and in the French side? Who can say nay thereto, but that right likely and as it were unscapably these evils and many more should have befallen to those persons, if they had not been religious? And no man can find againward that those persons, whiles they have lived in religion, have been guilty of so much sin, how much sin is now rehearsed;5 and of which they should have been guilty, if they had not been religious. Then followeth of need that the religious in England have been full noble and full profitable hedges and wards throughout these thirty-four years for to close and keep and hedge in and warn so many persons from so much greater sins into which else, if those religious had not been, those persons should have fallen and have been guilty. And soothly this skile (as me seemeth) ought move each man full much for to hold with such religious, if he be wise for to consider how sinful it is wellnigh6 all persons living out of religion; and into how cumbrous a plight the world is brought, that those sins (as it were) may not be left; and how that religious persons should be of like bad condition, if they were not in religion, and that in religion they be not of so bad condition, though they be men and not angels, and cannot live without all sin; and that the sin coming into them, whiles they be in religion, cometh not into them by the religion as by the first manner of coming before taught in the same chapter, but by the second manner7 of coming only.