The Hard Sayings of Scripture | William Whitaker

hardsayings whitaker


by William Whitaker

Disputations on Holy Scripture

Question of the Fourth Controversy: Of the Perspicuity of Scripture

chapter II, pp. 365-366.

I have thought it proper to set forth the reasons on account of which God was willing that there should be so many things of considerable obscurity and difficulty in the scriptures…Now the causes are such as follow:

First, God would have us to be constant in prayer, and hath scattered many obscurities up and down through the scriptures, in order that we should seek his help in interpreting them and discovering their true meaning.

Secondly, he wished thereby to excite our diligence in reading, meditating upon, searching and comparing the scriptures; for, if everything had been plain, we should have been entirely slothful and negligent.

Thirdly, he designed to prevent our losing interest in them; for we are ready to grow weary of easy things: God, therefore, would have our interest kept up by difficulties.

Fourthly, God willed to have that truth, so sublime, so heavenly, sought and found with so much labour, the more esteemed by us on that account. For we generally despise and contemn whatever is easily acquired, near at hand, and costs small or no labour, according to the Greek proverb, έπί θύρας τήν ύδρίαν. But those things which we find with great toil and much exertion, those, when once we have found them out, we esteem highly and consider their value proportionally greater.

Fifthly, God wished by this means to subdue our pride and arrogance, and to expose to us our ignorance. We are apt to think too honourably of ourselves, and to rate our genius and acuteness more highly than is fitting, and to promise ourselves too much from our science and knowledge.

Sixthly, God willed that the sacred mysteries of his word should be opened freely to pure and holy minds, not exposed to dogs and swine. Hence those things which are easy to holy persons, appear so many parables to the profane. For the mysteries of scripture are like gems, which only he that knows them values; while the rest, like the cock in Aesop, despise them, and prefer the most worthless objects to what is most beautiful and excellent.

Seventhly, God designed to call off our minds from the pursuit of external things and our daily occupations, and transfer them to the study of the scriptures. Hence it is now necessary to give some time to their perusal and study; which we certainly should not bestow upon them, if we found every thing plain and open.

Eighthly, God desired thus to accustom us to a certain internal purity and sanctity of thought and feeling. For they who bring with them profane minds to the reading of scripture, lose their trouble and oil: those only read with advantage, who bring with them pure and holy minds.

Ninthly, God willed that in his church some should be teachers, and some disciples; some more learned, to give instruction; others less skillful, to receive it; so as that the honour of the sacred scriptures and the divinely instituted ministry might, in this manner, be maintained.

Such was the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, wherewith, as Augustine expresses it, (De Doctrina Christ. Lib. n. c. 6), he hath modified the scriptures so as to maintain their honour and consult our good. Other causes more besides these might be adduced; but it is not necessary to enumerate more.



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