The first point is that thou have good opinion of the holy scriptures, and that thou esteem them of no less value and dignity than they are worthy to be esteemed, and that they came out of the secret closet of the mind of God. Thou shalt perceive that thou art inspired of God moved inwardly, rapt and in an unspeakable manner altered and changed to another manner, figure or shape, if thou shalt come religiously, if with reverence and meekly thou shalt see the pleasures, delicacies, or dainties of the blessed spouse. Thou shalt see the precious jewels of rich Salomon, thou shalt see the secret treasure of eternal wisdom: but beware that thou break not malapertly into the secret closet, the door is low, beware lest thou strike the door with thy head , and be fain to leap back again.

Think on this wise, nothing that thou seest with thine eyes, nothing that thou handlest with thy fingers to be indeed the same thing which it appeareth, so surely as these things be true in holy scripture: for that if heaven and earth should perish, yet of the words of God not one jot or tittle shall perish, but all shall be fulfilled. Though men lie, though men err, yet the verity of God neither deceiveth nor is deceived. Of the interpreters of scripture, choose them above all other that go farthest from the letter, which chiefly next after Paul be Origene, Ambrose, Jerom and Augustyne. For I see the divines of later time stick very much in the letter, and with good will give more study to subtle and deceitful arguments, than to search out the mysteries, as though Paul had not said truly our law to be spiritual. I have heard some men myself which stood so greatly in their own conceit with the fantastical traditions, imaginations and inventions of man, that they despised the interpretation of old doctors that were nigh to Christ and his apostles both in time and living also, and account them as dreams, yea and Master Dunce gave them such confidence that notwithstanding they never once read the holy scripture, yet thought they themselves to be perfect divines, which persons though they speak things never so crafty and subtle, yet whether they speak things worthy of the Holy Ghost and the meek spirit of Christ or not, let other men judge.

But if thou haddest liefer to be somewhat lusty and quick of spirit, than to be armed to contention, that is to say to brawling or scolding: if thou seek rather to have thy soul made fat, than thy wit to be vainly delighted: study and read over chiefly the old doctors and expositors, whose godliness and holy life is more proved and known, whose religion to God is more to be pondered and looked upon, whose learning is more plenteous and sage also, whose style is neither bare Scripture must be had in great reverence. The chief interpreters of holy scripture. Reading without understanding. plenteous and sage also, whose style is neither bare nor rude and interpretation more agreeable to the holy mysteries. 

And I say not this because I despise these new divines, but because I set more by things more profitable and more apt for the purpose. And also the Spirit of God hath a certain tongue or speech appropriate to himself, he hath his figures similitudes, parables, comparisons, proverbs and riddles which thou must observe and mark diligently, if thou wouldest understand them. The wisdom of God stuttereth and lispeth as it were a diligent mother fashioneth her words according to our infancy and feebleness. She giveth milk to them that be infants in Christ, weak meat to feeble stomachs. Thou therefore make speed thou were a man, make haste to perfect and strong meat, and prepare a man’s stomach. She stoopeth down and boweth herself to thy humility and lowness. Arise then upon the other side and ascend to her height and excellency.

It is like a monster and unnatural to be ever a child. He is too heartless that never ceaseth to be feeble and weak. The recording of one verse shall be more savoury in thy mouth, and shall nourish thee better if thou break the cod and taste of the sweetness which is within, than if thou shouldest sing the whole psalter , understood only after the literal sense, whereof verily I give admonition a great deal the rather, because I know by experience that this error hath not infected the lay people only, but also the minds of them which profess and shew outward in their habit and name or title, perfect religion, insomuch that they think the very service of God to be put chiefly in this one thing, if they shall say over every day as much as they can of the psalms scarce understood, yea, in the literal sense. 

Neither I think any other thing to be the cause why we see the charitable living of our monks and cloisterers to fail everywhere, to be so cold, so slacked, so faint and so to vanish away, but that they continue all their life and wax old in the letter and never enforce to come to the spiritual knowledge of scripture, neither hear they Christ crying in the Gospel, the flesh, that is to say, the letter, or that ye see outward profiteth not at all. It is the Spirit within that quickeneth or giveth life. They hear not Paul affirming with his master, that the letter killeth, and it is the spirit giveth life. And again we know (saith he) that the law is spiritual, and not carnal. Spiritual things must be compared with spiritual things. In time past the Father of all spiritual gifts would be honoured in the mountain, but now he will be honoured in the spirit. 

Howbeit I despise not the feebleness of them, which for lack of knowledge and understanding doth that they only be able to do , pronouncing the mystical psalms with pure faith without dissimulation or hypocrisy, but rather as in charms and enchantments of magic certain words not understood, no not of them which pronounce them, yet be believed to be of virtue and strength. Even so the words of God, though they be not perfectly understood, nevertheless we must trust that they be profitable to them that either say them or hear them with perfect faith, with pure affection and mind, and that the angels which are present and doth understand be provoked to help them. 

And Paul despiseth not them which say psalms with their mouth which speaketh with tongues that thing they understand not: but he exhorteth them to leave their infancy, and to follow more perfect gifts, unto which if a man cannot attain, not through the default of a corrupt mind, but for lack of capacity, let him not bark against them which enforce better things. And after the precept of Paul let not him which eateth despise him which eateth not, neither he that eateth not judge him that eateth. Nevertheless I will not have thee which art endowed with so happy a wit to be slow and to tarry long in the barren letter, but to make speed unto more secret mysteries, and to help the continual endeavour and enforcement of thine industry and will with often prayers until he open to thee the book clasped with seven clasps, which hath the key of David, the which also shutteth and no man openeth the privities of the Father, which never man knew but his Son, and he to whom his Son hath vouchsafed to disclose them. But whither goeth our style aside? Mine intent was to describe the form of living not of learning: but I turned out of the way thus far while I laboured to shew thee a meet shop from whence thou oughtest to fetch thy new armour and weapons belonging to the new war. 

Enchiridion, or, THE HandBook OF A CHRISTIAN KNIGHT (1501)