To Those Who Take Offence at Certain Places of Scripture
Information for those who take offence at certain places in Holy Scripture
(Of the reverend estimation of God’s Word)
No one can sufficiently comprehend how great is the usefulness and benefit for Christian men and women in hearing and reading the Holy Scriptures. Because of this, our enemy Satan, seeing the Scriptures to be the very means by which people are brought to a true knowledge of God, and that Christian Religion is greatly advanced by diligently hearing and reading of Scripture, and also what a barrier this is to the advancement of his kingdom, does what he can to drive the reading of Scripture out of God's Church. To that end he has always stirred up, in one place or another, cruel tyrants, persecutors, and enemies to God, and His infallible truth, to violently pull Bibles out of people's hands, spitefully destroying and consuming the same by fire, under the false pretence that much hearing and reading of God's word tends to heresy, licentiousness and disarray.
If it is evil to know God rightly then we must admit that hearing and reading Scripture is a cause of these things. But the knowledge of God and of ourselves is really the only means to restrain licentiousness and the ordinary way to attain this knowledge, is to diligently hear and read the holy Scriptures, because, the whole Scriptures (says Saint Paul) are God-breathed (2 Timothy 3.16).
And shall we Christian men think to learn the knowledge of God and of ourselves, in any earthly mans work of writing, sooner or better then in the holy Scriptures, written by the inspiration of the holy Ghost? The Scriptures were not brought unto us by the will of man: but holy men of God (as Saint Peter witnesses) spoke as they were moved by the holy spirit of God (2 Peter 1.21). The holy ghost is the Schoolmaster of truth, which leads his Scholars (as our Saviour Christ says of him) into all truth (John 16.13). And whosoever is not led and taught by his Schoolmaster, cannot but fall into deep error, however godly his pretence is, whatever knowledge and learning he has of all other works and writings, or however fair a show or face of truth he has in the estimation and judgment of the world. If some man will say, I would have a true pattern and a perfect description of an upright life, approved in the sight of God: can we find (think you) any better or any such again, as Christ Jesus is, and his doctrine? whose virtuous conversation and godly life, the Scripture so lively paints and sets forth before our eyes, that we beholding that pattern, might shape and frame our lives, as nigh as may be, agreeable to the perfection of the same. Follow you me (says Saint Paul) as I follow Christ (1 Corinthians 11.1). And Saint John in his Epistle says: Whoever abides in Christ, must walk even as he has walked before him (1 John 2.6). And where shall we learn the order of Christ's life, but in the Scripture? Another would have a medicine to heal all diseases and maladies of the mind. Can this be found or gotten other where then out of God's own book, his sacred Scriptures? Christ taught so much when he said to the obstinate Jews, Search the Scriptures, for in them you think to have eternal life (John 5.39). If the Scriptures contain in them everlasting life, it must needs follow, that they have also present remedy against all that is an hindrance and let unto eternal life. If we desire the knowledge of heavenly wisdom: why had we rather learn the same of man, then of God himself, who (as Saint James says) is the giver of wisdom (James 1.5)? Yea, why will we not learn it at Christ's own mouth, who promising to be present with his Church till the worlds end (Matthew 28.20) doeth perform his promise, in that he is not only with us by his grace and tender pity: but also in this, that he speaks presently unto us in the holy Scriptures, to the great and endless comfort of all them that have any feeling of God at all in them? Yea, he speaks now in the Scriptures more profitably to us, than he did by the word of mouth to the carnal Jews when he lived with them here upon earth. For they (I mean the Jews) could neither hear nor see those things which we may now both hear and see, if we will bring with us those ears and eyes that Christ is heard and seen with, that is, diligence to hear and read his holy Scriptures, and true faith to believe his most comfortable promises. If one could show but the print of Christ's foot, a great number I think would fall down and worship it: But to the holy Scriptures, where we may see daily (if we will) I will not say the print of his feet only, but the whole shape and lively image of him, alas, we give little reverence or none at all.
If any could let us see Christ's coat, a sort of us would make hard shift except we might come nigh to gaze upon it, yea and kiss it too. And yet all the clothes that ever he did wear, can nothing so truly nor so lively express him unto us, as do the Scriptures. Christ's images made in wood, stone, or metal, some men for the love they bear to Christ, doe garnish and beautify the same with pearl, gold, and precious stone: And should we not (good brethren) much rather embrace and reverence God's holy books, the sacred Bible, which doe represent Christ unto us, more truly then can any image. The image can but express the form or shape of his body, if it can doe so much: But the Scriptures doeth in such sort set forth Christ, that we may see both God and man, we may see him (I say) speaking unto us, healing our infirmities, dying for our sins, rising from death for our justification. And to be short, we may in the Scriptures so perfectly see whole Christ with the eye of faith, as we, lacking faith, could not with these bodily eyes see him, though he stood now present here before us. Let every man, woman, and childe, therefore with all their heart thirst and desire God's holy Scriptures, love them, embrace them, have their delight and pleasure in hearing and reading them, so as at length we may be transformed and changed into them. For the holy Scriptures are Gods treasure house, wherein are found all things needful for us to see, to hear, to learn, and to believe, necessary for the attaining of eternal life. Thus much is spoken, only to give you a taste of some of the benefits that you may take by hearing and reading the holy Scriptures. For, as I said in the beginning, no tongue is able to declare and utter all. And although it is clearer than the noonday, that to be ignorant of the Scriptures is the cause of error, as Christ says to the Sadducees, You err, not knowing the Scriptures (Matthew 22.29), and that error holds back, and plucks men away from the knowledge of God. And as St. Jerome says, Not to know the Scriptures, is to be ignorant of Christ. Yet this notwithstanding, some there be that think it not meet for all sorts of men to read the Scriptures, because they are, as they think, in sundry places stumbling blocks to the unlearned. First, for that the phrase of the Scripture is sometime so simple, gross, and plain, that it of offends the fine and delicate wits of some courtiers. Furthermore, for that the Scripture also reports, even of them that have their commendation to be the children of God, that they did divers acts, where of some are contrary to the law of nature, some repugnant to the Law written, and other some seem to fight manifestly against public honesty. All which things (say they) are unto the simple an occasion of great offence, and cause many to think evil of the Scriptures, and to discredit their authority. Some are offended at the hearing and reading of the diversity of the rites and ceremonies of the sacrifices and oblations of the Law. And some worldly witted men, think it a great decay to the quiet and prudent governing of their commonwealth, to give ear to the simple and plain rules and precepts of our Saviour Christ in his Gospel, as being offered that a man should be ready to turn his right ear, to him that strake him on the left, and to him which would take away his coat, to offer him also his cloak, with such other sayings of perfection in Christ's meaning. For carnal reason, being always an enemy to God, and not perceiving the things of God's spirit, doth abhor such precepts, which yet rightly understood, infringe no judicial policies, nor Christian men's governments. And some there be, which hearing the Scriptures to bid us to live without carefulness, without study or forecasting, do deride the simplicities of them. Therefore to remove and put away occasions of offence so much as may be, I will answer orderly to these objections.
First I shall rehearse some of those places that men are offended at, for the simplicity & grossness of speech, and will show the meaning of them. In the book of Deuteronomy it is written, that almighty God made a law, if a man died with out issue, his brother or next kinsman should marry his widow, and the childe that was first borne between them, should be called his childe that was dead, that the dead mans name might not be put out in Israel: And if the brother or next kinsman would not marry the widow, then she before the Magistrates of the City should pull off his shoe and spit in his face, saying, So be it done to that man that will not build his brothers house. Here (dearly beloved) the pulling off his shoe, and spitting in his face, were ceremonies, to signify unto all the people of that City, that the woman was not now in fault that God's law in that point was broken, but the whole shame and blame thereof did now redound to that man, which openly before the Magistrates refused to marry her. And it was not a reproach to him alone, but to all his posterity also: For they were called ever after, The house of him whose shoe is pulled off.
Another place out of the Psalms: I will break (says David) the horns of the ungodly, and the horns of the righteous shall be exalted (Psalms 75.10). By an horn, in the Scripture, is understood power, might, strength, and sometime rule and government. The Prophet then saying, I will break the horns of the ungodly, means, that all the power, strength, and might of God'S enemy, shall not only be weakened and made feeble, but shall at length also be clean broken & destroyed, though for a time for the better trial of his people, God permits the enemies to prevail and have the upper hand. In the Psalm, it is said, I will make David's horn to flourish (Psalms 132.17). Here David's horn signifies his kingdom. Almighty God therefore by this manner of speaking, promises to give David victory over all his enemies, and to establish him in his kingdom, despite of all his enemies. And in sixtieth Psalm it is written: Moab is my wash pot, and over Edom will I cast my shoe, &c (Psalms 60.8). In that place the Prophet shows how graciously God hath dealt with his people the children of Israel, giving them great victories upon their enemies on every side. For the Moabites & Edomites, being two great nations, proud people, stout and mighty, God brought them under, and made them servants to the Israelites, servants I say, to stoop down, to pull off their shoes, and wash their feet. Then Moab is my wash pot, and over Edom will I cast out my shoe, is, as if he had said, The Moabites and the Edomites, for all their stoutness, against us in the wilderness, are now made our subjects, our servants, yea underlings to pull off our shoes, and wash our feet. Now I pray you, what uncomely manner of speech is this, so used in common phrase among the Hebrews? It is a shame that Christian men should be so light headed, to toy as ruffians do with such manner speeches, uttered in good grave signification by the holy Ghost. More reasonable it was for vain men to learn to reverence the form of God's words, then to sport at them to their damnation.
Some again are offended to hear that the godly fathers had many wives and concubines, although after the phrase of the Scripture, a concubine is an honest name, for every concubine is a lawful wife, but every wife is not a concubine. And that you may the better understand this to be true, you shall note that it was permitted to the fathers of the old Testament, to have at one time more wives then one, for what purpose you shall afterward hear. Of which wives some were free women born, some were bond-women & servants. She that was free born, had a prerogative above those that were servants & bond-women. The free-born woman was by marriage made the ruler of the house under her husband, & is called the mother of the household, the masters or the dame of the house, after our manner of speaking, & had by her marriage an interest, a right, and an ownership of his goods unto whom she was married. Other servants and bond-women were given by the owners of them, as the manner was then, I will not say always, but for the most part, unto their daughters at that day of their marriage, to be handmaidens unto them. After such a sort did Pharaoh King of Egypt give unto Sara Abrahams wife Agar the Egyptian to be her maid. So did Laban give unto his daughter Leah, at the day of her marriage, Zilpha, to be her handmaiden (Genesis 29.24). And to his other daughter Rachel, he gave another bondmaid, named Bilha. And the wives that were the owners of their handmaidens, gave them in marriage to their husbands, upon divers occasions. Sara gave her maid Agar in marriage to Abraham (Genesis 16.3). Leah gave in like manner her maid Zilpha to her husband Jacob (Genesis 30.9). So did Rachel his other wife give him Bilha her maid, saying unto him, Go in unto her, and she shall bear upon my knees: which is, as if she had said, Take her to wife, and the children that she shall bear, will I take upon my lap, and make of them as if they were mine own. These hand-maidens or bondwomen, although by marriage they were made wives, yet they had not this prerogative to rule in the house, but were still underlings, and in such subjection to their masters, and were never called mothers of the household, mistresses, or dames of the house, but are called sometimes wives, sometime concubines. The plurality of wives, was by a special prerogative suffered to the fathers of the old Testament, not for satisfying their carnal and fleshly lusts, but to have many children, because every one of them hoped, and begged oft times of God in their prayers, that that blessed seed, which God promised should come into the world to break the serpents head, might come and be borne of his stock and kindred.
Now of those which take occasion of carnality and evil life, by hearing and reading in God's book, what God had suffered, even in those men whose commendation is praised in the Scripture: As that Noah, whom Saint Peter called the great preacher of righteousnesse (2 Peter 2.5), was so drunk with wine, that in his sleep he uncovered his own privates (Genesis 9.21). The just man Lot was in like manner drunken, and in his drunkenness lay with his own daughters, contrary to the law of nature (Genesis 19.32). Abraham, whose faith was so great, that for the same he deserved to be called of God's own mouth a father of many nations, the father of all believers (Genesis 17.4-5, Romans 4.17), besides with Sara his wife, had also carnal company with Agar, Sara's handmaid. The Patriarch Jacob had to his wives two sisters at one time (Genesis 29.30). The Prophet David and king Solomon his son, had many wives and concubines &c. Which things we see plainly to be forbidden us by the law of God, and are now repugnant to all public honesty. These and such like in God's book (good people) are not written that we should or may doe the like following their examples, or that we ought to think that God did allow every of these things in those men: But we ought rather to believe and to judge that Noah in his drunkenness offended God highly. Lot lying with his daughters, committed horrible incest. We ought then to learn by them this profitable lesson, that if so godly men as they were, which otherwise felt inwardly God's holy Spirit inflaming in their hearts, with the fear and love of God, could not by their own strength keep themselves from committing horrible sin, but did so grievously fall, that without God's great mercy they had perished everlastingly: How much more ought we then, miserable wretches, which have no feeling of God within us at all, continually to fear, not only that we may fall as they did, but also be overcome and drowned in sin, which they were not? And so by considering their fall, take the better occasion to acknowledge our own infirmity and weaknesses, and therefore more earnestly to call unto Almighty God with hearty prayer incessantly, for his grace, to strengthen us, and to defend us from all evil. And though through infirmity we chance at any time to fall, yet we may by hearty repentance, and true faith, speedily rise again, and not sleep and continue in sin, as the wicked doeth.
Thus good people, should we understand such matters expressed in the divine Scriptures, that this holy table of God's word be not turned to us to be a snare, a trap, and a stumbling stone, to take hurt by the abuse of our understanding: But let us esteem them in a reverent humility, that we may find our necessary food therein, to strengthen us, to comfort us, to instruct us (as God of his great mercy hath appointed them) in all necessary works, so that we may be perfect before him in the whole course of our life: Which he grant us, who hath redeemed us, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father, & the holy Ghost, be all honour & glory for evermore, Amen.
You have heard (good people) in the Homily last read unto you, the great commodity of holy Scriptures, you have heard how ignorant men, void of godly understanding, seek quarrels to discredit them: Some of their reasons have you heard answered. Now we will proceed and speak of such politically wise men which be offended, for that Christ' precepts should seem to destroy all order in governance, as they doe allege for example, such as these be. If any man strike you on the right cheek, turn the other unto him also. If any man will contend to take thy coat from you, let him have cloak and all (Matthew 5.39-40). Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth. If your eye, your hand, or thy foot offend you, pull out your eye, cut off your hand, thy foot, and cast it from you (Matthew 18.8-9). If your enemy (says Saint Paul) is hungry, give him meat, if he is thirsty, give him drink: so doing, you shall heap hot burning coals upon his head (Romans 12.20). These sentences (good people) to a natural man seem mere absurdities, contrary to all reason. For a natural man (as Saint Paul says) understands not the things that belong to GOD (1 Corinthians 2.14), neither can he, so long as old Adam dwells in him. Christ therefore means, that he would have his faith full servants so far from vengeance and resisting wrong, that he would rather have him ready to suffer another wrong, then by resisting to break charity, and to be out of patience. He would have our good deeds so far from all carnal respects, that he would not have our nearest friends know of our well doing, to win vain glory. And though our friends and kinsfolk be as dear as our right eyes and our right hands: yet if they would pluck us from GOD, we ought to renounce them, and forsake them.
Thus if you will be profitable hearers and readers of the holy Scriptures, you must first deny your selves, and keep under your carnal senses, taken by the outward words, and search the inward meaning: reason must give place to GODS holy spirit, you must submit your worldly wisdom and judgment, unto his divine wisdom and judgment. Consider that the Scripture, in what strange form howsoever it is pronounced, is the word of the living GOD. Let that always come to your remembrance, which is so oft repeated of the Prophet Isaiah: The mouth of the Lord (says he) hath spoken it, and Almighty and everlasting GOD, who with his only word created heaven and earth, hath decreed it, the Lord of hosts, whose ways are in the Seas, whose paths are in the deep waters, that Lord and GOD by whose word all things in heaven and in earth are created, governed, and preserved, hath so provided it. The GOD of gods, and Lord of all lords, yea, GOD that is GOD alone, incomprehensible, almighty, and everlasting, he hath spoken it, it is his word. It cannot therefore be but truth, which proceeds from the GOD of all truth: it cannot be but wisely and prudently commanded, what Almighty GOD hath devised, however vainly, through want of grace, we miserable wretches do imagine and judge of his most holy word.
The Prophet David, describing an happy man, says: Blessed is the man that hath not walked after the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scornful (Psalms 1.1). There are three sorts of people, whose company the Prophet would have him to flee and avoid, which shall be an happy man, and partaker of GODS blessing. First, he may not walk after the counsel of the ungodly. Secondly, he may not stand in the way of sinners. Thirdly, he must not sit in the seat of the scornful. By these three sorts of people, ungodly men, sinners, and scorners, all impiety is signified, and fully expressed. By the ungodly, he understands those which have no regard of almighty GOD, being void of all faith, whose hearts and minds are so set upon the world, that they study only how to accomplish their worldly practices, their carnal imaginations, their filthy lust and desire, without any fear of GOD. The second sort he calls sinners, not such as do fall through ignorance, or of frailness, for then who should be found free? What man ever lived upon earth (Christ only excepted) but he hath sinned? The just man falls seven times, and rises again (Proverbs 24.16). Though the godly do fall, yet they walk not on purposely in sin, they stand not still to continue and tarry in sin, they sit not down like careless men, without all fear of GODS just punishment for sin: but defying sin, through GODS great grace and infinite mercy, they rise again, and fight against sin. The Prophet then calls them sinners, whose hearts are turned from GOD, and whose whole conversation of life is nothing but sin, they delight so much in the same, that they choose continually to abide and dwell in sin. The third sort he calls scorners, that is, a sort of men whose hearts are so stuffed with malice, that they are not contented to dwell in sin, and to lead their lives in all kind of wickedness: but also they do contemn and scorn in other all godliness, true religion, all honesty and virtue. Of the two first sorts of men, I will not say but they may take repentance, and be converted unto GOD. Of the third sort, I think I may without danger of GODS judgment pronounce, that never any yet converted unto GOD by repentance, but continued still in their abominable wickedness, heaping up to themselves damnation, against the day of GODS inevitable judgment.
Examples of such scorners, we read in the second book of Chronicles: When the good king Ezechias, in the beginning of his reign, had destroyed Idolatry, purged the Temple, and reformed Religion in his Realm, he sent messengers into every City, to gather the people unto Jerusalem, to solemnize the feast of Easter, in such sort as GOD had appointed . The posts went from city to city, through the land of Ephraim and Manassas, even unto Zabulon (2 Chronicles 30.1-6). And what did the people, think you? Did they laude and praise the Name of the Lord which had given them so good a King, so zealous a Prince to abolish idolatry, and to restore again GODS true religion? No, no. The Scripture says, The people laughed them to scorn, and mocked the King's messengers. And in the last Chapter of the same book it is written, that Almighty GOD, having compassion upon his people, sent his messengers the Prophets unto them, to call them from their abominable idolatry and wicked kind of living. But they mocked his messengers, they despised his words, and misused his Prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, and till there was no remedy: For he gave them up into the hands of their enemies, even unto Nebuchadnezer King of Babylon, who spoiled them of their goods, burnt their city, and led them, their wives, and their children, captives unto Babylon.
The wicked people that were in the days of Noah, made but a mock at the word of GOD, when Noah told them that GOD would take vengeance upon them for their sins. The flood therefore came suddenly upon them, and drowned them with the whole world. Lot preached to the Sodomites, that except they repented, both they and their City should be destroyed. They thought his sayings impossible to be true, they scorned and mocked his admonition, and reputed him as an old doting fool. But when GOD by his holy Angels had taken Lot, his wife, and two daughters from among them, he rained down fire and brimstone from heaven, and burnt vp those scorners and mockers of his holy word.
And what estimation had Christ's doctrine among the Scribes and Pharisees? What reward had he among them? The Gospel reported thus: The Pharisees which were covetous, did scorn him in his doctrine. O then you see that worldly rich men scorn the doctrine of their salvation. The worldly wise men scorn the doctrine of Christ, as foolishness to their understanding. These scorners have ever been, and ever shall be to the world's end. For Saint Peter prophesied, that such scorners should be in the world before the latter day (2 Peter 3.3)
Take heed therefore (my brethren) take heed, be you not scorners of GODS most holy word, provoke him not to pour out his wrath now upon you, as he did then upon those gibers and mockers. Be not willful murderers of your own souls. Turn unto GOD while there is yet time of mercy, you shall else repent it in the world to come, when it shall be too late, for there shall be judgment without mercy. This might suffice to admonish us, and cause us henceforth to reverence GODS holy Scriptures, but all men have not faith. This therefore shall not satisfy & content all men's minds: but as some are carnal, so they will still continue, and abuse the Scriptures carnally, to their greater damnation. The unlearned and unstable (says St. Peter) pervert the holy Scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3.16). Jesus Christ (as St. Paul said) is to the Jews an offence, to the Gentiles foolishness: But to Gods children, as well of the Jews as of the Gentiles he is the power & wisdom of GOD (1 Corinthians 1.23-24). The holy man Simeon said, that he is set forth for the fall and rising again of many in Israel (Luke 2.34). As Christ Jesus is a fall to the reprobate, which yet perish through their own default: so is his word, yea the whole book of GOD, a cause of damnation unto them, through their incredulity. And as he is a rising vp to none other then those which are GODS children by adoption: so is his word, yea the whole Scripture, the power of GOD to salvation to them only that doe believe it. Christ himself, the Prophets before him, the Apostles after him, all the true Ministers of GODS holy word, yea every word in GODS Book, is unto the reprobate, the savour of death unto death.
Christ Jesus, the Prophets, the Apostles, and all the true Ministers of his word, yea every jot and tittle in the holy Scripture, have been, is, and shall be for evermore, the savour of life unto eternal life, unto all those whose hearts GOD hath purified by true faith. Let us earnestly take heed, that we make no jesting stock of the books of holy Scriptures. The more obscure and dark the sayings be to our understanding, the further let us think our selves to be from GOD, and his holy spirit, who was the author of them. Let us with more reverence endeavour our selves to search out the wisdom hidden in the outward bark of the Scripture. If we can not understand the sense and the reason of the saying, yet let us not be scorners, jesters, and deriders, for that is the uttermost token and show of a reprobate, of a plain enemy to GOD and his wisdom. They are not idle fables to jest at, which GOD doeth seriously pronounce, and for serious matters let us esteem them. And though in sundry places of the Scriptures, be set out divers Rites and Ceremonies, oblations and sacrifices: let us not think strange of them, but refer them to the times and people for whom they served, although yet to learned men they be not unprofitable to be considered, but to be expounded as figures and shadows of things and persons, afterward openly revealed in the new Testament. Though the rehearsal of the genealogies and pedigrees of the Fathers are not to much edification of the plain ignorant people: yet is there nothing so impertinently uttered in all the whole Book of the Bible, but may serve to spiritual purpose in some respect, to all such as will bestow their labours to search out the meanings. These may not be condemned, because they serve not to our understanding, nor make to our edification. But let us turn our labour to understand, and to carry away such sentences and stories as be more fit for our capacity and instruction.
And whereas we read in divers Psalms, how David did wish to the adversaries of GOD sometimes shame, rebuke, and confusion, sometime the decay of their offspring and issue, sometime that they might perish and come suddenly to destruction, as he did wish to the Captains of the Philistines. Cast forth (says he) thy lightning, and tear them, shoot out your arrows and consume them (Psalms 144.6), with such other manner of imprecations: Yet ought we not to be offended at such prayers of David, being a Prophet as he was, singularly beloved of GOD, and rapt in spirit, with an ardent zeal to GODS glory. He spoke not of a private hatred and in a stomach against their persons: but wished spiritually the destruction of such corrupt errors and vices, which reigned in all devilish persons, set against GOD. He was of like mind as S. Paul was when he did deliver Himeneus and Alexander, with the notorious fornicator, to Satan, to their temporal confusion, that their spirit might be saved against the day of the Lord. And when David did profess in some places that he hated the wicked: yet in other places of his Psalms he professed, that he hated them with a perfect hate, not with a malicious hate, to the hurt of the soul. Which perfection of spirit, because it cannot be performed in us, so corrupted in affections as we be, we ought not to use in our private causes the like words in form, for that we cannot fulfill the like words in sense.
Let us not therefore be offended, but search out the reason of such words before we be offended, that we may the more reverently judge of such sayings, though strange to our carnal understandings, yet to them that be spiritually minded, judged to be zealously and godly pronounced. GOD therefore for his mercies sake, vouchsafe to purify our minds through faith in his son Jesus Christ, and to instill the heavenly drops of his grace into our hard stony hearts, to supple the same, that we be not contemnors and deriders of his infallible word: but that with all humbleness of mind and Christian reverence we may endeavour our selves to hear and to read his sacred Scriptures, and inwardly so to digest them, as shall be to the comfort of our souls, sanctification of his holy Name, to whom with the Sonne and the holy Ghost, three persons and one living GOD, be all laud, honour, and praise for ever and ever, Amen.
In what points the true ornaments of the Church or Temple of God do consist and stand, hath been declared in the two last Homilies, entreating of the right use of the Temple or house of God, and of the due reverence that all true Christian people are bound to give unto the same.
Almighty GOD, to the intent his most holy Name should be had in honour, and evermore be magnified of the people, commandeth that no man should take his Name vainly in his mouth, threatening punishment unto him that irreverently abuseth it by swearing, forswearing, andblasphemy. To the intent therefore that this commandment may be the better known and kept, it shall bee declared unto you, both how it is lawful for Christian people to swear, and also what peril and danger it is vainly to swear, or to be forsworn.
Unto a Christian man, there can be nothing either more necessary or profitable, than the knowledge of Holy Scripture; forasmuch as in it is contained God’s true word, setting forth his glory, and also man’s duty. And there is no truth nor doctrine, necessary for our justification and everlasting salvation, but that is, or may be, drawn out of that fountain and well of truth. Therefore, as many as be desirous to enter into the right and perfect way unto God, must apply their minds to know Holy Scripture; without the which, they can neither sufficiently known God and his will, neither their office and duty. And as drink is pleasant to them that be dry, and meat to them that be hungry; so is the reading, hearing, searching, and studying of Holy Scripture, to them that be desirous to know God, or themselves, and to do his will. And their stomachs only do loathe and abhor the heavenly knowledge and food of God’s word, that be so drowned in worldly vanities, that they neither saviour God, nor any godliness: for that is the cause why they desire such vanities, rather than the true knowledge of God. As they that are sick of an ague, whatsoever they eat and drink, though it be never so pleasant, yet it is as bitter to them as wormwood; not for the bitterness of the meat, but for the corrupt and bitter humour that is in their own tongue and mouth; even is the sweetness of God’s word bitter, not of itself, but only unto them that have their minds corrupted with long custom of sin and love of this world.
Of all things that be good to be taught unto Christian people, there is nothing more necessary to be spoken of, and daily called upon, then charity: as well for that all manner of works of righteousness be contained in it, as also that the decay thereof is the ruin or fall of the world, the banishment of virtue, and the cause of all vice. And for so much as almost every man, maketh and frameth to himself charity after his own appetite, and how detestable soever his life be, both unto God and man, yet he persuadeth himself still that he hath charity: therefore you shall hear now a true and plain description or setting forth of charity, not of men’s imagination, but of the very words and example of our Saviour Jesus Christ. In which description or setting forth, every man (as it were in a glass) may consider himself, and see plainly without error, whether he be in the true charity, or not.
Among all the creatures that God made in the beginning of the world most excellent and wonderful in their kind, there was none (as the Scripture beareth witness) to be compared almost in any point unto man, who as well in body and soul exceeded all other no less, then the Sun in brightness and light exceedeth every small and little star in the firmament. He was made according to the image and similitude of God, he was endued with all kind of heavenly gifts, he had no spot of uncleanness in him, he was found and perfect in all parts, both outwardly and inwardly, his reason was incorrupt, his understanding was pure and good, his will was obedient and godly, he was made altogether like unto God, in righteousness, in holiness, in wisdom, in truth, to be short in all kind of perfection.
In the last Sermon was declared unto you, what the lively and true faith of a Christian man is, that it causeth not a man to be idle, but to be occupied in bringing forth good works, as occasion serveth.
Of our going from God, the wise man saith, that pride was the first beginning: for by it mans heart was turned from God his maker. For pride (saith he) is the fountain of all sin: he that hath it, shall be full of cursings, and at the end it shall overthrow him. (Ecclus 10) And as by pride and sin we go from God, so shall God and all goodness with him go from us. And the Prophet Hosea doth plainly affirm (Hos 5), that they which go a way still from God by vicious living, and yet would go about to pacify him otherwise by sacrifice, and entertain him thereby, they labour in vain. For, notwithstanding all their sacrifice, yet he goeth still away from them. For so much (saith the Prophet) as they do not apply their minds to return to God, although they go about with whole flocks and herds to seek the Lord, yet they shall not find him: for he is gone away from them.
A Sermon of the Misery of all Mankind and of his Condemnation to Death Everlasting, by his own Sin.
Because all men be sinners and offenders against God, and breakers of his law and commandments, therefore can no man by his own acts, works, and deeds (seem they never so good) be justified, and made righteous before God: but every man of necessity is constrained to seek for another righteousness or justification, to be received at God’s own hands, that is to say, the forgiveness of his sins and trespasses, in such things as he hath offended. And this justification or righteousness, which we so receive of God’s mercy and Christ’s merits. embraced by faith, is taken, accepted and allowed of God, for our perfect and full justification.