First Book of Homilies Homily 1 - A Fruitful Exhortation to the Reading of Holy Scripture. The Praise of Holy Scripture. To a Christian there can be nothing either more necessary or profitable, then the knowledge of Holy Scripture, forasmuch as in it is contained God’s true word, setting forth his glory, and also a Christian’s duty. The Perfection of Holy Scripture: And there is no truth nor doctrine necessary for our justification and everlasting salvation, but that is (or may be) drawn out of that fountain and well of truth. The Knowledge of Holy Scripture is Necessary. Therefore as many as be desirous to enter into the right and perfect way unto GOD, must apply their minds to know holy Scripture, without the which, they can neither sufficiently know GOD and his will, neither their office and duty. To whom the knowledge of Holy Scripture is sweet and pleasant. Who be Enemies to Holy Scripture. And as drink is pleasant to them that bee dry, and meat to them that be hungry: so is the reading, hearing, searching, and studying of holy Scripture, to them that bee desirous to know God or themselves, and to do his will. And their stomachs only do loath and abhor the heavenly knowledge and food of God’s word, that be so drowned in worldly vanities, that they neither favour God, nor any godliness: for that is the cause why they desire such vanities, rather than the true knowledge of God. An apt Similitude, Declaring of whom the Scripture is Abhorred. As they that are sick of an age, whatsoever they eat and drink (though it be never so pleasant) yet it is as bitter to them as wormwood, not for the bitterness of the meat, but for the corrupt and bitter humour that is in their own tongue and mouth: even so is the sweetness of God’s word bitter, not of itself, but only unto them that have their minds corrupted with long custom of sin and love of this world. THE I. PART OF THE EXHORTATION An Exhortation unto the Diligent Reading and Searching of the Holy Scripture. Therefore forsaking the corrupt judgement of fleshly men, which care not but for their carcass: let us reverently hear and read Holy Scriptures, which is the food of the soul (Matthew 4.4). Let us diligently search for the Well of Life in the books of the New and Old Testament, and not run to the stinking puddles of men’s traditions (devised by mens imagination) for our justification and salvation. The Holy Scripture is a Sufficient Doctrine for our Salvation. What things we may learn in the Holy Scripture. For in holy Scripture is fully contained what we ought to doe, and what to eschew; what to believe, what to love, and what to look for at God’s hands at length. In these books we shall find the father from whom, the son by whom, and the holy Ghost, in whom all things have their being and keeping up, and these three persons to be but one God, and one substance. In these books we may learn to know ourselves, how vile and miserable we be, and and also to know God, how good he is of himself, and how he maketh us and all creatures partakers of his goodness. We may learn also in these books to know God’s will and pleasure, as much as (for this present time) is convenient for us to know. And (as the great Clerk and godly Preacher Saint John Chrysostom saith) whatsoever is required to salvation of man, is fully contained in the Scripture of God. He that is ignorant, may there learn and have knowledge. He that is hard hearted, and an obstinate sinner, shall there find everlasting torments (prepared of God’s justice) to make him afraid, and to mollify or soften him. He that is oppressed with misery in this world, shall there find relief in the promises of everlasting life, to his great consolation and comfort. He that is wounded by the Devil onto death, shall find there medicine whereby he may be restored again unto health. Holy Scripture Ministers Sufficient Doctrine for all degrees and ages. What commodities and profits, the knowledge of Holy Scripture Brings. If it shall require to teach any truth, or reprove false doctrine, to rebuke any vice, to commend any virtue, to give good counsel, to comfort or to exhort, or to do any other thing requisite for our salvation, all those things (saith Saint Chrysostom ) we may learn plentifully of the Scripture. There is (saith Fulgentius) abundantly enough, both for men to eat, and children to suck. There is, whatsoever is meet for all ages, and for all degrees and sorts of men. These Books therefore ought to be much in our hands, in our eyes, in our ears, in our mouths, but most of all in our hearts. For the Scripture of God is the heavenly meat of our souls (Matthew 4.4), the hearing and keeping of it makes us blessed (Luke 11.28), sanctifies us (John 17.17), and makes us holy, it turns our souls (Psalms 19.7-10), it is a light lantern to our feet (Psalms 119.105), it is a sure, steadfast, and everlasting instrument of salvation, it gives wisdom to the humble and lowly hearts, it comforts, makes glad, cheers, and cherishes our conscience: it is a more excellent jewel or treasure, than any gold or precious stone, it is more sweet than honey, or honeycomb, it is called the best part, which Mary did choose, for it hath in it everlasting comfort (Luke 10.42). The words of Holy Scripture be called words of everlasting life (John 6.68): for they be God’s instrument, ordained for the same purpose. They have power to turn through God’s promise, and they be effectual through God’s assistance, and (being received in a faithful heart) they have ever an heavenly spiritual working in them: they are lively, quick, and mighty in operation, and sharper than any two edged sword, and enter through, even unto the dividing asunder of the soul and the spirit, of the joints and the marrow (Hebrews 4.12). Christ calls him a wise builder, that builds upon his word, upon his sure and substantial foundation (Matthew 7.24). By this word of God, we shall be judged: for the word that I speak (saith Christ) is it, that shall judge in the last day (John 12.48). He that keeps the word of Christ, is promised the love and favour of God, and that he shall be the dwelling place or temple of the blessed Trinity (John 14.23). This word, whosoever is diligent to read, and in his heart to print that he readeth, the great affection to the transitory things of this world, shall be diminished in him, and the great desire of heavenly things (that be therein promised of God) shall increase in him. And there is nothing that so much strengthens our faith and trust in God, that so much keeps up innocency and pureness of the heart, and also of outward godly life and conversation, as continual reading and recording of God’s word. For that thing, which (by continual use of reading of Holy Scripture, and diligent searching of the same) is deeply printed and graven in the heart, at length turns almost into nature. And moreover, the effect and virtue of God’s word is, to illuminate the ignorant, and to give more light unto them, that faithfully and diligently read it, to comfort their hearts, and to encourage them to perform that, which God commands. It teaches patience in all adversity, in prosperity, humbleness: what honour is due unto God, what, mercy and charity to our neighbour. It giveth good counsel in all doubtful things. It shews of whom we shall look for aid and help in all perils, and that God is the only giver of victory, in all battles and temptations of our enemies, bodily and ghostly (1 Samuel 14.4-23, 2 Chronicles 20.7, 17, 29, 1 Corinthians 15.57, 1 John 5.4). Who Profit Most in Reading God’s Word. And in reading of God’s word, he most profits not always, that is most ready in turning of the book, or in saying of it without the book, but he that is most turned into it, that is most inspired with the Holy Ghost, most in his heart and life altered and changed into that thing which he reads: he that is daily less and less proud, less wrathful, less covetous, and less desirous of worldly and vain pleasures: he that daily (forsaking his old vicious life) increases in virtue more and more. And to be short, there is nothing that more maintains godliness of the mind, and driveth away ungodliness, than does the continual reading or hearing of God’s word, if it be joined with a godly mind, and a good affection, to know and follow God’s will. What Inconvenience the Ignorance of God’s Word Brings. For without a single eye, pure intent, and good mind, nothing is allowed for good before God. And on the other side, nothing more darkens Christ, and the glory of God, nor brings in more blindness, and all kinds of vices, then does the ignorance of God’s word (Isaiah 5.13, 24, Matthew 22.29, 1 Corinthians 14.20, 37-38).