Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
The Uses of Holy Scripture
By Thomas Cranmer (14891556)
From the Preface to the Bible
THEY that be free and far from trouble and intermeddling of worldly things, liveth in safeguard, and tranquillity, and in the calm, or within a sure haven. Thou art in the midst of the sea of worldly wickedness, and therefore thou needest the more of ghostly succour and comfort: they sit far from the strokes of battle, and far out of gunshot, and therefore they be but seldom wounded: thou that standest in the forefront of the host and nighest to thine enemies, must needs take now and then many strokes, and be grievously wounded. And therefore thou hast more need to have thy remedies and medicines at hand. Thy wife provoketh thee to anger, thy child giveth thee occasion to take sorrow and pensiveness, thine enemies lieth in wait for thee, thy friend (as thou takest him) sometime envieth thee, thy neighbour misreporteth thee, or pricketh quarrels against thee, thy mate or partner undermineth thee, thy lord judge or justice threateneth thee, poverty is painful unto thee, the loss of thy dear and well-beloved causeth thee to mourn; prosperity exalteth thee, adversity bringeth thee low. Briefly, so divers and so manifold occasions of cares, tribulations, and temptations besetteth thee and besiegeth thee round about. Where canst thou have armour or fortress against thine assaults? Where canst thou have salve for thy sores, but of holy scripture? Thy flesh must needs be prone and subject to fleshy lusts, which daily walkest and art conversant amongst women, seest their beauties set forth to the eye, hearest their nice and wanton words, smellest their balm, civit, and musk, with other like provocations and stirrings, except thou hast in a readiness wherewith to suppress and avoid them, which cannot elsewhere be had, but only out of the holy scriptures. Let us read and seek all remedies that we can, and all shall be little enough. How shall we then do, if we suffer and take daily wounds, and when we have done, will sit still and search for no medicines? Dost thou not mark and consider how the smith, mason, or carpenter, or any other handy-craftsman, what need soever he be in, what other shift soever he make, he will not sell or lay to pledge the tools of his occupation; for then how should he work his feat, or get a living thereby? Of like mind and affection ought we to be towards holy scripture; for as mallets, hammers, saws, chisels, axes and hatchets, be the tools of their occupation, so be the books of the prophets and apostles, and all holy writ inspired by the Holy Ghost, the instruments of our salvation. Wherefore, let us not stick to buy and provide us the bible, that is to say, the books of holy scripture. And let us think that to be a better jewel in our house than either gold or silver. For like as thieves be loth to assault an house where they know to be good armour and artillery; so wheresoever these holy and ghostly books be occupied, there neither the devil nor none of his angels dare come near. And they that occupy them be in much safeguard, and having great consolation, and be the readier unto all goodness, the slower to all evil; and if they have done anything amiss, anon, even by the sight of the books, their consciences be admonished, and they wax sorry and ashamed of the fact.