Devotion Tuesday May 05
Thomas Cranmer was fully aware that the deceitful “devices and desires of our own hearts” would all too often lead us into the error of approval-earning, even though it was a “ready way to desperation.” That’s why he embraced the Reformation’s reliance on Scripture to show us the true way of salvation. Only a God-given external guide can lead human hearts to find those things which truly honor the Almighty and bring people joy.
Of course, leaning on Scripture for spiritual healthiness was also the way of the ancient church. We see it in the traditional collect for the Third Sunday after Easter which Cranmer used for this week. Listen to its Acknowledgement: “which showest to all men that be in error the light of thy truth, to the intent that they may return into the way of righteousness.” We see what “the light of thy truth” clearly meant in the ancient church in an extract from John Chrysostom, an early Archbishop of Constantinople, which Cranmer quoted at length in his “Homily on Scripture”:
Whatsoever is required to salvation of man, is fully contained in the Scripture of God. He that is ignorant, may there learn and have knowledge… He that is oppressed with misery in this world, shall there find relief in the promises of everlasting life, to his great consolation and comfort. He that is wounded by the Devil onto death, shall find there medicine whereby he may be restored again unto health. If it shall require to teach any truth, or reprove false doctrine, to rebuke any vice, to commend any virtue, to give good council, to comfort or to exhort, or to do any other thing requisite for our salvation, all those things… we may learn plentifully of the Scripture.
Here is the patristic source for the famous Anglican approach to Scripture laid out in Article 6 of the Thirty-Nine Articles: “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation.”
It is important, however, to note the one word that Cranmer added in his translation of this ancient collect: “which showest to all men that be in error the light of thy truth.” “All” - Cranmer believed that everyone, regardless of background or training, would be able to find everything necessary for salvation by reading the Bible:
All manner of persons, of what estate or condition soever they be, may in this book learn all things what they ought to believe, what they ought to do, and what they should not do, as well concerning Almighty God, as also concerning themselves and all other.
Indeed, everyone was able to find the way of salvation in the Bible because that was the way God had specifically designed his Word:
For the Holy Ghost hath so ordered and arranged the Scriptures that in them as well tavern keepers, fishermen, and shepherds may find their edification, as great doctors their erudition. For those books were not made to vain-glory - like as were the writings of the Gentile philosophers and rhetoricians - to the intent the makers should be had in admiration for their high styles and obscure manner of writing, whereof nothing can be understood without a teacher or an expositor. But the apostles and prophets wrote their books so that their special intent and purpose might be understood and perceived of every reader, which was nothing but the edification or amendment of the life of them that readeth or heareth it.
Since God has established the Bible as the gateway to knowing him in our hearts and minds, he will make his love for his people clear to all who take the time to read its message for themselves. Every Christian who reads the old, old story, over and over again, will find God writing its truths on their hearts forever.
Therefore, let us ask the light of God’s truth to guide us into all spiritual healthiness, by praying Cranmer’s collect.