The waters were always crystal clear. The rocks below, easy to discern. We even had a map to guide us.
We simply failed to keep watch.
And allowed treasure-hunters to reinterpret our map.
Roger Fenton (1565-1615) was a Fellow of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge University, rector of St Stephen’s in London, and one of the translators of the 1611 King James Bible. He declared that “Not until sixteen hundred years after Christ did interest find any defenders.” The following excerpt* is from his “Treatise On Usury” (London, 1612, pp. 2-3; 48-49); my bold emphasis added:
“…many Christians of reformed Churches being urged to flee persecution, and to convert their goods into money, yet lacking skill to employ the same in a strange country; tender hearts thought it a pity that usury in such a case were not lawful; and nimble wits began to search, if the matter might not be so handled, and qualified by cautions and limitations, that some such thing as we call usury might be practiced. For such is the subtlety of Satan, that if he cannot hinder the growth of good corn, yet tares shall grow up with it. He thought that when men were so busied about the reforming of those gross abuses of superstition; that then was the only time to begin a new seed-plot of usury, of sacrilege, of liberty and profaneness in the other extreme. Which vices, howsoever they were little feared or thought upon in those days; yet by our time we may easily perceive to what ripeness they have grown, which then were but as seeds under the ground…
“He that turns himself into an angel of light can set so fair a gloss upon a work of darkness, that the iniquity of it will hardly be discerned. He can so cunningly twist good and evil together, that the appearance of usury shall be presented without a show of injustice.
“…the gain of usury is a sweet gain, without labor, without cost, without peril… it is so pleasant and profitable a sin. This advantage then has the devil gotten against us in the practice of this sin; that usury being a trade so gainful in respect to others; so easy, so cheap, so secure without all labor… being also so common… it has bewitched even the consciences of those who are most tender in other matters…
“As usury is a sin in itself… so it is branded by the Holy Ghost for a sin of that nature and degree which does make shipwreck of conscience: the continuation of which sin cannot stand with the grace and favor of God.
“…Let some of those tender consciences who are so urgent to call for warrant out of the book of God for every ceremony and form in the Church, seek a warrant for this their practice (of usury), which so nearly concerns them, and let them seek it at the oracle of God, who has not left it, as he has many other things, to the discretion of the Church, or wisdom of the Commonwealths; but has vouchsafed to determine it in his own book to our hands: to set down an express law against it in Exodus; to renew that law again and again in Leviticus and Deuteronomy; to ratify and confirm it with no other words than he himself used at the publishing of the whole moral law…
“Since it has pleased Almighty God thus fully and exactly to express his will for our resolution in this point; let us not be ready to flee from his express word to human interventions — I mean those devised distinctions which favor the service of Mammon more than the service of God; which favor the things that be of men, to wit, the profit, the ease, the security, the sweet gain of interest; a trade which flesh and blood must needs affect and be greatly inclined unto.”
* Source: Usury In Christendom: The Mortal Sin That Was, and Now Is Not, Michael Hoffman (2013)