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Jeremy Taylor

from Volume VI of the The Works


The First Part of Sermon X.




The second Sermon on Titus, ii. 7.


In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works:

in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,



Now by the order of the words, and my own undertaking, I am to tell you what are the rules and measures of your doctrine, which you are to teach the people. 




1. Be sure that you teach nothing to the people, but what is certainly to be found in Scripture: " Servemus eas mensuras, quas nobis per legislatorem lex spiritualis enunciat ;--The whole spiritual law given us by our Lawgiver, that must be our measures ;" [Origen] for, though by persuasion and by faith, by mis-persuasion and by error, by false commentaries and mistaken glosses, every man may become a law unto himself, and unhapily bind upon his conscience burdens which Christ never imposed; yet you must bind nothing upon your charges, but what God hath bound upon you; you cannot become a law unto them; that is the only privilege of the Lawgiver, who, because he was an interpreter of the Divine will, might become a law unto us; and because he was faithful in all the house, did tell us all his father's will; and, therefore, nothing can be God's law to us, but what he hath taught us. But of this I shall need to say no more but the words of Tertullian; "Nobis nihil licet ex nostro arbitrio indulgere! sed nec eligere aliquid, quod de suo arbitrio aliquis induxerit: apostolos Domini habemus autores, qui nec ipsi quicquam de suo arbitrio quod inducerent elegerunt, sed acceptam a Christo disciplinam fideliter nationibus assignarunt." [Contrahaeres]  Whatsoever is not in, and taken from, the Scriptures, is from a private spirit, and that is against Scripture certainly; "for no Scripture is," idiav epilusev, saith St. Peter; it is not, it cannot be "of private interpretation;" that is, unless it come from the Spirit of God, which is that Spirit, that moved upon the waters of the new creation, as well as of the old, and was promised to all, ‘to you, and to your children, and to as many as the Lord our God shall call,’ and is bestowed on all, and is the earnest of all our inheritance, and is ‘given to every man to profit withal;’ it cannot prove God to be the author, nor be a light to us to walk by, or to shew others the way to heaven.


This rule were alone sufficient to guide us all in the whole economy of our calling, if we were not weak and wilful, ignorant and abused: but the Holy Scripture hath suffered so many interpretations, and various sounds and seemings, and we are so prepossessed and predetermined to misconstruction by false apostles without, and prevailing passions within, that, though it be in itself sufficient, yet it is not so for us; and we may say with the eunuch, "How can I understand, unless some man should guide me?" And, indeed, in St. Paul's Epistles, "there are many things hard to be understood;" and, in many other places, we find that the well is deep; and unless there be some to help us to draw out the latent senses of it, our souls will not be filled with the waters of salvation. Therefore, that I may do you what assistances I can, and, if I cannot, in this small portion of time, instruct you, yet that I may counsel you, and remind you of the best assistances that are to be had; if I cannot give you rules sufficient to expound all hard places, yet that I may shew how you shall sufficiently teach your people, by the rare rules and precepts, recorded in places that are, or may be made, easy, I shall first give you some advices in general, and then descend to more particular rules and measures.


1. Because it is not to be expected, that every minister of the word of God should have all the gifts of the Spirit, and everyone to abound in tongues, and in doctrines, and in interpretations; you may, therefore, make great use of the labours of those worthy persons, whom God had made to be lights in the several generations of the world, that a hand may help a hand, and a father may teach a brother, and we all be taught of God: for there are many who have, by great skill, and great experience, taught us many good rules for the interpretation of Scripture; amongst which those that I shall principally recommend to you, are the books of St. Austin, 'De Utilitate Credendi' and his 3 lib. ' De Doctrina Christiana;' the' Synopsis' of Athanasius; the' Proems' of Isidore; the 'Prologues' of St. Jerome.  I might well add the' Scholia' of Oecumenius; the 'Catenre' of the Greek fathers, and of later times, the ordinary and interlineary glosses; the excellent book of Hugo de S. Victore, 'De Eruditione Didascalica;' 'Ars Interpretandi Scripturas,' by Sixtus Senensis: Serarius's' Prolegomena;' Tena's 'Introduction to the Scriptures;' together with Laurentius e Villa-Vincentio, Andreas Hyperius 'De Ratione Studii Philosophici,' and the ‘Hypotyposes' of Martinus Cantapratensis: Arias Montanus's 'Joseph' or 'De Arcano Sermone' is of another nature, and more fit for preachers; and so is Sanctes Paguine's 'Isagoge;' but Ambrosius Catharinus's book, ‘Duarum Clavium ad Sacram Scripturam,’ is useful to many good purposes: but more particularly, and I think more usefully, are those seven rules of interpreting Scriptures, written by Tichonius, and first made famous by St. Austin's commendation of them, and inserted in tom. v. of the Biblioth. SS. pp.-Sebastian Perez wrote thirty-five rules for the interpretation of Scripture: Pranciscus Ruiz drew from the ancient fathers two hundred and thirty-four rules: besides those any learned persons who have written vocabularies, tropologies, and expositions of words and phrases; such as are Flacius Illyricus, Junius, Jerome Lauretus, and many others, not infrequent in all public libraries.  But I remember, that he that gives advice to a sick man in Ireland to cure his sickness, must tell him of medicaments that are 'facile parabilia, -easy to be had,’ and cheap to be bought, or else his counsel will not profit him; and even of these God hath made good provision for us; for, although many precious things are reserved for them that dig deep, and search wisely, yet there are medicinal plants, and corn and grass, things fit for food and physic, to be had in every field. And so it is in the interpretation of Scripture; there are ways of doing it well and wisely, without the too laborious methods of weary learning, that even the meanest labourers in God's vineyard may have that which is fit to minister to him that needs. Therefore,




2. In all the interpretations of Scripture, the literal sense is to be presumed and chosen, unless there be evident cause to the contrary. The reasons are plain; because the literal sense is natural, and it is first, and it is most agreeable to some things, in their whole kind; not indeed to prophecies, nor to the teachings of the learned, nor those cryptic ways of institution by which the ancients did hide a light, and keep it in a dark lantern from the temeration of ruder handlings, and popular preachers: but the literal sense is agreeable to laws, to the publication of commands, to the revelation of the Divine will, to the concerns of the vulgar, to the foundations of faith, and to all the notice of things, in which the idiot is as much concerned as the greatest clerks. From which proposition, these three corollaries will properly follow;

1. That God hath plainly and literally described all his will, both in belief and practice, in which our essential duty, the duty of all men, is concerned. 2. That, in plain expressions, we are to look for our duty, and not in the more secret places and darker corners of the Scripture. 3. That you may regularly, certainly, and easily do your duty to the people, if you read and literally expound the plain sayings, .and easily expressed commandments, and promises, and threatenings of the Gospel, and the Psalms, and the prophets.


3. But then remember this also, that not only the grammatical or prime signification of the word is the literal sense, but whatsoever is the prime intention of the speaker, that is the literal sense; though the word be to be taken metaphorically, or by translation signify more things than one. "The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous;" this is literally true; and yet it is as true, that God hath no eyes properly; but by ‘eyes’ are meant, God's 'Providence;' and though this be not the first literal sense of the word 'eyes,' it is not that which was at first imposed and contingently; but it is that signification which was secondarily imposed, and by reason and proportion. Thus, when we say, 'God cares for the righteous,' it will not suppose that God can have any anxiety or afflictive thoughts; but 'he cares' does as truly and properly signify provision, as caution; beneficence, as fear; and therefore the literal sense of it is, that 'God provides good things for the righteous.' For in this case the rule of Abulensis is very true; "Sensus literalis semper est verus;-- the literal sense is always true ;" that is, all that is true, which the Spirit of God intended to signify by the words; whether he intended the first or second signification; whether  that of voluntary and contingent, or that of analogical and rational institution. "Other sheep have I," said Christ, " which are not of this fold:" that he did not mean this of the 'pecus lanigerum' is notorious; but of the Gentiles to be gathered into the privileges and fold of Israel: for in many cases, the first literal sense is the hardest, and sometimes impossible, and sometimes inconvenient: and when it is any of these, although we are not to recede from the literal sense; yet we are to take the second signification, the tropological or figurative. "If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out," said Christ: and yet no man digs his eyes out; because the very letter or intention of this command bids us only to throw away that, which if we keep, we cannot avoid sin: for sometimes the letter tells the intention, and sometimes the intention declares the letter; and that is properly the literal sense, which is the first meaning of the command in the whole complexion: and in this, common sense and a vulgar reason will be a sufficient guide, because there is always some other thing spoken by God, or some principle naturally implanted in us, by which we are secured in the understanding of the Divine command. "He that does not hate father and mother for my sake, is not worthy of me:" the literal sense of 'hating' used in Scripture is not always 'malice,' but sometimes a ‘less loving;' and so Christ also hath expounded it: "He that loves father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me." --But I shall not insist longer on this; he that understands nothing but his grammar, and hath not conversed with men and books, and can see no further than his fingers' ends, and makes no use of his reason, but for ever will be a child; he may be deceived in the literal sense of Scripture; but then he is not fit to teach others; but he that knows words signify rhetorically, as well as grammatically, and have various proper significations, [Verba non sono sed sensu sapiunt,--Hilar.] and which of these is the first, is not always of itself easy to be told; and remembers also that God hath given him reason, and observation, and experience, and conversation with wise men, and the proportion of things, and the end of the command, and parallel places of Scripture, in other words to the same purpose;--will conclude, that, since in plain places, all the duty of man is contained, and that the literal sense is always true, and, unless men be wilful or unfortunate, they may, with a small proportion of learning, find out the literal sense of an easy moral proposition:--will, I say, conclude, that if we be deceived, the fault is our own; but the fault is so great, the man so supine, the negligence so inexcusable, that the very consideration of human infirmity is not sufficient to excuse such teachers of others, who hallucinate or prevaricate in this. The Anthropomorphites fell foully in this matter, and supposed God to have a face, and arms, and passions, as we have; but they prevailed not: and Origen was, in one instance, greatly mistaken, and thinking there was no literal meaning but the prime signification of the word, understood the word eunoucizein,--'to make an eunuch,' to his own prejudice; but that passed not into a doctrine: but the Church of Rome hath erred greatly in pertinacious adhering, not to the letter, but to the grammar; nor to that, but in one line or signification of it: and ‘Hoc est corpus meum’ must signify nothing but grammatically; and though it be not, by their own confessions, to be understood without divers figures, in the whole complexion, yet peevishly and perversely, they will take it by the wrong handle; and this they have passed into a doctrine, that is against sense, and reason, and experience, and Scripture, and tradition, and the common interpretation of things, and public peace and utility, and every thing by which mankind ought to be governed and determined. 


4. I am to add this one thing more: that we admit in the interpretation of Scripture but one literal sense; I say, but one prime literal sense; for the simplicity and purity of the Spirit, and the philanthropy of God will not admit that there should, in one single proposition, be many intricate meanings, or that his sense should not certainly be understood, or that the people be abused by equivocal and doubtful senses; this was the way of Jupiter in the sands, and Apollo Pythius, and the devil's oracles: but be it far from the wisdom of the Spirit of God. 


5. But then take in this caution to it; that although there be but one principal literal sense; yet others that are subordinate, may be intended subordinately; and others that are true by proportion, or that first intention, may be true for many reasons, and every reason applicable to a special instance; and all these may be intended as they signify, that is, one only by prime design, and the other by collateral consequence. Thus when it is said, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee," the Psalmist means it of the eternal generation of Christ: others seem to apply it to his birth of the blessed virgin Mary; and St. Paul expounds it of the resurrection of Christ. [Heb. i.]  This is all true; and yet but one literal sense primely meant; but by proportion to the first, the others have their place, and are meant by way of similitude. Thus we are the sons of God, by adoption, by creation, by favour, by participation of the Spirit, by the laver of regeneration; and every man, for one or other of these reasons, can say, "Our Father which art in heaven;" and these are all parts of the literal sense, not different, but subordinate and by participation: but more than one prime literal sense must not be admitted.


 6. Lastly; Sometimes the literal sense is lost by a plain change of the words; which, when it is discovered, it must be corrected by the fountain; and till it be, so long as it is pious, and commonly received, it may be used without scruple. In the 41st Psalm the Hebrews read, "My soul hath longed after 'the strong, the living God;-Deum fortem, vivum :'" In the vulgar Latin it is ' Deum fontem vivum,-the living fountain;' and it was very well, but not the literal sense of God's Spirit; but when they have been so often warned of it, that they were still in love with their own letter, and leave the words of the Spirit, I think was not justifiable at all: and this was observed at last by Sixtus and Clement, and corrected in their editions of the Bible, and then it came right again. The sum is this; he that with this moderation and these measures construes the plain meaning of the Spirit of God, and expounds the articles of faith, and the precepts of life, according to the intention of God, signified by his own words, in their first or second signification, cannot easily be cozened into any heretical doctrine; but his doctrine will be adiafyorov, the pure word and mind of God. 




2. There is another sense or interpretation of Scripture, and that is mystical or spiritual; which the Jews call ‘midrash;' which Elias the Levite calls "omne commentarium, quod non est juxta simplicem et literalem sensum;-- every gloss that is not according to their 'peschat,' to the literal sense;" and this relates principally to the Old Testament: thus the waters of the deluge did signify the waters of baptism; Sarah and Agar, the law and the Gospel; the brazen serpent, the passion of Christ; the conjunction of Adam and Eve, the communion of Christ and his Church; and this is called the spiritual sense, St. Paul being our warrant; "Our fathers ate of the same spiritual meat, and drank of that same spiritual rock;" now that rock was not spiritual, but of solid stone; but it signified spiritually; for "that rock was Christ."--This sense the doctors divide into tropological, allegorical, and anagogical,--for method's sake, and either to distinguish the things, or to amuse the persons: for these relate but to the several spiritual things signified by divers places; as matters of faith, precepts of manners, and celestial joys: you may make more if you please, and yet these are too many to trouble men's heads, and to make theology an art and craft, to no purpose. This spiritual sense is that which the Greeks call uponoian, or 'the sense that lies under the cover of words;' concerning this I shall give you these short rules, that your doctrine be adiafyorov, pure and without heretical mixtures, and, the leaven of false doctrines; for, above all things, this is to be taken care of. 


1. Although every place of Scripture hath a literal sense, either proper or figurative, yet everyone hath not a spiritual and mystical interpretation; and, therefore, Origen was blamed by the ancients for forming all into spirit and mystery; one place was reserved to punish that folly. Thus the followers of the family of love, and the quakers, expound all the articles of our faith, all the hopes of a Christian, all the stories of Christ, into such a clancular and retired sense, as if they had no meaning by the letter, but were only a hieroglyphic or a Pythagorean scheme, and not to be opened but by a private key, which every man pretends to be borrowed from the Spirit of God, though made in the forges here below: to which purposes the epistles of St. Jerome to Avitus, to Pammachius and Oceanus, are worth your reading. In this case men do as he said of Origen, "Ingenii sui acumina putant esse ecclesiae sacramenta;--Every man believes God meant as he intended, and so he will obtrude his own dreams instead of sacraments." Therefore, 


2. Whoever will draw spiritual senses from any history of the Old or New Testament, must first allow the literal sense, or else he will soon deny an article of necessary belief. A story is never the less true, because it is intended to profit as well as to please; and the narrative may well establish or insinuate a precept, and instruct with pleasure; but if, because there is a jewel in the golden cabinet, you will throw away the inclosure, and deny the story that you may look out a mystical sense, we shall leave it arbitrary for any man to believe or disbelieve what story he please; and Eve shall not be made of the rib of Adam, and the garden of Eden shall be no more than the Hesperides, and the story of Jonas a well-dressed fable: and I have seen all the Revelation of St. John turned into a moral commentary, in which every person can signify any proposition, or any virtue, according as his fancy chimes. This is too much, and therefore comes not from a good principle. 


3. In moral precepts, in rules of polity and economy, there is no other sense to be inquired after but what they bear upon the face; for he that thinks it necessary to turn them into some further spiritual meaning, supposes that it is a disparagement of the Spirit of God to take care of governments, or that the duties of princes and masters are no great concerns, or not operative to eternal felicity, or that God does not provide for temporal advantage; for if these things be worthy concerns, and if God hath taken care of all our good, and if "godliness be profitable to all things, and hath the promise of the life that now is, and that which is to come," there is no necessity to pass on to more abstruse senses, when the literal and proper hath also in it instrumentality enough towards very great spiritual purposes. "God takes care" for servants, yea "for oxen" and all the beasts of the field; and the letter of the command enjoining us to use them with mercy, hath in it an advantage even upon the spirit and whole frame of a man's soul; and, therefore, let no man tear those Scriptures to other meanings beyond their own intentions and provisions. In these cases a spiritual sense is not to be inquired after.


4. If the letter of the story infers any indecency or contradiction, then it is necessary that a spiritual or mystical sense be thought of; but never else is it necessary.  It may in other cases be useful, when it does advantage to holiness; and may be safely used, if used modestly; but because this spiritual or mystical interpretation, when it is not necessary, cannot be certainly proved, but relies upon fancy, or at most some light inducement, no such interpretation can be used as an argument to prove an article of faith, nor relied upon in matters of necessary concern.  The "three measures of meal," in the Gospel, are but an ill argument to prove the blessed and eternal Trinity: and it may be the three angels that came to Abraham will signify no more than the two that came to Lot, or the single one to Manoah or St. John.  This Divine mystery relies upon a more sure foundation; and he makes it unsure that causes it to lean upon an unexpounded vision, that was sent to other purposes. "Non esse contentiosis et infidelibus sensibus ingerendum," said St. Austin of the book of Genesis. Searching for articles of faith in the by-paths and corners of secret places, leads not to faith but to infidelity, and by making the foundations unsure, causes the articles to be questioned. 


I remember that Agricola, in his book "De Animalibus Subterraneis," tells of a certain kind of spirits that use to converse in mines, and trouble the poor labourers: they dig metals, they cleanse, they cast, they melt, they separate, they join the ore; but when they are gone, the men find just nothing done, not one step of their work set forward. So it is in the books and expositions of many men: they study, they argue, they expound, they confute, they reprove, they open secrets, and make new discoveries; and when you turn the bottom upwards, up starts nothing; no man is the wiser, no man is instructed, no truth discovered, no proposition cleared, nothing is altered, but that much labour and much time is lost: and this is manifest in nothing more than in books of controversy, and in mystical expositions of Scripture: "Qurerunt quod nusquam est, inveniunt tamen." Like Isidore, who, in contemplation of a pen, observed, that the nib of it was divided into two, but yet the whole body remained one: "Credo propter mysterium :"[Isid. Orig. lib. vi. c. 14.] he found a knack in it, and thought it was a mystery. Concerning which I shall need to say no more but that they are safe, when they are necessary, and they are useful when they teach better, and they are good when they do good; but this is so seldom, and so by chance, that oftentimes, if a man be taught truth, he is taught it by a lying master; it is like being cured by a good witch, an evil spirit hath a hand in it; and if there be not error and illusion in such interpretations, there is very seldom any certainty.


"What shall I do to my vineyard?" [Isa. v.] said God. "Auferam sepem ejus:--I will take away the hedge:" that is, "custodiam angelorum," saith the gloss,--'the custody of their angel guardians.' And God says, "Manasseh humeros suos comedit: [Isa. ix.]--Manasseh hath devoured his own shoulders:" that is, "gubernatores dimovit," say the doctors, ‘hath removed his governors,’ his princes, and his priests.  It is a sad complaint 'tis true, but what it means is the question. But although these senses are pious, and may be used for illustration and the prettiness of discourse, yet there is no further certainty in them than what the one fancies, and the other is pleased to allow. But if the spiritual sense be proved evident and certain, then it is of the same efficacy as the literal; for it is according to that letter by which God's Holy Spirit was pleased to signify his meaning, and it matters not how he is pleased to speak, so we understand his meaning. And, in this sense, that is true which is affirmed by St. Gregory: “Allegoriam interdum redificare fidem:--sometimes our faith is built up by the mystical words of the Spirit of God.”  But because it seldom happens that they can be proved, therefore you are not to feed your flocks with such herbs whose virtue you know not, of whose wholesomeness or powers of nourishing you are wholly, or for the most part, ignorant. We have seen and felt the mischief, and sometimes derided the absurdity. "God created the sun and the moon," said Moses; that is, said the extravagants of Pope Bonifice VIII., ‘the pope and the emperor.’  And "Behold, here are two swords," said St. Peter: "It is enough," said Christ; enough for St. Peter; and so he got the two swords, the temporal and spiritual, said the gloss upon that text.  Of these things there is no beginning and no end, no certain principles, and no good conclusion.



These are the two ways of expounding all Scriptures; these are as "the two witnesses of God;" by the first of which he does most commonly, and by the latter of which he does sometimes, declare his meaning; and in the discovery of these meanings, the measures which I have now given you are the general land-marks, and are sufficient to guide us from destructive errors. It follows in the next place, that I give you some rules that are more particular, according to my undertaking, that you in your duty, and your charges in the provisions to be made for them, may be more secure. 




1. Although you are to teach your people nothing but what is the word of God, yet by this word I understand all that God spake expressly, and all that by certain consequence can be deduced from it. Thus Dionysius Alexandrinus argues, egnwn oti Uiov cai logov ou xenov an eih thv ousiav tou Patrov --'He that in Scripture is called the Son and the Word of the Father, I conclude he is no stranger to the essence of the Father.' And St. Ambrose derided them that called for express Scripture for omoousiov, since the prophets and the gospels acknowledge the unity of substance in the Father and the Son; and we easily conclude the Holy Ghost to be God, because we call upon him; and we call upon him because we believe in him; and we believe in him because we are baptized into the faith and profession of the Holy Ghost. This way of teaching our blessed Saviour used, when he confuted the Sadducees, in the question of the resurrection; and thus he confuted the Pharisees, in the question of his being the Son of God. [John x. 37.]  The use I make of it is this, that right reason is so far from being an exile from the inquiries of religion, that it is the great ensurance of many propositions of faith; and we have seen the faith of men strangely alter, but the reason of man can never alter, every rational truth supposing its principles being eternal and unchangeable.  All that is to be done here is to see that you argue well, that your deduction be evident, that your reason be right: for Scripture is to our understandings, as the grace of God to our wills; that instructs our reason, and this helps our wills; and we may as well choose the things of God without our wills, and delight in them without love, as understand the Scriptures or make use of them without reason. 


Quest. But how shall our reason be guided that it may be right, that it be not a blind guide, but direct us to the place where the star appears, and point us to the very house where the babe lieth, that we may indeed do as the wise men did? To this I answer: 


2. In the making deductions, the first great measure to direct our reason and our inquiries is the analogy of faith; that is, let the fundamentals of faith be your cynosura, your great light to walk by, and whatever you derive from thence, let it be agreeable to the principles from whence they come.  It is the rule of St. Paul, Profhteuwn cat analogian pistews,-- "Let him that prophesies, do it according to the proportion of faith;" [Rom. xii. 7.] that is, let him teach nothing but what is revealed, or agreeable to the autopista,--'the prime credibilities' of Christianity; that is, by the plain words of Scripture let him expound the less plain, and the superstructure by the measures of the foundation, and doctrines be answerable to faith, and speculations relating to practice, and nothing taught, as simply necessary to be believed, but what is evidently and plainly set down in the Holy Scriptures; for he that calls a proposition necessary, which the apostles did not declare to be so, or which they did not teach to all Christians, learned and unlearned, he is gone beyond his proportions; for every thing is to be kept in that order where God hath placed it. There is a 'classis' of necessary articles, and that is the apostles' creed, which Tertullian calls "regulam fidei,-the rule of faith;" and, according to this, we must teach necessities: but what comes after this is not so necessary; and he that puts upon his own doctrines a weight equal to this of the apostles' declaration, either must have an apostolical authority, and an apostolical infallibility, or else he transgresses proportion of faith, and becomes a false apostle. 

3. To this purpose it is necessary that you be very diligent in reading, laborious and assiduous in the studies of Scripture; not only lest ye be blind seers and blind guides, but because, without great skill and learning, ye cannot do your duty. A minister may as well sin by his ignorance as by his negligence; because when light springs from so many angles that may enlighten us, unless we look round about us and be skilled in all the angles of reflexion, we shall but turn our backs upon the sun, and see nothing but our own shadows.  "Search the Scriptures," said Christ. "Non dixit legite, sed scrutamini," said St. Chrysostom; "quia oportet profundius effodere, ut qure alte delitescunt, invenire possimus;--Christ did not say read, but search the Scriptures;" turn over every page, inquire narrowly, look diligently, converse with them perpetually, be mighty in the Scriptures; for that which is plain there, is the best measure of our faith and of our doctrines. The Jews have a saying, "Qui non advertit, quod supra et infra in Scriptoribus legitur, is pervertit verba Dei viventis." He that will understand God's meaning, must look above, and below, and round about; for the meaning of the Spirit of God is not like the wind blowing from one point, but like light issuing from the body of the sun, it is light round about; and in every word of God there is a treasure, and something will be found somewhere, to answer every doubt, and to clear every obscurity, and to teach every truth by which God intends to perfect our understandings. But then take this rule with you: do not pass from plainness to obscurity, nor from simple principles draw crafty conclusions, nor from easiness pass into difficulty, nor from wise notices draw intricate nothings, nor from the wisdom of God lead your hearers into the follies of men. Your principles are easy, and your way plain, and the words of faith are open, and what naturally flows from thence will be as open; but if, without violence and distortion, it cannot be drawn forth, the proposition is not of the family of faith. " Qui nimis emungit, elicit sanguinem:--he that wrings too hard, draws blood:" and nothing is fit to be offered to your charges and your flocks but what flows naturally, and comes easily, and descends readily and willingly, from the fountains of salvation. 

4. Next to this analogy or proportion of faith, let the consent of the Catholic Church be your measure, so as by no means to prevaricate in any doctrine, in which all Christians always have consented. This will appear to be a necessary rule by and by; but, in the meantime, I shall observe to you, that it will be the safer, because it cannot go far: it can be instanced but in three things, in the creed, in ecclesiastical government, and in external forms of worship and liturgy. The Catholic Church hath been too much and too soon divided: it hath been used as the man upon a hill used his heap of heads in a basket; when he threw them down the hill, every head run his own way, “quot capita, tot sententire;" and as soon as the spirit of truth was opposed by the spirit of error, the spirit of peace was disordered by the spirit of division; and the Spirit of God hath overpowered us so far, that we are only fallen out about that of which, if we had been ignorant, we had not been much the worse; but in things simply necessary, God hath preserved us still unbroken: all nations and all ages recite the creed, and all pray the Lord's prayer, and all pretend to walk by the rule of the commandments; and all Churches have ever kept the day of Christ's resurrection, or the Lord's day holy; and all Churches have been governed by bishops, and the rites of Christianity have been for ever administered by separate orders of men, and those men have been always set apart by prayer and the imposition of the bishop's hands; and all Christians have been baptized, and all baptized persons were, or ought to be, and were taught that they should be, confirmed by the bishop, and presidents of religion; and for ever there were public forms of prayer, more or less, in all Churches; and all Christians that were to enter into holy wedlock, were ever joined or blessed by the bishop or the priest: in these things all Christians ever have consented, and he that shall prophesy or expound Scripture to the prejudice of any of these things, hath no part in that article of his creed; he does not believe the holy Catholic Church, he hath no fellowship, no communion, with the saints and servants of God. It is not here intended that the doctrine of the Church should be the rule of faith distinctly from, much less against, the Scripture; for that were a contradiction to suppose the Church of God, and yet speaking and acting against the will of God; but it means that where the question is concerning an obscure place of Scripture, the practice of the Catholic Church is the best commentary. “Intellectus, qui cum praxi concurrit, est spiritus vivificans," said Cusanus. Then we speak according to the Spirit of God, when we understand Scripture in that sense in which the Church of God hath always practised it. “Quod pluribus, quod sapientibus, quod omnibus videtur," that is Aristotle's rule; and it is a rule of nature; every thing puts on a degree of probability as it is witnessed ‘by wise men, by many wise men, by all wise men:’ and it is Vincentius Lirinensis' great rule of truth, “Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus:” and he that goes against ‘what is said always, and every where, and by all’ Christians, had need have a new revelation, or an infallible spirit; or he hath an intolerable pride and foolishness of presumption. Out of the communion of the universal Church no man can be saved; they are the body of Christ; and the whole Church cannot perish, and Christ cannot be a head without a body, and he will for ever be our Redeemer, and for ever intercede for his Church, and be glorious in his saints; and, therefore, he that does not sow in these furrows, but leaves the way of the whole Church, hath no pretence for his error, no excuse for his pride, and will find no alleviation of his punishment. These are the best measures which God hath given us to lead us in the way of truth, and to preserve us from false doctrines; and whatsoever cannot be proved by these measures, cannot be necessary. There are many truths besides these; but if your people may be safely ignorant of them, you may quietly let them alone, and not trouble their heads with what they have so little to do; things that need not to be known at all, need not to be taught: for if they be taught, they are not certain, or are not very useful; and, therefore, there may be danger in them besides the trouble; and since God hath not made them necessary, they may be let alone without danger; and it will be madness to tell stories to your flocks of things which may hinder salvation, but cannot do them profit. And now it is time that I have done with the first great remark of doctrine noted by the apostle in my text; all the guides of souls must take care that the doctrine they teach be adiafyorov,--"pure and incorrupt," the word of God, the truth of the Spirit.