TREATISE OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES, GATHERED OUT OF CERTAIN SERMONS, WHICH THE REVEREND FATHER IN GOD, BISHOP JEWEL, PREACHED AT SARISBURY, ANNO DOMINI 1570.
Among all his creatures in heaven or earth God hath not made any like unto the sun in the firmament, the beams whereof are beautiful and pleasant, and do give comfort in all places to all things. It rejoiceth the whole, and relieveth the sick : it causeth birds to sing, fishes to play, cattle to stir, worms to creep, grass to grow, and trees to bring fruit : it reneweth the face of the whole earth. Yet a blind man hath no pleasure in the beauty thereof, because he is blind, and cannot see it : yet a dead man hath no warmth by the heat thereof, because he is dead, and feeleth it not. Adam was placed in paradise, in perfect estate, and in the company of God’s angels. God walked and did talk with him. He heard the voice and beheld the presence of God. The rivers yielded waters abundantly : the trees brought him food of life. He had plenty without travail ; he had pleasures, joy, and his heart’s desire. But Adam was unthankful, he knew not God the worker of his happiness, he knew not the place in which he was, he knew not his own estate and blessedness ; there fore the wrath of the Lord grew against him : he fell into the snares of the devil, he became mortal, and returned to dust. What nation in all the world so happy as Israel ? They were delivered by a mighty hand out of Egypt, from the tyranny of Pharao, from service and villany. Their children were no more slain before their faces. They passed through the bottom of the sea as upon dry land. When they were hungry, there went forth a wind from the Lord, and brought them quails from the sea, and manna was given them from heaven to eat ; when they thirsted, the rocks opened and poured out water, that they and their beasts might drink. In battle they were mighty and strong ; no power was able to stand against them. The Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud to lead them the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light. When they called upon the Lord, he heard them : when they trusted in him, they were not confounded. But they grew unmindful of all these mercies, and murmured against the Lord, and against his servants; therefore God raught forth his hand against them. He sware in his wrath that they should not enter into his rest. He sent his angel and destroyed them in the wilderness.
Even so fareth it with all such which regard not the word of their salvation; because they have ears and hear not, nor will understand with their hearts, the fury of the Lord shall be kindled against them. The Prophet saith in the name of God to Israel (Jeremiah 7), “I have sent unto them all my servants the Prophets, yet would they not hear me, nor incline their ear.” And (II Esd. 9:31), “Behold, I sow in my law in you, that it may bring forth fruit in you. But our fathers which received the law kept it not; neither observed thine ordinances, neither did the fruit of thy law appear. For they that received it perished, because they kept not the thing that was sown in them.” Samuel telleth Saul: (I Samuel 15), “Thou hast cast away the word of the Lord, and the Lord hath cast away thee.” Again, Jeremy saith (Jeremiah 6), “How do ye say we are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us? They have rejected the word of the Lord, and what wisdom is in them?” Again: “Unto whom shall I speak, and admonish, that they may hear? Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken; behold, the word of the Lord is unto them as a reproach, they have no delight in it; I will cause a plague to come upon this people, even the fruit of their own imaginations; because they have not taken heed unto my words, nor to my law, but cast it off.”
After this sort doth God shew the cause why his word taketh not place in us, because we are wilful, and will not hear it, nor receive it, nor take delight in it, nor let the fruit thereof appear, but reject it, and make it a reproach, and cast it away from us; and therefore is it that the Lord doth cast us away; that we are unwise; that we please ourselves with our own devices, and follow our own imaginations, and perish, because we have not understanding to hear the instruction of the Lord’s word, but like ignorant men disallow it, and cast it behind the back.
The consideration hereof moveth me to say somewhat of the Holy Scriptures, which are the bright sun of God; which bring light unto our ways, and comfort to all parts of our life, and salvation to our souls; in which is made known unto us our estate, and the mercy of God in Christ our Saviour witnessed. That we may the better see the path which we have to walk in; my meaning is, truly, and plainly, and shortly, to shew you what authority and majesty the word of God beareth; then, what profit we may reap by it; also, how needful it is, that we be well instructed in the Holy Scriptures; and what pleasure and delectation a Christian conscience may find in them; and lastly, whether they be dark and doubtful, or plain and easy for your understanding: that when we know the majesty and authority of the word, and what comfort and profit God giveth us by it, we deprive not ourselves thereof by our unthankfulness, nor close up our eyes that we see it not; but hear it in reverence and in fear, that it may be fruitful in us, and we receive it not in vain.
The Authority of the Holy Scriptures
The Scriptures are “the word of God.” What title can there be of greater value? What may be said of them to make them of greater authority, than to say, “The Lord hath spoken by them? that “they came not by the will of men, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost?” (II Peter 1) At the word of proclamation of an earthly prince we stand up and vail our bonnets, and give good heed to it: we are bound so to do; it is our duty; such honour belongeth to the powers that are placed to rule over us: for they are ordained of God; and whosoever resisteth them resisteth the ordinance of God.
If we should have a revelation, and hear an angel speak unto us, how careful would we be to mark, and remember, and be able to declare, the words of the angel ! Yet is an angel but a glorious creature, and not God. And what is a king ? great and mighty, yet mortal, and subject to death : his breath departeth, and his name shall perish. Both he and his word, his power and his puissance, shall have an end. But the word of the gospel is not as the word of an earthly prince. It is of more majesty than the word of an angel. The apostle saith (Heb. 2) : ” If the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward ; how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be preached by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him ?” God saith by the prophet Esay (Isaiah 55): ” My word shall accomplish that which I will; and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” And the same prophet saith (Isaiah 11) : ” The word of God shall stand for ever.” And, (Luke 16) ” It is more easy that heaven and earth pass away, than that one tittle of the law should fail,” saith our Saviour. For it is the word of the living and almighty God, of the God of hosts, which hath done whatsoever pleased him, both in heaven and in earth. By this word he maketh his will known. ” I have not spoken of myself,” saith Christ (John 12); ” but the Father which sent me gave me a commandment what I should say, and what I should speak.” And again (John 15): ” If I had not come and spoken unto them, they should not have had sin ; but now have they no cloke for their sin.” “No man hath seen God at any time:” he is invisible ; no eye can reach unto him. ” The only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of his Father, he hath declared him:” he hath shewed us the throne of grace, that we may seek for mercy, and find grace in time of need : he hath disclosed unto us the will of his Father. He hath left unto us, and ordained that we should hear, his holy word.
This word the angels and blessed spirits used, when they came down from heaven, to speak unto the people ; when they came to the blessed virgin, and to Joseph, and to others : they spake as it was written in the prophets and in the scriptures of God : they thought not their own authority sufficient, but they took credit to their saying, and authority to their message, out of the word of God. This word the prophets vouched and alleged to the people. Albeit they were sanctified in their mother’s womb ; albeit God had endued them with his heavenly Spirit; although a seraphin came unto one of them, and touched his mouth with a hot coal ; albeit he saw the Lord sitting upon an high throne ; yet they would not speak as of themselves, but only in the name of the Lord ; for thus they use to say: ” The Lord hath spoken;” “This is the word of the Lord ” ” Hear what the Lord saith.” St Paul, albeit he was taken up into the third heaven, and into paradise, and heard words that are not lawful for man to utter, yet he wrote not his own words to the churches of Rome, of Corinth, and Thessalonica, and of other places, but delivered them which he had received, and taught them according to the scriptures.
This word is the true manna : it is the bread which came down from heaven : it is the key of the kingdom of heaven : it is the savour of life unto life : it is the power of God unto salvation. In it God sheweth unto us his might, his wisdom, and his glory. By it he will be known of us : by it he will be honoured of his creatures. Whatsoever truth is brought unto us contrary to the word of God, it is not truth, but falsehood and error : whatsoever honour done unto God disagreeth from the honour required by his word, it is not honour unto God, but blasphemy ; as Christ saith (Mt 15): “In vain they worship me, teaching for doctrines men’s precepts.” By Esay God saith (Isaiah 1) : ” Who required this at your hands?” And by Jeremy (Jeremiah 7): ” I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt-offerings and sacrifices. But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice ; and I will be your God ; and ye shall be my people ; and walk ye in all the ways which I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.” Again (Jeremiah 23): ” What is the chaff to the wheat, saith the Lord ?” What are your dreams to be weighed with the truth of God ? ” Search the scriptures :” in them ye shall learn to know me, and how you should worship me : in them ye shall find everlasting life : “the words of the Lord are pure words, as the silver tried in the furnace :” there is no filth nor dross remaining in them. They are the store-house of wisdom, and of the knowledge of God ; in respect whereof all the wisdom of this world is but vain and foolish.
Numa Pompilius, king of the Romans, Lycurgus, king of Lacedemon, and Minos, king of Creta, were wise men, and of great government : they devised laws to rule the people, and bare them in hand that they were taught by revelation ; that so their ordinances might win the more credit, and be established for ever. But where are they now? Where is Numa, Minos, or Lycurgus? where be their books ? what is become of their laws ? They were unwise, and had no know ledge, nor understanding of God : they and their laws are dead, and their names forgotten. But the law of God came from heaven indeed : God wrote it with his finger : it is the fountain of all wisdom, and therefore shall it continue for ever, and never have an end.
Here let us behold the great power and work of God. When Moses received the law, God himself came down in person, with thousand thousands of angels: the air was darkened at his presence, the mount stood all covered with fire, the earth shook, the heavens thundered, the people stood afar off, and fled for fear, and said unto Moses (Exodus 19), ” Talk thou with us, and we will hear ; but let not God talk with us, lest we die.” This was the first proclaiming and publishing of the law: such force and credit God gave to his word, and warranted himself to be the Lord.
Since that time so many thousand years are already passed. In the mean time the people of Israel were oppressed by tyrants, were spoiled and chased out of their countiy : first by Nabuchodonosor into Babylon ; after that by Antiochus into Syria ; and, lastly, were as vagabonds driven from country to country. Their city Jerusalem was sacked, their houses overthrown, their temple rased, and not a stone left upon a stone ; their library destroyed, their books burnt, the tabernacle lost, the covenant broken, no vision, no revelation, no comfort for the people left ; nor prophet, nor priest, nor any to speak in the name of the Lord. In all those times of decays, of sackings, of darkness, and of misery, what was done with the word of God ? It was wickedly burnt by Joachim king of Juda (Jer. 36); and Antiochus burnt the books of the law, and cut them in pieces. No man durst be known to have them, and avouch the having. So thought they utterly to deface the glory of God, and abolish all remembrance of his laws.
Then came the Pharisees, they drowned the word of God with their traditions: they took away the key of knowledge, and entered not in themselves, but forbade them that came in. After them came heretics; they denied, some one part, and some another part of scriptures: they rased, blotted, corrupted, and altered the word of God : of the word of God they made it their own word, or, which is worse, they made it the word of the devil.
By the space of so many thousand years the word of God passed by so many dangers of tyrants, of Pharisees, of heretics, of fire, and of sword, and yet continueth and standeth until this day, without altering or changing one letter. This was a wonderful work of God, that, having so many, so great enemies, and passing through so many, so great dangers, it yet continueth still, without adding or altering of any one sentence, or word, or letter. No creature was able to do this : it was God’s work. He preserved it, that no tyrant should consume it, no tradition choke it, no heretic maliciously should corrupt it. For his name’s sake, and for the elect’s sake, he would not suffer it to perish. For in it God hath ordained a blessing for his people, and by it he maketh covenant with them for life everlasting. Tyrants, and Pharisees, and heretics, and the enemies of the cross of Christ, have an end ; but the word of God hath no end. No force shall be able to decay it. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Cities shall fall : kingdoms shall come to nothing : empires shall fade away as the smoke ; but the truth of the Lord shall continue for ever. Burn it, it will rise again : kill it, it will live again: cut it down by the root, it will spring again. ” There is no wisdom, neither understanding, nor counsel against the Lord.” (Prov 21)
Let us behold the nations and kingdoms which sometimes professed Christ, and are now heathenish ; Illyricum, Epirus, Peloponnesus, Macedonia, and others. Again, let us behold such kingdoms and countries which were in times past heathenish and knew not God ; as England, Ireland, Rome, Scotland, and divers other. They were all without the gospel, without Christ, without God, and without hope of life. They worshipped idols, even the work of their own hands. To them they appointed priests for their service, days and places for the people to resort together to worship them. Here in England, Paul’s church in London was the temple of Diana; Peter’s church in Westminster was the temple of Apollo. In Rome they had the temple of the great God Jupiter, and in Florence the temple of Mars ; and in other places they had temples dedicated to other idols.
Jupiter, Mars, Apollo, and Diana, were unclean spirits, and filthy devils ; yet gave they thanks to them for their peace and prosperity, prayed to them in war and in misery, and commended unto them their wives, their children, themselves, the safe keeping and custody of their souls. They built gorgeous churches and chapels, set up images of silver and gold to them, prayed, lifted up their hands, did sacrifice, and offered up their children to them. A horrible thing to say, yet true it is : the darkness of those times were such, that men slew their own children, and offered them up to idols. They said, Great is Jupiter : Great is Apollo ; and, Great is Diana of the Ephesians. These are the gods of our fathers; our fathers trusted in them : they made us, and have defended us, and have given us victory against our enemies. Whosoever denied them were thought worthy to die.
Thus were the kings and the princes and the people persuaded. And so continued they by the space of some thousand years, without controlment or contradiction. They had great props, of antiquity, universality, and consent ; anti quity of all times, universality of all places, consent of all the people. So strongly and so mightily were they founded. Who would think such a religion, so ancient, and so universal, and so defended by common consent, should ever possibly be removed ?
But, when the fulness of time came, God sent forth his word, and all was changed. Error fell down ; and truth stood up : men forsook their idols, and went to God. The kings, and priests, and people were changed : the temples, and sacrifices, and prayers were changed : men’s eyes and hearts were changed. They forsook their gods, their kings, their priests : they forsook their antiquity, customs, consent, their fathers, and themselves. What power was able to work these things ? What emperor by force ever prevailed so much ? What strength could ever shake down so mighty idols from their seat ? What hand of man could subdue and conquer the whole world, and make such mighty nations confess they had done amiss ? This did the Lord bring to pass by the power of his word, and the breath of his mouth. This was it that led captivity captive, and threw down every high thing that lifted itself up against the Lord, and brought all powers under subjection unto the Lord. It is the image, the power, the arm, the sword, and the glory of God. It is mighty, of great force and virtue, of authority and majesty, because it is the word of God ; therefore the glory thereof is great.
The Profit Which Christians Reap by the Scriptures
Now let us stand afar off, and humble ourselves, and in reverence and fear learn to take the fruit and comfort of the same; for so is the will of God, that we may be partakers of his glory. But where shall we find entrance into this matter ? And how shall we be able to come a-land ? For this is the sea and the depth of all the works, of the judgments, and mercies, and of the kingdom of God. This is a sea that hath no shore, a pit that hath no bottom. The holy scriptures are the mercy-seat, the registry of the mysteries of God, our charter for the life to come, the holy place in which God sheweth himself to the people, the mount Sion, where God hath appointed to dwell for ever. The more com fort in them, so much the more greedily let us desire them : the more heavenly and glorious they are, with so much the more reverence let us come unto them.
For consideration of this matter of the fruit and comfort which God worketh by the word, what may we better call to mind than that is recorded by St Paul? (Rom. 15) ” Whatsoever things are written aforetime are written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” All that is written in the word of God is not written for angels, or archangels, or heavenly spirits, but for the sons of men, for us, and for our instruction ; that by them we may receive strength and comfort in all adversities, and have hope of the life to come. It is the word of God : God openeth his mouth and speaketh to us, to guide us into all truth, to make us full and ready in all good works, that we may be perfect men in Christ Jesus ; so rooted and grounded in him, that we be not tossed to and fro with every tempest.
The profit which the word of God bringeth shall best appear, if we first take a view of our estate ; what we are, in what place we stand, and what enemies make force against us. We are the sons of Adam, stubborn children, the children of vanity and of wrath, the children of those fathers which forsook God, and have erred in their hearts, and were deceived. God, which created man, and breathed into him the breath of life, saith, “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” (Gen 8) Such are we even by the judgment of God ; and his judgment faileth not. What error, what idol, what wickedness ever hath been heard, which hath not been forged and wrought in the heart of man ? We can neither do, nor speak, nor think the thing that is good: our under standing is heavy, our will froward, our eyes blind, and our heart unclean. We go astray through this world as lost sheep, every man after his own way. Even as a leaf is carried up and down with a blast of wind, so are we easily driven into error ; in ourselves we find no stay, no succour, nor help. Such are we, and so weak of ourselves.
But where are we ? In the world. And what is the world ? Some think it to be a place full of all delights and pleasures, a goodly, strong, and gorgeous palace and a paradise of joy. Let no man deceive us, nay, rather let us not deceive ourselves : the world is a shop of vanities, it is a dungeon of darkness, a pot full of poison, a ship full of leaks, a way full of snares. It blindeth our eyes, beguileth our senses, and helpeth us forward into all dangers. We are blind ourselves; and the place wherein we are is nothing else but darkness.
Whereunto may I resemble our case ? Jeremy the prophet was cast into a dungeon : there he sat without light, and without comfort. His case was miserable, and the place loathsome ; yet he knew where he was, he knew what he lacked, he cried unto the Lord, and was delivered. Daniel was cast into the den of lions, there to be torn in pieces and devoured. But he saw his misery, and the danger in which he stood : he saw the lions, the paws which should gripe him, and the teeth which should tear him. His case was miserable ; yet is ours more miserable. We are in the deep dungeon of hell, and think we are in safety : we are in the midst of darkness, and think it to be light : we are compassed with lions, with dragons, and scorpions, yet think not of our misery.
Who hath not heard the story of Jonas ? Jonas was in a whale’s belly : the place was very dark : the waves beat on every side : he was drowned, yet touched no water ; he was swallowed up, yet not consumed ; he lived without any sense of life: the fish was death, the sea was death, and the tempest was death ; yet he died not, but lived in the midst of death : he could not see, he could not hear, he knew not to whom he might call for help ; he was taken and carried away, he knew not whither. Let us mark well this story : it is a true pattern of our estate, and sheweth what our life is in this world. We are beset with like dangers, we are driven with tempests, we are drowned in like floods, we live in the midst of horrible darkness, we are carried we know not whither.
The philosopher telleth us, truth and falsehood are nigh neighbours, and dwell one by the other: the utter porch of the one is like the porch of the other ; yet their way is contrary : the one leadeth to life ; the other leadeth to death : they differ little to the shew, save that oft-times the door of falsehood is fair, painted, graven, and beautifully adorned ; but the door or forefront of truth is plain and homely. Thereby it happeneth that men be deceived ; they mistake the door, and go into error’s house, when they seek truth. They call evil good, falsehood truth, and darkness light. They forsake that is good, deny the truth, and love not the light. This moved St Paul to say of his brethren the Jews (Rom 10): ” I bear them record that they have the zeal of God, but not according to knowledge : ” they have the care and fear of God ; they are zealous in their doings; they have devotion; they pretend conscience; they think they do well and that they please God. ” When they professed themselves to be wise, they became fools.” (Rom 1) They knew not what they did ; for, ” if they had had knowledge, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory.” But they know not the truth of God ; they know not God ; they are carried away in the vanity of their own heart. Their prayers are no prayers ; the truth they hold is falsehood ; their faith is no faith ; they are sheep without a shepherd. Thus we have heard what we are, and in what place.
Now let us see what enemies bend their force against us. We fight against the gates of hell, with the devil, the prince of darkness, the father of lies ; with the devil, which hath power over the children of disobedience, by whose malice death came into the ‘world. Even that devil bendeth his force against us, which deceived Adam in paradise ; which hath deceived the learned philosophers, and beguiled the princes, and wise men, and the worthies of the world; which doth abuse and entice our hands, our eyes, our learning, our wit, and our own heart, to deceive us. He rampeth as a lion, and rangeth over the world, seeking whom he may devour. This is his delight and study. He hath been a murderer from the beginning. If this were ever true at any time, our times have found it most true. We are they ” upon whom the ends of the world are come.”
Now is this scripture fulfilled in our ears ; now see we the days whereof Christ warned his disciples so earnestly (Matthew 24): ” They shall say, Lo, here is Christ, and there is Christ.” This is the truth, that is the truth. ” There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall deceive many ;” they shall betray the truth. ” Many shall be offended by them : if it were possible, the very elect,” they whose names are written in the book of life, “should be deceived.” “And, except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved ; but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” ” The sun shall be darkened ; and the moon shall not give her light.” The sun is the word of God : the moon signifieth the church. “The powers of heaven shall be moved :” “all the kindreds of the earth shall mourn.” ” Abomination of desolation shall stand in the holy place.” ” Let him that readeth consider it.” This is ” the mystery of iniquity,” of which St Paul speaketh to the Thessalonians, (2 Thess 2) ” which worketh among them that perish.” Thus are we forewarned. God hath given us his word to advise us, that we be not cast away unawares. They that walk in the dark know not whither they go : “if the blind lead the blind, both fall into the ditch :” he that is ignorant shall not be known. Christ shall say unto him, ” I know you not: depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.” “Their worm shall not die ; and their fire shall not be put out.”
In this case, what shall a godly-disposed simple man do? How shall he settle himself? To which side may he safely join himself? If he make reckoning of learning, there are learned men on both sides ; if he make reckoning of virtue and godly life, there be virtuous men and of godly life on both sides ; if he make reckoning of zeal, either side is zealous in the religion they hold ; if he make reckoning of the name of the church, they take it as well to the one side as to the other; if he make reckoning of the multitude, there are many on either side, but neither side hath so many as hath the Turk. Whither then may a man turn himself, and to which side may he safely join ? In this case we find the comfort and profit of the word of God. In this case St Paul telleth us, ” Whatsoever things are written aforetime are written for our learning;” to lighten our eyes, to resolve our doubts, and to guide our feet This light God hath kindled in his mercy, to lighten them that sit in darkness. Except he had left us a spark of this light, we had perished, and become like to Sodom and Gomorrah.
David saith : ” Thy word is a lantern to my paths, and a light to my feet.” (Psalm 119) By it I may see the way which is before me; by it I can escape danger; and by it I can keep the path wherein I ought to walk. When Christ perceived that the Capernaites and the Jews misliked his doctrine, and went back and walked no more with him, he said to the twelve (John 6): “Will ye also go away?” You are my disciples whom I have chosen out of this world : will you also go away? Simon Peter answered him: “Master, to whom shall we go? thou hast the word of eternal life.” If we forsake thee, who shall instruct us ? thy word is the word of eternal life.
With this word Christ confounded the scribes and Pharisees, and put them to silence. “Ye reject,” saith he, ” the commandment of God, that ye may observe your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; whosoever shall curse father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, If a man say to father or mother, Corban, that is, by the gift that is offered by me thou mayest have profit, he shall be free.” (Mark 7) With this word he confounded them for misusing of the temple by buying and selling (Matt 21): “It is written, Mine house shall be called the house of prayer ; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” With this word he put them to silence, and confounded their error, in that they thought it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every fault (Matt 19): “From the beginning it was not so.” With this word he confounded the devil, and chased him from him (Matt 4): “It is written, Man shall not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” And again : ” It is written, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” And again : “It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”
This word confounded the Arians and all sects of heretics. What is become of Marcion, of Nestorius, of Valentinus, of Menander, of Sabellius, of Eutyches, and others ? They are blown away as smoke before the wind : the word of God hath confounded them, and beat them away. As Dagon fell, and brake his hands and neck, and could not stand in the presence of the ark of the Lord, even so shall all falsehood fall and hide itself in the presence of the truth of God. As the rod of Moses devoured the rods of the charmers, as the beams of the sun drive away and consume darkness, so shall the word of God chase away errors.
When the two disciples walked by the way with Christ, they said between themselves, after their eyes were opened that they knew him (Luke 22): “Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and opened to us the scriptures?” His words did possess all our senses: this talk was not like common talk : we felt it forcible in us as the word of God. When the people of Israel heard Peter declare unto them at Jerusalem, by proof of the scriptures, that Christ was come, they were not able to resist the word of God, but were pricked in their hearts, and said unto Peter and the other apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2) We acknowledge our error: the words which you speak are most true : they are the words of life: teach us and instruct us what we shall do. They felt the force of it, and yielded unto it : they did ac knowledge it was the word of God.
St Augustine, after he had continued long in error, and withdrawn himself into a secret place, where he might make his prayer and bewail his ignorance, heard a voice say unto him: Tolle, lege; tolle, lege: ” Take up and read ; take up and read. “And he forthwith took up the epistles of St Paul, and opened them, and secretly read the chapter which he first lighted on, even these words: “Not in gluttony and drunkenness, neither in chambering and wantonness, nor in strife and envying ; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and take no thought for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts of the same.” Nec ultra volui legere (saith he) ; nee opus erat. Statim quippe cum fine hujusce sententiie, quasi luce securitatis infusa cordi meo, omnes dubitationis tenebrce dijfugerunt : “I would read no farther, for I needed not. For, when I had read to the end of this sentence, all the darkness of doubtfulness vanished away, as if some clear light of security were poured into my heart.” It was as if it had been said : O man, acknowledge thy misery : thou art naked, cover thy filthiness, put upon thee Jesus Christ. And forthwith I felt a fire within me : my heart was lightened : the scales fell from mine eyes : I was able to see. Thus he was comforted and staid by this the word of God.
This profit of the word St Cyprian declareth: Si ad divince traditionis caput et cypr. ad originem revertamur, cessat omnis error humanus: ” If we return to the head and the beginning of the Lord’s traditions, all error of man must needs give place.” Theophylactus, writing upon these words in the gospel by St John, “He that entereth not in by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up another way, he is a thief and a robber,” saith: Non ingreditur per ostium, hoc est, per scripturas. Non enim utitur scripturis testibus, neqve prophetis. Nam profecto teripturae ostium sunt per quas adducimur ad Deum: illas lupos non permittunt intrare: prohibent hareticos ut nos securi simus; et de omnibus rationem dant de quibus voluerimus. Fur igitur est qui non ingreditur per seripturas in stabulum ovhim, et ita per illas deprehenditur. Sed ascendit aliunde, hoc est, aliam sibi viam et msolitam parat Talis erit antichristus: “He entereth not in by the door, that is, by the scriptures. For he doth not use the scriptures, nor the prophets, as witnesses. For indeed the scriptures are the door by which we are brought to God; and they suffer not the wolves to come in, they keep off heretics, that we may be in safety ; and they teach us the reason of any thing wherein we would be instructed : therefore he is a thief which entereth not into the sheep-fold by scriptures. And by the scriptures it appeareth he is a thief, that climbeth up another way, that is, maketh himself another way, a way which was not known, nor beaten. Such a one shall antichrist be.”What greater profit ? They bring us to God, teach us the truth, and give us reason of all things : they keep us in safety, suffer not wolves to devour us, keep oft’ heretics, bewray a thief, and make known who is antichrist. Therefore, upon the gospel by St Luke, he expoundeth in these words: ” ‘Let your lights be burning ;’ that is, have not your being in the darkness, and be ye not void of judgment ; but take unto you the light of God’s word ; which will teach you what things you should do, and what things you ought not to do.”
And, as the word of God is the light to direct us, and to bewray errors, so is it also the standard and beam to try the weights of truth and falsehood. Chrysostom, writing upon the four and twentieth of St Matthew, sheweth it were impossible for a man to stay himself, and find out which is the true church, but by the word of God : ” For it could not be tried by working of miracles, because the gift of working miracles is taken away ; and such false miracles as carry some shew are rather to be found among false Christians ; nor yet by their conversation and life, because Christians live either as ill or worse than heretics.” Nulla probatio potest esse vera Christianitatis, neque refugium potest esse Christianorum aliud, volentium cognoscere fidei veritatem, . . . nisi tantummodo per seripturas : ” There can be no trial of true Christianity; and Christians, which desire to know the truth, whereupon they may build their faith, have no other refuge, but to try and learn this by the scriptures. For (saith he) heretics have the counterfeit and likeness of those things which are proper to Christ. They have churches, they have the scriptures of God, they have baptism, they have the Lord’s supper, and all other things like the true church; yea, they have Christ himself. He there fore that will know which is the true church of Christ, how may he know it but by the scriptures? Therefore our Lord, knowing that there should be such con fusion of things in the latter days, commandeth that Christians which live in the profession of christian faith, and are desirous to settle themselves upon a sure ground of faith, should go to no other thing but to the scriptures. Otherwise, if they had regard to other things, they should be offended and perish, and not understand which is the true church’.”
The master of the ship, when he is on the main sea, casteth his eye always upon the load-star, and so directeth and guideth his ways. Even so must we, which are passengers and strangers in this world, ever settle our eyes to behold the word of God. So shall no tempest overblow us ; so shall we be guided with out danger; so shall we safely arrive in the haven of our rest. The prophet David therefore saith: “Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and seek him with their whole heart.” ” Their faces shall not be ashamed : they shall not be confounded, which have respect unto his commandment.” ” Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and in that law doth exercise himself day and night.” ” The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul : the testimony of the Lord is sure, and giveth wisdom unto the simple.” This is the rule of our faith : without this our faith is but a fantasy, and no faith ; for ” faith is by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Therefore Christ saith, “Search the scriptures: they are they that testify of me.” There shall ye find testimony of my doctrine, there shall ye know what is the will of my heavenly Father, and there shall you receive the comfort for everlasting life. Again : “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” ” If a man keep my word, he shall know the truth ; he shall never see death.” Therefore Baruch saith : ” O Israel, we are blessed; for the things that are acceptable unto God are declared unto us.” This is thy blessedness : herein hath God shewed his favour unto thee, he hath revealed the secrets of his will unto thee, and hath put his word in thy mouth. ” He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel : he hath not dealt so with every nation ; neither have they known his judgments.” Therefore the prophet David teacheth us to pray unto God for the knowledge of his word : ” Shew me thy ways, O Lord, and teach me thy paths.” ” Take not thy holy Spirit from me ;” and, “Incline my heart unto thy testimonies :” ” Give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments :” ” Open mine eyes, that I may see the wonders of thy law :” and, ” Lighten mine eyes, that I sleep not in death ;” that I may discern between safety and danger, that I may know truth to be the truth, and error to be error.
Thus I have declared part of that profit which groweth to us by the word of God : but it doth not only direct our judgment in the trial of truth, but doth also graff in us a boldness and constancy in the defence of the truth. Salomon saith, ” A fool changeth as the moon :” he is always unstable and inconstant, he knoweth not, neither what to do, nor what to believe : he is sometimes full, and some times empty, and turneth and changeth as the moon : he buildeth and layeth his foundation upon the sand ; therefore his house falleth to the ground. He halteth on both sides, sometimes worshippeth God, and sometimes worshippeth Baal; he is neither hot nor cold ; he ebbeth and floweth like the waves of the sea, he doubteth and staggereth, and resteth in nothing. He knoweth not the truth, he knoweth not that the scriptures are the word of God ; so he wandereth in the dark, and knoweth not the way in which he walketh. He hath no feeling, no heart, no understanding. He is unfaithful towards God, and keepeth no faith towards man : he is wavering in all his ways. And why ? Because he knoweth not the will of God, nor hath the light of his word to guide his feet.
But a wise man is one and stedfast as the sun. He buildeth his house upon a rock ; and that rock is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Therefore his house is never shaken down : be the storm or tempest never so rough, yet it shall stand fast like mount Sion ; because his trust is in the name of the Lord. He knoweth that his name is written in the book of life, he knoweth that he belongeth to the Lord’s sheep-fold, and that no man can take him away out of the Lord’s hand. In this boldness David saith : ” Though I should walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil ; for thou art with me : thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” And again : ” The Lord is my light and my salvation : whom shall I fear ?’ And again : ” Except thy laws had been my delight, I should now have perished in mine affliction.” When Ezechias heard the proud message of Sennacherib sent to him and his people by Rabshaketh, that they should not obey Ezechias, nor trust to him when he said, ” The Lord will deliver you,” and, ” Let not thy God deceive thee, in whom thou trustest ;” ” he went up into the house of the Lord, and prayed unto the Lord to save him and his people out of their hands, that all the kingdoms of the earth might know that he is God alone.” Even so the apostle : ” Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” And in this boldness our Saviour Christ settled himself to bear their reproaches, and to carry his cross : ” Father, if thou wilt, take away this cup from me ; nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.” Thus they that are taught by the word of God to put their trust in the Lord, and are thereby rooted and settled in him, cannot be removed by any practice of Satan, but stand fast, and continue for ever.
Which shall more plainly appear, if we look back into the times of persecution, and behold the boldness and constancy of the saints of God. They were brought before magistrates, cast into prisons, spoiled of their goods, cruelly murdered. Some were hanged upon gibbets, some run through with swords, some torn with wild horses, some drowned in the water, and some burnt in the fire. They were hated of all men for the name of Christ ; they were despised as the filth of the world, and dung of the earth: yet continued they faithful and constant. They armed their hearts with the comfort of God’s word ; thereby were they able to resist in the evil day. They were faithful until death ; there fore God gave them a crown of glory.
When they were called before kings, and princes, and others of authority, and commanded to forsake the truth they had learned, and the comfort which they took in the truth, they answered in this manner : ” O my gracious lord, I would fain do your commandment: I am your subject: I have done faithful service with my body, and with my goods ; but I cannot serve you against God : he is King of kings, and Lord of lords : he is my Lord, before whom I stand : I have put my life in his hands. He hath forbidden me to do this thing which you command : I cannot therefore do it. Judge uprightly, whether it be meet to obey you rather than God. My living, my wife, my children, and my life, are dear unto me : I am a man like others, and have mine affections. Yet neither living, nor wife, nor children, nor my life, is so dear unto me as the glory of God. I am but a poor worm, yet am I the work of his hands. God hath put his word in my mouth : I may not deny it. I may not bear false witness against the Lord, My life is not dear unto me in respect of the truth. I know, if I should deny him to save my life, I should lose it ; and, if I lose my life for his sake, I shall find it. That which your authority shall lay upon me is not done without his will. All the hairs of my head are numbered. I owe you obedience ; I will not resist your power ; for, if I should resist, I should resist the ordinance of God. I am subject to you for conscience’ sake. I will forsake my country, my goods, my children, and myself, at your commandment. I will say to mine own flesh, I know thee not : only I cannot forsake my Lord God. Dear sir, you fight not against me. Alas ! what am I ? What can I do ? You fight against God, against the most Holy, against him which can command your life to go out of your body: it is a hard thing for you to kick against the spur. It is no hard matter for you to kill me ; for so mighty a prince to kill so wretched a worm. But this I declare to you, that my blood which you shed is innocent, and shall be required at your hands. It may please God to give unto you repentance, and the know ledge of the truth. If my blood may be a mean thereto, if my blood may open your eyes, if my blood may soften your heart, it could never be spent in a better cause. Blessed be the name of God, which hath made me his instrument for your so happy conversion : this is the only thing wherein I cannot yield. The Lord hath spoken unto me: I have heard his voice: my heart hath felt it: my conscience knoweth it : I cannot deny it. No sword can cut me from it : no water can drown it: no fire can burn the love I bear unto it: there is no creature in heaven or earth that can carry me from that blessed hope I have conceived by his word.”
So constant is he that hath learned the word of God, and hath set his delight upon it, and is through it assured of the will of God. Heaven shall shake : the earth shall tremble ; but the man of God shall stand upright. His foot shall not fail : his heart shall not faint : he shall not be moved. Such a ground, such a foundation, such a rock is the word of God.
Blessed is the man whose hope is in the name of the Lord. He shall build upon a sure place : he layeth his foundation upon the corner-stone. He needeth no army to make him strong : he needeth no friends to comfort him in adversity. His strength is within : the gates of hell shall not prevail against him. His comfort is inwardly, within his heart. He speaketh to God, and God unto him. His eyes behold the kingdom, and power, and glory of God.