CHAPTER X.
OF THE PROFANATION OF THE SCRIPTURES THROUGH THE FACILITY THEY PRETEND THERE IS IN UNDERSTANDING SCRIPTURE.

THE imagination must have great power over Huguenot understandings, since it persuades them so absolutely of this grand absurdity, that the Scriptures are easy to everybody, and that everybody can understand them. It is true that to bring forth vulgar translations with honour it was necessary to speak in this manner; but tell me the truth, do you think that the case really runs so? Do you find them so easy, do you understand them so well? If you think you do, I admire your credulity, which goes not only beyond experience, but is contrary to what you see and feel. If it is true that the Scripture is so easy to understand, what is the use of so many commentaries made by your ministers, what is the object of so many harmonies, what is the good of so many schools of Theology ? here is need of no more, say you, than the doctrine of the pure word of God in the Church. But where is this word of God? In the Scripture? And Scripture-is it some secret thing ? No-you say not to the faithful. Why, then, these interpreters and these preachers? If you are faithful, you will understand the Scriptures as well as they do; send them off to unbelievers, and simply keep some deacons to give you the morsel of bread and pour out the wine of your supper. If you can feed yourselves in the field of the Scripture, what do you want , with pastors? Some young innocent, some mere child who is able to read, will do just as well. But whence comes this continual and irreconcilable discord which there is among you, brethren in Luther, over these words, This is my body, and on Justification ? Certainly S. Peter is not of your thinking, who assures us in his 2nd Epistle (iii.16) that in the letters of S. Paul there are certain points hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as also the other Scripture to their own Perdition. The eunuch who was treasurer-general, of Ethiopia was certainly faithful.(Acts viii) since he came to adore in the Temple of Jerusalem; he was reading Isaias ; he quite understood the words, since he asked of what prophet that which he had read was to be understood ; yet still he had not the understanding nor the spirit of them, as he himself confessed: How can I, unless some one shows me? Not only does he not understand, but he confesses that he has not the power unless he is taught. And we shall see some washerwoman boast of understanding the Scripture as well as S. Bernard did! Do you not know the spirit of discord ? It is necessary to convince oneself that the Scripture is easy in order that everybody may drab it about, some one way, some another, that each one may be a master in it, and that it may serve everybody’s opinions and fancies. Certainly David held it to be far from easy when he said (Ps. Cxviii. 73) Give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments If they have left you the Epistle of S. Jerome to Paulinus in the preface of your bibles, read it, for it treats this point expressly. S. Augustine speaks of it in a thousand places, but particularly in his Confessions. In the 119th Epistle he confesses that there is much more in the Scripture of which he is ignorant than there is of what he knows. Origen and S. Jerome, the former in his preface on the Canticles, the latter in his on Ezechiel say that it was not permitted to the Jews before the age of thirty to read the three first chapters of Genesis, the commencement and the end of Ezechiel, or the Canticle of Canticles, on account of the depth of the difficulties therein, in which few persons can swim without being submerged. And now, everybody talks of them, everybody criticises them, everybody knows all about them.

And how great the profanation of the Scriptures is in this way nobody could sufficiently believe who had not seen it. As for me, I will say what I know, and I lie not. I have seen a person in good society who, when one objected to an expression of hers the sentence of Our Lord (Luke vi: 29) To him that striketh thee on the one cheek offer also the other,-immediately explained it in this sense: that as to encourage a child who studies well we lay our hand lightly with little pats upon his cheek to excite him to do better, so Our Lord meant to say be so grateful to one who may find you doing right and who may caress you for it that he may take occasion another time to treat you still better and to caress or fondle you on both sides. Is not that a fine meaning and a precious ? But the reason was even better,-that to understand this text otherwise would be against nature, and that while we must interpret Scripture by Scripture, we find in Scripture that Our Lord did not do so when the servant struck him: this is the fruit of your translated theology. An honest man, and one who in my opinion would not lie, has related to me that he heard a minister of this country, treating of the Nativity of Our Lord, assert that he was not born in a crib, and expound the text (which is express on the other side) figuratively, saying: Our Lord also says that he is the vine, yet for all that he is not one; in the same way, although it is said that he is born in a crib, yet born there he is not, but in some honourable place which in comparison with his greatness might be called a crib. The character of this interpretation leads me still more to believe the man who told me, for being simple and unable to read he could hardly have made it up. It is a most curious thing to see how this pretended enlightenment causes the Holy Scripture to be profaned. Is it not doing what God says in Ezechiel (xxxiv. 18): Was it not enough for you to feed upon good pastures; but you must also tread down with your feet the residue of the pastures?

 

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