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What incommodities the

reading or hearing of God's word, if it be joined HOM. I. with a godly mind, and a good affection to know and follow God's will. • For without a single eye, pure intent, and good mind, nothing is allowed for ignorance of good before God. And, on the other side, nothing

bringeth, more darkeneth Christ and the glory of God, nor Isa. v. bringeth in more blindness and all kinds of vices, 1 Cor. xiv. than doth the ignorance of God's word.

God's word

THE SECOND PART OF THE SERMON OF THE

KNOWLEDGE OF HOLY SCRIPTURE.

In the first part of this Sermon, which exhorteth to the knowledge of Holy Scripture, was declared wherefore the knowledge of the same is necessary and profitable to all men; and that, by the true knowledge and understanding of Scripture, the most necessary points of our duty towards God and our neighbours are also known.

Now, as concerning the same matter, you shall hear what followeth.

If we profess Christ, why be we not ashamed to be ignorant in his doctrine, seeing that every man is ashamed to be ignorant in that learning which he professeth? That man is ashamed to be called a Philosopher which readeth not the books of philosophy; and to be called a Lawyer, an Astronomer, or a Physician, that is ignorant in the books of law, astrononomy, and physic. How can any man, then, say that he professeth Christ and his religion, if he will not apply himself, as far forth as he can or may conveniently, to read and hear, and so to know, the books of Christ's Gospel and doctrine? Although God's word other sciences be good, and to be learned, yet no sciences. man can deny but this is the chief, and passeth all other incomparably. What excuse shall we therefore make, at the last day, before Christ, that delight to read or hear men's fantasies and inventions, more than his most holy Gospel ? and will find no time to do that, which chiefly, above all things, we

Vain excuses

from the

God's word. The first.

Matt. xxii,

HOM. 1. should do; and will rather read other things than

that, for the which we ought rather to leave reading of all other things? Let us therefore apply ourselves, as far forth as we can have time and leisure, to know God's word, by diligent hearing and reading thereof, as many as profess God, and have faith and trust in him.

But they that have no good affection to God's dissuading

word, to colour this their fault, allege commonly two knowledge of vain and feigned'excuses. Some

go

about to excuse them by their own frailness and fearfulness, saying, that they dare not read Holy Scripture, lest through

their ignorance they should fall into any error, The second. Others pretend that the difficulty to understand it,

and the hardness thereof, is so great, that it is meet to be read only of Clerks and learned men.

As touching the first : Ignorance of God's word is the cause of all error; as Christ himself affirmed to the Sadducees, saying, that they erred, because they knew not the Scripture. How should they then eschew error, that will be still ignorant? And how should they come out of ignorance, that will not read nor hear that thing which should give them knowledge? He that now hath most knowledge, was at the first ignorant: yet he forbare not to read, for fear he should fall into error; but he diligently read, lest he should remain in ignorance, and, through ignorance, in error.

And if you will not know the truth of God a thing most necessary for you-lest you fall into error; by the same reason you

may then lie still

, and never go, lest, if you go, you fall into the mire; nor eat any good meat, lest you take a surfeit; nor sow your corn, nor labour in your occupation, nor use your merchandise, for fear you lose your seed, your labour, your stock: and so, by that reason,

it should be best for you to live idly, and never to take in hand to do any manner of good thing, lest peradventure some evil thing may chance thereof. And if you be afraid to fall into error by reading of Holy Scripture, I shall shew you how you may read it without danger of error. Read it humbly, with a meek and Jowly heart, to the intent you may glorify God, and

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Commodiously, and with

error.

not yourself, with the knowledge of it: and read it not HOM. I. without daily praying to God, that he would direct How most your reading to good effect; and take upon you to expound' it no further than you can plainly under-out all peril, stand it: for, as St. Augustin saith, the knowledge Scripture is to of Holy Scripture is a great, large, and a high place; be read. but the door is very low, so that the high and arrogant man cannot run in; but he must stoop low, and humble himself, that shall enter into it. Presumption and arrogancy is the mother of all error; and humility needeth to fear no error.

For humility will only search to know the truth: it will search, and will bring together one place with another; and where it cannot find out the meaning, it will pray,

it will ask of others that know, and will not presumptuously and rashly define any thing which it knoweth not. Therefore the humble man may search any truth boldly in the Scripture, without any danger of

And if he be ignorant, he ought the more to read and to search Holy Scripture, to bring him out of ignorance. I say not nay, but a man may profit with only hearing; but he may much more profit with both hearing and reading.

This have I said as touching the fear to' read, through ignorance of the person.

And concerning the hardness of Scripture; he that Scripture in is so weak that he is not able to brook strong meat, is easy, and yet he may suck the sweet and tender milk, and de- in some

places hard fer the rest until he wax stronger, and come to more to be underknowledge.

For God receiveth the learned and unlearned, and casteth away none, but is indifferent unto all. And the Scripture is full, as well of low valleys, plain ways, and easy for every man to use and to walk in, as also of high hills and mountains, which few men can climb unto. And whosoever giveth his mind to Holy Scriptures with diligent study and burning desire, it cannot be, saith St. John Chrysostom, that he should be left without help. For either God Almighty will send him some God leaveth godly Doctor to teach him as he did to instruct no man, un. the Eunuch, a nobleman of Ethiopia, and treasurer hath a good unto Queen Candace; who having a great affection bis word.

stood.

4

How the

may be at

Matt. vii.

for the under

HOM. 1. to read the Scripture, although he understood it not,

yet, for the desire that he had unto God's word, God sent his Apostle Philip to declare unto him the true sense of the Scripture that he read-or else, if we lack a learned man to instruct and teach us, yet God himself from above will give light unto our minds, and teach us those things which are necessary for us, and wherein we be ignorant. And in

another place Chrysostom saith, that man's human knowledge of and worldly wisdom, or science, is not needful to Scripture

the understanding of Scripture; but the revelation tained unto. of the Holy Ghost, who inspireth the true meaning

unto them that with humility and diligence do search therefore. He that asketh shall have, and he that

seeketh shall find, and he that knocketh shall have A good rule the door opened. If we read once, twice, or thrice, standing of

and understand not, let us not cease so; but still Scripture. continue reading, praying, asking of others : and so,

by still knocking, at the last, the door shall be opened, as St. Augustin saith. Although many things in the Scripture be spoken in obscure mysteries, yet there is nothing spoken under dark mysteries in one place, but the self-same thing in other places is

spoken more familiarly and plainly, to the capacity No man is ex- both of learned and unlearned. And those things, cepted from in the Scripture, that be plain to understand, and ledge of God's necessary for salvation, every man's duty is to learn wifi.

them, to print them in memory, and effectually to exercise them; and, as for the dark mysteries, to be contented to be ignorant in them, until such time as it shall please God to open those things unto him. In the mean season, if he lack either aptness or opportunity, God will not impute it to his folly : but yet it behoveth not, that such as be apt should set aside reading, because some other be unapt to read: nevertheless, for the hardness of such places, the reading of the whole ought not to be set apart.

And briefly to conclude: as St. Augustin saith, By What persons the Scripture all men be amended; weak men be ignorance to strengthened, and strong men be comforted. So

that surely none be enemies to the reading of God's word, but such as either be so ignotant, that they

continue.

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HOM. 1.

ture.

know not how wholesome a thing it is; or else be so sick, that they hate the most comfortable medicine, that should heal them; or so ungodly, that they would wish the people still to continue in blindness and ignorance of God.

Thus we have briefly touched some part of the The Holy commodities of God's holy word, which is one of Scriptaccess God's chief and principal benefits, given and de- chief benefits. clared to mankind here on earth. Let us thank God heartily for this his great and special gift, beneficial favour, and fatherly providence. Let us be glad to receive this precious gift of our heavenly Father. Let us hear, read, and know these holy rules, The right injunctions, and statutes of our Christian religion, reading, use, and upon that we have made profession to God at studying in our baptism. Let us with fear and reverence lay

Holy Scripup, in the chest of our hearts, these necessary

and fruitful lessons ; let us night and day muse, and have Psalm i. meditation and contemplation in them; let us ruminate, and, as it were, chew the cud, that we may have the sweet juice, spiritual effect, marrow, honey, kernel, taste, comfort, and consolation of them. Let us stay, quiet, and certify our consciences with the most infallible certainty, truth, and perpetual assurance of them. Let us pray to God, the only Author of these heavenly studies, that we may speak, think, believe, live, and depart hence, according to the wholesome doctrine and verities of them. And, by that means, in this world we shall have God's defence, favour, and grace, with the unspeakable solace of peace, and quietness of conscience; and, after this miserable life, we shall enjoy the endless bliss and glory of heaven : which he grant us all, that died for us all, Jesus Christ : to whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, both now and everlastingly. Amen,

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