Evelyn Simpson, Helen Gardner, and T. S. Healy (eds), Selected Prose

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3. [The true sense of Scripture]

I do not (I hope) in undertaking the Meditation upon this verse,1 incur the fault of them, who for ostentation and magnifying their wits, excerpt and tear shapeless and unsignificant rags of a word or two, from whole sentences, and make them obey their purpose in discoursing; The Souldiers would not divide our Saviours garment, though past his use and his propriety. No garment is so neer God as his word: which is so much his, as it is he. His flesh, though dignified with unexpressible priviledges, is not so near God, as his word: for that is Spiritus Oris. And in the Incarnation, the Act was onely of one Person, but the whole Trinity speaks in every word. They therefore which stub up these severall roots, and mangle them into chips, pg 73in making the word of God not such, (for the word of God is not the word of God in any other sense than literall, and that also is not the literall, which the letter seems to present, for so to diverse understandings there might be diverse literall senses; but it is called literall, to distinguish it from the Morall, Allegoricall, and the other senses; and is that which the Holy Ghost doth in that place principally intend:) they, I say, do what they can this way, to make God, whose word it is pretended to be, no God. They which build, must take the solid stone, not the rubbish. Of which, though there be none in the word of God, yet often unsincere translations, to justifie our prejudices and foreconceived opinions, and the underminings and batteries of Hereticks, and the curious refinings of the Allegoricall Fathers, which have made the Scrip tures, which are stronge toyles, to catch and destroy the bore and bear which devast our Lords vineyard, fine cobwebs to catch flies; And of strong [cables], by which we might anker in all storms of Disputation and Persecution, the threads of silkworms, curious vanities and excesses (for do not many among us study even the Scriptures only for ornament?) these, I say, may so bruse them, and raise so much dust, as may blinde our Eyes, and make us see nothing, by coveting too much. He which first invented the cutting of Marble, had (says Pliny) importunum ingenium; a wit that would take no answer nor denyal. So have they which break these Sentences, importuna ingenia, unseasonable and murmuring spirits. When God out of his abundance affords them whole Sentences, yea Chapters, rather than not have enough to break to their auditory, they will attempt to feed miraculously great Congregations with a loafe or two, and a few fishes; that is, with two or three incoherent words of a Sentence. I remember I have read of a General, who, having at last carryed a town, yet not meerly by force, but upon this article, That in sign of subjection they should admit him to take away one row of stones round about their wall, chose to take the undermost row, by which the whole wall ruined. So do they demolish Gods fairest Temple, his Word, which pick out such stones, and deface the integrity of it, so much, as neither that which they take, nor that which they leave, is the word of God. In the Temple was admitted no sound of hammer, nor in the building pg 74of this great patriarchal Catholick Church, of which every one of us is a little chappel, should the word be otherwise wrested or broken, but taken intirely as it is offered and presented.

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Editor’s Note
1 The verse is 'Now these are the Names of the Children of Israel which came into Egypt, etc.' (Exod. i. I).
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