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Some things in the Scriptures are hard, I deny it not. It is very expedient that something should be covered to make us more diligent in reading, more desirous to understand, more fervent in prayer, more willing to ask the judgment of others, and to presume the less of our own judgment.
Gregory saith, 'The hardness which is in the word of God is very profitable; for it causeth a man to take the profit by pains which he could not take with negligence. If the understanding were open and manifest it would be little set by.'
Cyrillus saith, All things are plain and straight to them that have found knowledge, but to such as
are fools, the most easy places seem hard.' And again,Those things which are plain are hard unto heretics; for how can wisdom enter into a wicked heart? It is true which St. Peter hath said, some things are hard to be understood. (2 Peter iii. 16.) But it is also true, that they which pervert them unto their own destruction are unlearned and unstable; that is, they to whom they are hard have not their eyes opened that they may see the light of the word; or they be wicked, and turn the truth of God into lies, and abuse the Scriptures to their own damnation.
The howlet seeth not by the brightness of the sun, not because the sun-beams are dark, but for that his eyes are weak, and cannot abide so clear light; it is therefore but a pretence and colour for their ignorance, and a means to deceive the people more boldly with their errors, when they charge the word of God with darkness and hårdness.
For how many hundred places are there which be as clear as noon-day? God saith, (Exod. xx.) "I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have none other gods before me; thou shalt make thee no graven images, neither any similitude of things that are in heaven above, neither that are in the earth beneath, nor that are in the waters under the earth; thou shalt neither bow down to them, neither serve them." Again he saith, (Wisd. xiv.) "That is cursed that is made with hands, both it and he that made it; he because he made it, and it because it was called God, being a corruptible thing." Again, (Psalm xevii.) "Cursed be all they that worship carved in ages, and delight in vain gods." This is the word
of God. What darkness is in any of these sayings? God saith, (Exodus xxii.) "If thou lend money to my people, to the poor with thee, thou shalt not be as an usurer unto him, ye shall not oppress him with usury." Again, (Ezek. xvii.) "If a man hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, &c. he shall surely live; but he that hath given forth upon usury, or hath taken increase, shall he live? He shall not live." And, (Rom. vi.) "The wages of sin is death." And, (Ezek. xviii.) "The soul that sinneth it shall die.". And again, (Ephes. v.) "This ye know, that no whoremonger, neither unclean person, nor covetous person, which is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words; for for such things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience." These are the words of God; and what darkness is in them?
St. Paul saith, Rom. xii., "If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, have peace with all men. Abhor that which is evil, and cleave to that which is good; avenge not yourselves, but give place unto wrath." Again, chapter xiii, "Let every soul be subject to the higher powers; there is no power but of God. He is the minister of God for thy wealth; but if thou do evil, fear; for he beareth not the sword for nought." These be the words of God, what darkness is in them?
St. John saith, chapter i., "Christ is the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world." And, 1 John i., "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sins." And St. Peter saith, 1 Peter ii., "His own self bare our sins in his body on the
tree, that we, being delivered from sin, should live in righteousness."
Christ saith, Luke xi., “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." And again, Matth. xi., "Come unto me all ye that are weary and laden, and I will ease you." The Prophet saith, Joel ii., " Whosoever call on the name of the Lord shall be saved." These be the words of God; what darkness is in them? what eye so simple but he may see them?
The ways of the Lord are straight, and his words plain even unto the simple. Chrysostom saith, All things are clear and plain in the holy Scriptures. Whatsoever things there are necessary for us are also manifest.' Some things are covered, as men cover precious stones and precious garments; they are covered, and yet we see them; we see them, and yet they are covered; yet all things that are necessary are plain and open.
Clemens saith, 'The word of God is hid from no man; it is a light common unto all men; there is no darkness in God's word.' Mark, it is a common light and shineth to all men; it is as bright and beautiful as the sun, there is no dungeon or darkness in it. So saith Irenæus, The Scriptures are plain, and without doubtfulness, and may be heard indifferently of all men.' All men may hear them, even all sorts of men without exception.
Where be they then which say it is not lawful for the people to have the word of God, and that the Scriptures are not meet for their reading? They are bread; they are drink; they nourish unto everlasting life. Great cruelty it is to starve God's people to
death. Are they unfit to have the Scriptures because they are poor? Christ saith, Matth. xi, receive the glad tidings of the gospel." And theirs is the kingdom of heaven; they want riches, and worldly glory, but God giveth his fear and grace to them as well as to the rich.
Are they unfit to read the Scriptures, because they are not bred up in other learning? St. Paul saith, 1 Cor. ii., "I esteemed not to know any thing among you but Jesus Christ and him crucified." The prophet David saith, Psalm xciv., "Blessed is the man, O Lord, whom thou teachest in thy law." And Christ saith, Matth. xi., "Thou hast hid these things from the wise, and men of understanding, and hast opened them unto babes." The Apostles were sent into all the world to preach the Gospel unto every creature, to learned and unlearned, to poor and rich. There is no man too poor, none too rich, none too young, none too old.
Whosoever hath ears to hear
he hath learned enough to be a hearer.
As for the wisest and learned men in matters of this world, they have not always proved the readiest and most willing to set forth the glory of God: they have not been the meetest scholars for this school. Who were they that resisted Moses and Aaron, the servants of God? Not the people, but the wisest and best learned in Egypt. Who were they that stood against Elias? Not the people, but the learned and wise men, and the prophets and priests of Baal, Who were they that stoned and killed the Prophets? Not the people, but the chiefest and wisest in Israel. Who were they that resisted Christ and his Gospel, and sought to deface the glory of God? Not the