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Christ and other men, is that he teacheth effectively (as God spake when he created, and as he said to Lazarus, Arise :) He giveth wisdom by giving the Holy Ghost : All other teachers speak but to the ears ; but he only speaketh to the heart; were it not for this he would have no church.—I should never else have believed in him myself, nor would others, seriously and savingly. Aristotle and Plato speak but words, but Christ speaketh Life and light and LOVE, in all countries, through all ages unto this day. This above all is his witness in the world. He will not do his work on souls, by enticing words, of the pedantic wisdom of the world ; but by illuminating minds, and changing hearts and lives, by his effectual operations on the heart. God used no more rhetoric nor logic than a philosopher, when he said “ Let there be light,” but he used more power. Indeed the first chapter of Genesis (though abused by ignorants and cabalists) hath more true philosophy in it than the presumptuous will understand. But operations are the glorious oratory of God, and his wisdom shineth in his works, and in things beseeming the heavenly Majesty; and not in childish conceits, and toys of wit.
Let us therefore cease quarrelling, and learn wisdom of God, instead of teaching and reprebending him. Let us magnify the mercy and wisdom of our Redeemer, who hath brought life and immortality to light, and certified us of the matters of the world above, as beseemed a messenger sent from God; and hath taught us, according to the matter, and our capacity, and not with trifling, childish notions.
VI. OF THE CAUSES OF THIS DISEASE OF PRE
FIDENCE, OR PROUD PRETENDED KNOW
LEDGE, IN ORDER TO THE CURE. The cure of prefidence and pretended knowledge, could it be wrought, would be the cure of souls, families, churches, and kingdoms. But alas, how low are our hopes! Yet that may be done on some, which will not be done on all or most. And to know the causes, and oppugn them, is the chief part of the cure, so far as may be hoped for.
I. Several ways doth PRIDE cause pretended knowledge. 1. By thinking that our understandings are so good as that without great study we can know truth from falsehood; and so making us venture to judge of things at the first hearing or reading ; which we cannot be capable of judging of, under long and diligent studies; because “recipitur ad modum recipientis.' Therefore it is that when a man by great success in studies hath made things as plain as words can make them, so that you would think that all students should presently be wise at easy rates by the light which he hath set up to them, they are half as long in learning for all that, as if he had never given them such a help. And therefore it is, that we cannot leave our learning to posterity; the hindrance being in the receiver's incapacity: we cannot master the plainest precepts, but by much time and study.
2. Pride maketh men hasty in concluding, because they are not humbled to a just suspicion
of their own apprehensions. And men stay not to prove and try things before they judge.
3. Pride maketh men insensible how much they are ignorant of, in all their knowledge.
4. And it causeth men to slight the reasons and judgments of other men, by which they might learn, or at least might be taught to judge considerately, and suspend their own.
If overvaluing a man's own apprehensions be ide (as it is), then certainly pri is one of the commonest sins in the world, and particularly among men professing godliness, who upon every poor surmise or report are condemning those, that they do not thoroughly know, and in every petty controversy, they are all still in the right, though of never so many minds.
II. Another cause of pretended knowledge is the want of a truly tender conscience : which should make men fear, lest they should err, lest they should deserve the curse of putting “ light for darkness, and darkness for light; evil for good, and good for evil :” (Isa. v. 20 :) and should make them afraid lest they should defile their minds, resist the truth, blaspheme God or dishonour him, by fathering errors on him, and lest they should prove snares to men's souls, and a scandal and trouble to the Church of God. A tender conscience would not have espoused such opinions under one or two or many years deliberation, (if they were true), which an Antinomian, or other sectary will take up in a few days. O, saith the tender conscience, what if I should err, and prove a snare to souls, and a scandal and dishonour to the Church of God ! &c.
III. Another cause of pretended knowledge is a blind zeal for knowledge and godliness in the general, while men know not what it is they are zealous of. They think it is a necessary part of sincerity to receive the truth speedily without delay; and therefore they take a present concluding, for a true receiving of it. And he that soonest taketh up that which is offered him, probably as a part of godliness ; is taken for the most resolved downright convert. Which is true in case of evident truths, where it is the will that by vice suspendeth the mind. But not in dark and doubtful cases.
IV. Another great cause of pretended false knowledge and confidence is the unhappy prejudices which our minds contract even in our cbilhood, before we have time,and wit, and conscience to try things by true deliberation. Children and youth must receive much upon trust, or else they can learn nothing : but then they have not wit to proportion their apprehensions to the evidence, whether of credibility or certainty; and so fame and tradition, and education and the country's vote, do become the ordinary parents of many lies; and folly maketh us to fasten so fearlessly in our first apprehensions, that they keep open the door to abundance more falsehoods! and it must be clear teachers, or great, impartial studies, of a self-denying mind, with a great blessing of God, that must deliver us from prejudice, and undeceive us. And therefore all the world seeth, that almost all men are of the religion of their country or their parents, be it never so absurd ; though with the Mahometans they believe the nonsense of a very sot, (once reading a quarter of whose Alcoran one would think should cure a man of common reason, of any inclination to his belief.) And among the Japonians, even the eloquent Bonzii believe in Amida and Xaca ; to mention the belief of the Chinese, the people of Pegu, Siam, and many such ; yea, the Americans, the Brasilians, Lappians, &c., that correspond with devils would be a sad instance of the unhappiness of men's first apprehensions and education. And what doth the aforesaid instance of Popery come short herein : these tell us how prejudice, and education, and company can make men believe common, unseen miracles, and yet deny all men's
V. Another cause, is, conversing only with of our own mind, and side, and interest; and not seeking familiar, loving acquaintance with those that differ from us : whereby men deprive themselves of hearing half that is to be heard, and of knowing much that is to be known. And their proud vice hardeneth them in this way, to say, I have read, and I have heard enough of them; I know all that they can say.' And if a man soberly speak to them, their vices of pride, presumption and passion, will scarce patiently bear him to go on without interruption to the end; but the wizard saith, “I know already what you will say, and you are tedious ; and do you think that so wise a man as I, hath nothing to do but hear such a fool as you talk ?' Thus proud men are ordinarily so full of themselves, that they can scarcely endure to hear, or at least learn anything from others, nor restrain their eagerness to speak, even so long as either just information, or human civility requireth.