OF THEM WHICH TAKE OFFENCE AT CERTAIN PLACES OF HOLY SCRIPTURE
AN INFORMATION FOR THEM WHICH TAKE OFFENCE AT CERTAINE PLACES OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURE.
The first part.
THE great vtility and profit that Christian men and women may take (if they will) by hearing and reading the holy Scriptures (dearely beloued) no heart can sufficiently conceiue, much lesse is my tongue able with wordes to expresse. Wherefore Satan our enemy, seeing the Scriptures to bee the very meane and right way to bring the people to the true knowledge of GOD, and that Christian Religion is greatly furthered by diligent hearing and reading of them, he also perceiuing what an hinderance and let they bee to him and his kingdome, doth what hee can to driue the reading of them out of GODS Church. And for that end hee hath alwayes stirred vp, in one place or other, cruell tyrants, sharpe persecutors, and extreme enemies vnto GOD, and his infallible trueth, to pull with violence the holy Bibles out of the peoples hands, and haue most spitefully destroyed and consumed the same to ashes in the fire, pretending most vntruely, that the much hearing and reading of GODS word is an occasion of heresie and carnall liberty, and the ouerthrow of all good order in all well ordered common weales. If to know GOD aright be an occasion of euill, then we must needs grant, that the hearing and reading of the holy Scriptures, is the cause of heresie, carnall liberty, and the subuersion of all good orders. But the knowledge of GOD and of ourselues, is so farre from being an occasion of euill, that it is the readiest, yea the onely meane to bridle carnall liberty, and to kill all our fleshly affections. And the ordinary way to attaine this knowledge, is with diligence to heare and read the holy Scriptures. For the whole Scriptures (sayth Saint Paul) were giuen by the inspiration of GOD (2 Timothy 3.16). And shall we Christian men thinke to learne the knowledge of GOD and of ourselues, in any earthly mans worke of writing, sooner or better then in the holy Scriptures, written by the inspiration of the holy Ghost? The Scriptures were not brought vnto vs by the will of man: but holy men of GOD (as witnesseth Saint Peter) spake as they were mooued by the holy spirit of GOD (2 Peter 1.21). The holy ghost is the Schoolemaster of trueth, which leadeth his Schollers (as our Sauiour Christ sayth of him) into all trueth (John 16.13). And whoso is not ledde and taught by his Schoolemaster, cannot but fall into deepe errour, how godly soeuer his pretence is, what knowledge and learning soeuer he hath of all other works and writings, or how fayre soeuer a shew or face of trueth he hath in the estimation and iudgement of the world. If some man will say, I would haue a true patterne and a perfect description of an vpright life, approoued in the sight of GOD: can wee finde (thinke ye) any better or any such againe, as Christ Iesus is, and his doctrine? whose vertuous conuersation and godly life, the Scripture so liuely painteth and setteth foorth before our eyes, that we beholding that patterne, might shape and frame our liues, as nigh as may bee, agreeable to the perfection of the same. Follow you me (sayth Saint Paul) as I follow Christ (1 Corinthians 11.1). And Saint Iohn in his Epistle sayth: Whoso abideth in Christ, must walke euen so as he hath walked before him (1 John 2.6). And where shall wee learne the order of Christs life, but in the Scripture? Another would haue a medicine to heale all diseases and maladies of the minde. Can this be found or gotten other where then out of GODS own booke, his sacred Scriptures? Christ taught so much when he sayd to the obstinate Iewes, Search the Scriptures, for in them ye thinke to haue eternall life (John 5.39). If the Scriptures containe in them euerlasting life, it must needes follow, that they haue also present remedy against all that is an hinderance and let vnto eternall life. If wee desire the knowledge of heauenly wisedome: why had wee rather learne the same of man, then of GOD himselfe, who (as Saint Iames sayth) is the giuer of wisedome (James 1.5)? Yea, why will we not learne it at Christs owne mouth, who promising to be present with his Church till the worlds end (Matthew 28.20) doeth performe his promise, in that hee is not onely with vs by his grace and tender pity: but also in this, that he speaketh presently vnto vs in the holy Scriptures, to the great and endlesse comfort of all them that haue any feeling of GOD at all in them? Yea, he speaketh now in the Scriptures more profitably to vs, then hee did by the word of mouth to the carnall Iewes when he liued with them heere vpon earth. For they (I mean the Iewes) could neither heare nor see those things which we may now both heare and see, if wee will bring with vs those eares and eyes that Christ is heard and seene with, that is, diligence to heare and reade his holy Scriptures, and true faith to beleeue his most comfortable promises. If one could shew but the print of Christs foot, a great number I thinke would fall downe 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 liuely image of him, alas, we giue little reuerence or none at all.
If any could let vs see Christs coate, a sort of vs would make hard shift except we might come nigh to gaze vpon it, yea and kisse it too. And yet all the clothes that euer hee did weare, can nothing so truely nor so liuely expresse him vnto vs, as doe the Scriptures. Christes images made in wood, stone, or metall, some men for the loue they beare to Christ, doe garnish and beautifie the same with pearle, golde, and precious stone: And should wee not (good brethren) much rather embrace and reuerence GODS holy bookes, the sacred Bible, which doe represent Christ vnto vs, more truely then can any image. The image can but expresse the forme or shape of his body, if it can doe so much: But the Scriptures doeth in such sort set foorth Christ, that wee may see both GOD and man, we may see him (I say) speaking vnto vs, healing our infirmities, dying for our sinnes, rising from death for our iustification. And to be short, wee may in the Scriptures so perfectly see whole Christ with the eye of faith, as wee, lacking faith, could not with these bodily eyes see him, though hee stood now present here before vs. Let euery man, woman, and childe, therefore with all their heart thirst and desire GODS holy Scriptures, loue them, embrace them, haue their delight and pleasure in hearing and reading them, so as at length we may bee transformed and changed into them. For the holy Scriptures are Gods treasure house, wherein are found all things needefull for vs to see, to heare, to learne, and to beleeue, necessary for the attaining of eternall life. Thus much is spoken, onely to giue you a taste of some of the commodities which ye may take by hearing and reading the holy Scriptures. For as I sayd in the beginning, no tongue is able to declare and vtter all. And although it is more cleare then the noone day, that to bee ignorant of the Scriptures, is the cause of errour, as Christ saith to the Sadduces, Ye erre, not knowing the Scriptures (Matthew 22.29), and that errour doth hold backe, and plucke men away from the knowledge of GOD. And as S. Ierome saith, Not to know the Scriptures, is to be ignorant of Christ. Yet this notwithstanding, some there bee that thinke it not meete for all sortes of men to reade the Scriptures, because they are, as they thinke, in sundry places stumbling blockes to the vnlearned. First, for that the phrase of the Scripture is sometime so simple, grosse, and playne, that it of fendeth the fine and delicate wittes of some courtiers. Furthermore, for that the Scripture also reporteth, euen of them that haue their commendation to be the children of GOD, that they did diuers acts, where of some are contrary to the law of nature, some repugnant to the Law written, and other some seeme to fight manifestly against publique honestie. All which things (say they) are vnto the simple an occasion of great offence, and cause many to thinke euill of the Scriptures, and to discredite their authority. Some are offended at the hearing and reading of the diuersity of the rites and ceremonies of the sacrifices and oblations of the Law. And some worldly witted men, thinke it a great decay to the quiet and prudent gouerning of their common weales, to giue eare to the simple and plaine rules and precepts of our Sauiour Christ in his Gospel, as being offered that a man should bee ready to turne his right eare, to him that strake him on the left, and to him which would take away his coate, to offer him also his cloke, with such other sayings of perfection in Christs meaning. For carnall reason, being alway an enemie to GOD, and not perceiuing the things of GODS spirit, doth abhorre such precepts, which yet rightly vnderstood, infringeth no iudiciall policies, nor Christian mens gouernements. And some there be, which hearing the Scriptures to bid vs to liue without carefulnesse, without studie or forecasting, doe deride the simplicities of them. Therefore to remoue and put away occasions of offence so much as may bee, I will answere orderly to these obiections. First I shall rehearse some of those places that men are offended at, for the simplicity & grossenesse of speach, and will shew the meaning of them. In the booke of Deuteronomie it is written, that almighty GOD made a law, if a man died with out issue, his brother or next kinseman should marrie his widow, and the childe that was first borne betweene 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 kinseman would not marrie the widow, then shee before the Magistrates of the Citie should pull off his shoe and spit in his face, saying, So bee it done to that man that will not build his brothers house. Here (dearely beloued) the pulling off his shoe, and spitting in his face, were ceremonies, to signifie vnto all the people of that Citie, that the woman was not now in fault that GODS law in that poynt was broken, but the whole shame and blame thereof did now redound to that man, which openly before the Magistrates refused to marrie her. And it was not a reproch to him alone, but to all his posteritie also: For they were called euer after, The house of him whose shoe is pulled off. Another place out of the Psalmes: I wil breake (saith Dauid) the hornes of the vngodly, and the hornes of the righteous shall be exalted (Psalms 75.10). By an horne, in the Scripture, is vnderstood power, might, strength, and sometime rule and gouernment. The Prophet then saying, I will breake the hornes of the vngodly, meaneth, that all the power, strength, and might of GODS enemy, shall not onely be weakened and made feeble, but shall at length also be cleane broken & destroyed, though for a time for the better triall of his people, GOD suffereth the enemies to preuaile and haue the vpper hand. In the Psalme, it is sayd, I will make Dauids horne to florish (Psalms 132.17). Here Dauids horne signifieth his kingdome. Almighty GOD therefore by this manner of speaking, promiseth to giue Dauid victory ouer all his enemies, and to stablish him in his kingdome, spite of all his enemies. And in the threescore Psalme it is written: Moab is my washpot, and ouer Edom will I cast my shoe, &c (Psalms 60.8). In that place the Prophet sheweth how graciously GOD hath dealt with his people the children of Israel, giuing them great victories vpon their enemies on euery side. For the Moabites & Idumeans, being two great nations, proud people, stout and mighty, GOD brought them vnder, and made them seruants to the Israelites, seruants I say, to stoope downe, to pull off their shoes, and wash their feete. Then Moab is my washpot, and ouer Edom will I cast out my shoe, is, as if hee had sayd, The Moabites and the Idumeans, for all their stoutnesse, against vs in the wildernesse, are now made our subiects, our seruants, yea vnderlings to pull off our shoes, and wash our feete. Now I pray you, what vncomely manner of speech is this, so vsed in common phrase among the Hebrewes? It is a shame that Christian men should bee so light headed, to toy as ruffians doe with such manner speaches, vttered in good graue signification by the holy Ghost. More reasonable it were for vaine men to learne to reuerence the fourme of GODS wordes, then to sport at them to their damnation. Some againe are offended to heare that the godly fathers had many wiues and concubines, although after the phrase of the Scripture, a concubine is an honest name, for euery concubine is a lawfull wife, but euery wife is not a concubine. And that ye may the better vnderstand this to be true, ye shall note that it was permitted to the fathers of the old Testament, to haue at one time moe wiues then one, for what purpose yee shall afterward heare. Of which wiues some were free women born, some were bond-women & seruants. She that was free born, had a prerogatiue aboue those that were seruants & bond-women. The free-born woman was by mariage made the ruler of the house vnder her husband, & is called the mother of the housholde, the masters or the dame of the house, after our manner of speaking, & had by her mariage an interest, a right, and an ownershippe of his goods vnto whom shee was maried. Other seruants and bonde-women were giuen by the owners of them, as the manner was then, I will not say alwayes, but for the most part, vnto their daughters at that day of their mariage, to bee handmaydens vnto them. After such a sort did Pharao King of Egypt giue vnto Sara Abrahams wife Agar the Egyptian to bee her maide. So did Laban giue vnto his daughter Lea, at the day of her mariage, Zilpha, to bee her handmaide (Genesis 29.24). And to his other daughter Rachel, he gaue another bondmaid, named Bilha. And the wiues that were the owners of their handmaydens, gaue them in mariage to their husbands, vpon diuers occasions. Sara gaue her mayde Agar in mariage to Abraham (Genesis 16.3). Lea gaue in like manner her mayde Zilpha to her husband Iacob (Genesis 30.9). So did Rachel his other wife giue him Bilha her mayde, saying vnto him, Goe in vnto her, and shee shall beare vpon my knees: which is, as if she had said, Take her to wife, and the children that she shall beare, will I take vpon my lappe, and make of them as if they were mine owne. These hand-maydens or bondwomen, although by marriage they were made wiues, yet they had not this prerogatiue to rule in the house, but were still vnderlings, and in such subiection to their masters, and were neuer called mothers of the houshold, mistresses, or dames of the house, but are called sometimes wiues, sometime concubines. The plurality of wiues, was by a speciall prerogatiue suffered to the fathers of the olde Testament, not for satisfying their carnall and fleshly lustes, but to haue many children, because euery one of them hoped, and begged oft times of GOD in their prayers, that that blessed seede, which GOD promised should come into the world to breake the serpents head, might come and be borne of his stocke and kinred.
Now of those which take occasion of carnality and euill life, by hearing and reading in GODS booke, what GOD had suffered, euen in those men whose commendation is praysed in the Scripture: As that Noe, whom Saint Peter calleth the eight preacher of righteousnesse (2 Peter 2.5), was so drunke with wine, that in his sleepe he vncouered his owne priuities (Genesis 9.21). The iust man Lot was in like manner drunken, and in his drunkennesse lay with his owne daughters, contrary to the law of nature (Genesis 19.32). Abraham, whose faith was so great, that for the same hee deserued to bee called of GODS owne mouth a father of many nations, the father of all beleeuers (Genesis 17.4-5, Romans 4.17), besides with Sara his wife, had also carnall company with Agar, Saraes handmaide. The Patriarch Iacob had to his wiues two sisters at one time (Genesis 29.30). The Prophet Dauid and king Solomon his sonne, had many wiues and concubines &c. Which things wee see plainely to bee forbidden vs by the law of GOD, and are now repugnant to all publike honestie. These and such like in GODS booke (good people) are not written that we should or may doe the like following their examples, or that wee ought to thinke that GOD did allow euery of these things in those men: But wee ought rather to beleeue and to iudge that Noe in his drunkennesse offended GOD highly. Lot lying with his daughters, committed horrible incest. Wee ought then to learne by them this profitable lesson, that if so godly men as they were, which otherwise felt inwardly GODS holy Spirit inflaming in their hearts, with the feare and loue of GOD, could not by their owne strength keepe themselues from committing horrible sin, but did so grieuously fall, that without GODS great mercy they had perished euerlastingly: How much more ought wee then, miserable wretches, which haue no feeling of GOD within vs at all, continually to feare, not onely that we may fall as they did, but also be ouercome and drowned in sinne, which they were not? And so by considering their fall, take the better occasion to acknowledge our owne infirmitie and weakenes, and therefore more earnestly to call vnto Almighty GOD with hearty prayer incessantly, for his grace, to strengthen vs, and to defend vs from all euill. And though through infirmity wee chaunce at any time to fall, yet wee may by hear ty repentance, and true faith, speedily rise againe, and not sleepe and continue in sinne, as the wicked doeth.
Thus good people, should we vnderstand such matters expressed in the diuine Scriptures, that this holy table of GODS word be not turned to vs to be a snare, a trappe, and a stumbling stone, to take hurt by the abuse of our vnderstanding: But let vs esteeme them in a reuerent humilitie, that we may find our necessary food therein, to strengthen vs, to comfort vs, to instruct vs (as GOD of his great mercy hath appoynted them) in all necessary workes, so that wee may be perfect before him in the whole course of our life: Which hee grant vs, who hath redeemed vs, our Lord and Sauiour Iesus Christ, to whom with the Father, & the holy Ghost, bee all honour & glory for euermore, Amen.
The second part of the information for them which take offence at certaine places of the holy Scripture.
YEe haue heard (good people) in the Homilie last read vnto you, the great commoditie of holy Scriptures, yee haue heard how ignorant men, voyde of godly vnderstanding, seeke quarrels to discredite them: Some of their reasons haue yee heard answered. Now wee will proceede and speake of such politique wise men which bee offended, for that Christes precepts should seeme to destroy all order in gouernance, as they doe alleadge for example, such as these bee. If any man strike thee on the right cheeke, turne the other vnto him also. If any man will contend to take thy coate from thee, let him haue cloke and all (Matthew 5.39-40). Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth. If thine eye, thine hand, or thy foote offend thee, pull out thine eye, cut off thine hand, thy foote, and cast it from thee (Matthew 18.8-9). If thine enemie (saith Saint Paul) be an hungred, giue him meate, if hee bee thirstie, giue him drinke: so doing, thou shalt heape hote burning coales vpon his head (Romans 12.20). These sentences (good people) vnto a naturall man seeme meere absurdities, contrary to all reason. For a naturall man (as Saint Paul saith) vnderstandeth not the things that belong to GOD (1 Corinthians 2.14), neither can he, so long as old Adam dwelleth in him. Christ therefore meaneth, that he would haue his faith full seruants so farre from vengeance and resisting wrong, that he would rather haue him ready to suffer another wrong, then by resisting to breake charitie, and to bee out of patience. Hee would haue our good deedes so farre from all carnall respects, that he would not haue our nighest friends know of our well doing, to winne vaine glory. And though our friends and kinsefolkes be as deare as our right eyes and our right hands: yet if they would plucke vs from GOD, wee ought to renounce them, and forsake them.
Thus if yee will bee profitable hearers and readers of the holy Scriptures, ye must first denie your selues, and keepe vnder your carnall senses, taken by the outward wordes, and search the inward meaning: reason must giue place to GODS holy spirite, you must submit your worldly wisedome and iudgement, vnto his diuine wisedome and iudgement. Consider that the Scripture, in what strange fourme soeuer it bee pronounced, is the word of the liuing GOD. Let that alwayes come to your remembrance, which is so oft repeated of the Prophet Esaias: The mouth of the Lord (saith he) hath spoken it, and Almighty and euerlasting GOD, who with his onely word created heauen and earth, hath decreed it, the Lord of hostes, whose wayes are in the Seas, whose paths are in the deepe waters, that Lorde and GOD by whose worde all things in heauen and in earth are created, gouerned, and preserued, hath so prouided it. The GOD of gods, and Lord of all lordes, yea, GOD that is GOD alone, incomprehensible, almighty, and euerlasting, hee hath spoken it, it is his word. It cannot therefore be but trueth, which proceedeth from the GOD of all trueth: it cannot be but wisely and prudently commaunded, what Almighty GOD hath deuised, how vainely soeuer, through want of grace, wee miserable wretches doe imagine and iudge of his most holy word. The Prophet Dauid, describing an happy man, sayth: Blessed is the man that hath not walked after the counsaile of the vngodly, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seate of the scornefull (Psalms 1.1). There are three sortes of people, whose company the Prophet would haue him to flee and auoyde, which shall be an happy man, and partaker of GODS blessing. First, he may not walke after the counsaile of the vngodly. Secondly, he may not stand in the way of sinners. Thirdly, he must not sit in the seate of the scornefull. By these three sortes of people, vngodly men, sinners, and scorners, all impietie is signified, and fully expressed. By the vngodly, hee vnderstandeth those which haue no regard of almighty GOD, being voyde of all faith, whose hearts and mindes are so set vpon the world, that they studie onely how to accomplish their worldly practises, their carnall imaginations, their filthy lust and desire, without any feare of GOD. The second sort hee calleth sinners, not such as doe fall through ignorance, or of frailenesse, for then who should be found free? What man euer liued vpon earth (Christ onely excepted) but he hath sinned? The iust man falleth seuen times, and riseth againe (Proverbs 24.16). Though the godly do fall, yet they walke not on purposely in sinne, they stand not still to continue and tarry in sinne, they sit not downe like carelesse men, without all feare of GODS iust punishment for sinne: but defying sinne, through GODS great grace and infinite mercie, they rise againe, and fight against sinne. The Prophet then calleth them sinners, whose heartes are cleane turned from GOD, and whose whole conuersation of life is nothing but sinne, they delight so much in the same, that they chuse continually to abide and dwell in sinne. The third sort hee calleth scorners, that is, a sorte of men whose heartes are so stuffed with malice, that they are not contented to dwell in sinne, and to leade their liues in all kinde of wickednesse: but also they doe contemne and scorne in other all godlinesse, true religion, all honesty and vertue. Of the two first sortes of men, I will not say but they may take repentance, and bee conuerted vnto GOD. Of the third sort, I thinke I may without danger of GODS iudgement pronounce, that neuer any yet conuerted vnto GOD by repentance, but continued still in their abominable wickednesse, heaping vp to themselues damnation, against the day of GODS ineuitable iudgement. Examples of such scorners, we reade in the second booke of Chronicles: When the good king Ezechias, in the beginning of his reigne, had destroyed Idolatrie, purged the Temple, and reformed Religion in his Realme, he sent messengers into euery Citie, to gather the people vnto Ierusalem, to solemnize the feast of Easter, in such sort as GOD had appointed . The postes went from citie to citie, through the land of Ephraim and Manassas, euen vnto Zabulon (2 Chronicles 30.1-6). And what did the people, thinke yee? Did they laude and prayse the Name of the Lord which had giuen them so good a King, so zealous a Prince to abolish idolatry, and to restore againe GODS true religion? No, no. The Scripture sayth, The people laughed them to scorne, and mocked the Kinges messengers. And in the last Chapter of the same booke it is written, that Almighty GOD, hauing compassion vpon his people, sent his messengers the Prophets vnto them, to call them from their abominable idolatrie and wicked kinde of liuing. But they mocked his messengers, they despised his words, and misused his Prophets, vntill the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, and till there was no remedy: For hee gaue them vp into the handes of their enemies, euen vnto Nabuchodonozer King of Babylon, who spoyled them of their goods, burnt their citie, and led them, their wiues, and their children, captiues vnto Babylon. The wicked people that were in the dayes of Noe, made but a mocke at the worde of GOD, when Noe tolde them that GOD would take vengeance vpon them for their sinnes. The flood therefore came sodainely vpon them, and drowned them with the whole world. Lot preached to the Sodomites, that except they repented, both they and their Citie should be destroyed. They thought his sayings impossible to bee true, they scorned and mocked his admonition, and reputed him as an olde doating foole. But when GOD by his holy Angels had taken Lot, his wife, and two daughters from among them, hee rained downe fire and brimstone from heauen, and burnt vp those scorners and mockers of his holy word. And what estimation had Christes doctrine among the Scribes and Pharisees? What reward had hee among them? The Gospel reporteth thus: The Pharisees which were couetous, did scorne him in his doctrine. O then yee see that worldly rich men scorne the doctrine of their saluation. The worldly wise men scorne the doctrine of Christ, as foolishnesse to their vnderstanding. These scorners haue euer beene, and euer shall bee to the worldes end. For Saint Peter prophesied, that such scorners should be in the world before the latter day (2 Peter 3.3). Take heede therefore (my brethren) take heede, be yee not scorners of GODS most holy word, prouoke him not to powre out his wrath now vpon you, as hee did then vpon those gybers and mockers. Be not wilfull murderers of your owne soules. Turne vnto GOD while there is yet time of mercy, yee shall else repent it in the world to come, when it shall be too late, for there shall bee iudgement without mercie. This might suffice to admonish vs, and cause vs henceforth to reuerence GODS holy Scriptures, but all men haue not faith. This therefore shall not satisfie & content all mens minds: but as some are carnall, so they will still continue, and abuse the Scriptures carnally, to their greater damnation. The vnlearned and vnstable (saith S. Peter) peruert the holy Scriptures to their owne destruction (2 Peter 3.16). Iesus Christ (as S. Paul saith) is to the Iewes an offence, to the Gentiles foolishnesse: But to Gods children, as well of the Iewes as of the Gentiles he is the power & wisedome of GOD (1 Corinthians 1.23-24). The holy man Simeon saith, that he is set forth for the fall and rising againe of many in Israel (Luke 2.34). As Christ Iesus is a fall to the reprobate, which yet perish through their owne default: so is his word, yea the whole booke of GOD, a cause of damnation vnto them, through their incredulity. And as hee 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 saluation to them onely that doe beleeue it. Christ himselfe, the Prophets before him, the Apostles after him, all the true Ministers of GODS holy word, yea euery word in GODS Booke, is vnto the reprobate, the sauour of death vnto death.
Christ Iesus, the Prophets, the Apostles, and all the true Ministers of his word, yea euery iot and tittle in the holy Scripture, haue beene, is, and shalbe for euermore, the sauour of life vnto eternall life, vnto all those whose hearts GOD hath purified by true fayth. Let vs earnestly take heed, that we make no iesting stocke of the bookes of holy Scriptures. The more obscure and darke the sayings be to our vnderstanding, the further let vs thinke our selues to bee from GOD, and his holy spirit, who was the authour of them. Let vs with more reuerence endeuour our selues to search out the wisedome hidden in the outward barke of the Scripture. If we can not vnderstand the sense and the reason of the saying, yet let vs not be scorners, iesters, and deriders, for that is the vttermost token and shew of a reprobate, of a plaine enemie to GOD and his wisedome. They be not idle fables to iest at, which GOD doeth seriously pronounce, and for serious matters let vs esteeme them. And though in sundry places of the Scriptures, bee set out diuers Rites and Ceremonies, oblations and sacrifices: let vs not thinke strange of them, but referre them to the times and people for whom they serued, although yet to learned men they be not vnprofitable to be considered, but to be expounded as figures and shadowes of things and persons, afterward openly reuealed in the new Testament. Though the rehearsall of the genealogies and pedegrees of the Fathers bee not to much edification of the plaine ignorant people: yet is there nothing so impertinently vttered in all the whole Booke of the Bible, but may serue to spirituall purpose in some respect, to all such as will bestow their labours to search out the meanings. These may not be condemned, because they serue not to our vnderstanding, nor make to our edification. But let vs turne our labour to vnderstand, and to cary away such sentences and stories as bee more fit for our capacity and instruction.
And whereas we read in diuers Psalmes, how Dauid did wish to the aduersaries of GOD sometimes shame, rebuke, and confusion, sometime the decay of their ofspring and issue, sometime that they might perish and come suddenly to destruction, as he did wish to the Captaines of the Philistines. Cast foorth (sayth he) thy lightning, and teare them, shoot out thine arrowes and consume them (Psalms 144.6), with such other maner of imprecations: Yet ought we not to be offended at such prayers of Dauid, being a Prophet as he was, singularly beloued of GOD, and rapt in spirit, with an ardent zeale to GODS glory. Hee spake not of a priuate hatred and in a stomacke against their persons: but wished spiritually the destruction of such corrupt errours and vices, which raigned in all diuellish persons, set against GOD. He was of like minde as S. Paul was when he did deliuer Himeneus and Alexander, with the notorious fornicatour, to Satan, to their temporall confusion, that their spirit might bee saued against the day of the Lord. And when Dauid did professe in some places that he hated the wicked: yet in other places of his Psalmes he professeth, that he hated them with a perfect hate, not with a malicious hate, to the hurt of the soule. Which perfection of spirit, because it cannot be performed in vs, so corrupted in affections as wee bee, wee ought not to vse in our priuate causes the like wordes in forme, for that we cannot fulfill the like words in sense. Let vs not therefore be offended, but search out the reason of such words before we be offended, that wee may the more reuerently iudge of such sayings, though strange to our carnall vnderstandings, yet to them that be spiritually minded, iudged to be zealously and godly pronounced. GOD therefore for his mercies sake, vouchsafe to purifie our mindes through fayth in his sonne Iesus Christ, and to instill the heauenly droppes of his grace into our hard stony hearts, to supple the same, that wee bee not contemners and deriders of his infallible word: but that with all humblenesse of minde and Christian reuerence we may indeuour our selues to heare and to read his sacred Scriptures, and inwardly so to digest them, as shalbe to the comfort of our soules, sanctification of his holy Name, to whom with the Sonne and the holy Ghost, three persons and one liuing GOD, be all laud, honour, and prayse for euer and euer, Amen.
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