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Formulary Friday: An interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury

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Posted by Simon Tomkins, 2 May 2014

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, author of The Book of Homilies (including this from Homily 1) is ‘interviewed’ by Simon Tomkins on the reading and knowledge of Holy Scripture.

Me: Archbishop Cranmer, do I really need to read my Bible when I get up tomorrow morning?

Thomas Cranmer: Unto a Christian man there can be nothing either more necessary or profitable than the knowledge of holy Scripture.

Will I enjoy it?

As drink is pleasant to them that be dry and meat to them that be hungry, so is the reading, hearing, searching and studying of holy Scripture to them that be desirous to know God or themselves , and to do his will.

But aren’t there lots of people who don’t like the Bible?As they that are sick of an ague, whatsoever they eat or drink, though it be never so pleasant, yet it is as bitter to them as wormwood… even so is the sweetness of God’s word bitter, not of itself, but only unto them that have their minds corrupted with long custom of sin.

If I read it lots, do you think I’ll be able to impress others with how well I know it?

In reading of God’s word, he most profiteth not always that is most ready in turning of the book, or in saying of it without the book; but he that is most turned into it, that is,…he that is daily less and less proud, less wrathful, less covetous, and less desirous of worldly and vain pleasures; he that daily, forsaking his old vicious life, increaseth in virtue more and more.

So are you saying it doesn’t matter that I don’t know my Bible very well?

If we profess Christ, why be we not ashamed to be ignorant in his doctrine? ...What excuse shall we therefore make at the last day before Christ that delight to read or hear men’s phantasies and inventions [i.e., read newspapers, novels and watch TV] more than his most holy Gospel; and will find no time to do that which chiefly, above all things, we should do; and will rather read other things than that for the which we ought rather to leave reading of all other things?

But what if I misinterpret the Bible and get its meaning wrong?

Read it humbly, with a meek and lowly heart, to the intent you may glorify God, and not yourself, with the knowledge of it; and read it not without daily praying to God, that he would direct your reading to good effect; and take upon you to expound it no further than you can plainly understand it. For, as St. Augustine saith, the knowledge of holy Scripture is a great, large, and a high palace, but the door is very low; so that the high and arrogant man cannot run in, but he must stoop low and humble himself that shall enter into it.

Can’t I just listen to the Scriptures read in church instead?

I say not nay, but a man may prosper with only hearing; but he may much more prosper with both hearing and reading.

Thanks for your time. Any final advice on how we should read the Scriptures?

Let us ruminate and as it were chew the cud, that we may have the sweet juice, spiritual effect, marrow, honey, kernel, taste, comfort, and consolation of them. Let us stay, quiet, and certify our consciences with the most infallible certainty, truth, and perpetual assurance of them. Let us pray to God, the only Author of these heavenly studies, that we may speak, think, believe, live, and depart hence [i.e., die], according to the wholesome doctrine and verities of them.

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, author of The Book of Homilies (including this from Homily 1) was ‘interviewed’ by Simon Tomkins

Simon Tomkins is Curate of All Saints, Little Shelford

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