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Answ. 1. Not any real useful knowledge at all, whilst every thing keepeth its proper place, and due esteem, as is said.
2. That which of itself primarily is of so small use, as that it falleth under the contempt of the apostles, yet by accident, through the subtlety of Satan, and the viciousness of the world, may become to some men in some measure necessary. And here cometh in the calamity of divines. Of how little use it is to me in itself to know what is written in many hundred books; which yet by accident it much concerneth me to know! And if God restrain him not, the devil hath us here at so great an advantage, that he can make our work almost endless, and hath almost done it already ; yea, can at any time divert us from the greatest truth and works, by making another at that time more necessary.
If he raise up Socinians, our task is increased ; we must read their books, that we may be able to confute them; so must we when he raiseth up Libertines, Familists, Seekers, Quakers, and such other sects. If he stir up controversies in the church, about Government, Worship, Ce. remonies, Circumstances, Words, Methods, &c., we must read so much as to understand all, that we may defend the truth against them. If Papists will lay the stress of all their controversies on Church History, and the Words of Ancients; we must read and understand all, or they will triumph. If Schoolmen will build their theology on Aristotle, all men have not the wit with the Iberian legate at the Florentine Council in Sagyrophilus, to cry against the preacher
• What have we to do with Aristotle ?'
But if we cannot deal with them at their own weapons, they will triumph. If cavillers will dispute only in mood and figure, we must be able there to overtop them, or they will insult. If the plica, scurvy, or other new diseases do arise, the physician must know them all, if he will cure them. And hence it is that we say, that a lawyer must know the law; and a physician must know physic, medicine, &c. But a divine should know all things that are to be known ; because the diseased world hath turned pretended knowledge into the great malady, which must be cured; but is the thing itself of any great worth ; is it any great honour to know the vanity of philosophical pedantry; and to be able to overdo such gamesters, any more than to beat one at a game at chess, or for a physician to know the plague or leprosy?
3. Yet indeed, as all things are sanctified to the holy, and pure to the pure ; a wise man may and must make great use of common, inferior kinds of knowledge : especially the true, grammatical sense of Scripture words, the true precepts of logic, the certain parts of real physics and pneumatology; for God is seen in his works as in a glass : and there to search after him and behold him, is a noble, pleasant work and knowledge. And I would that no Israelite may have need to go down to the Philistines for instruments of this sort.
4. It is not forbidden to any man to know that measure of wisdom which he truly hath ; God bindeth us not to err, nor to call light darkness, or truth error, or to belie ourselves, or deny his gifts. l. It is desirable for a man absolutely to know as much as he can, preferring still the greatest things, and to know that he knoweth them, and not to be sceptical, and doubt of all: 2. It is a duty for a converted sinner comparatively to know that he is wiser than he was in his sinful state, and to give God thanks for it. 3. It is his duty who groweth in wisdom, and receiveth new accessions of light, to know that he so groweth, and to give God thanks, and to welcome each useful truth with joy. 4. It is the duty of a good and wise man comparatively to know that he is not as foolish as the ungodly; nor to think that every wicked man, or ignorant person whom he should pity and instruct, is already wiser than he; every teacher is not to be so foolish as to think that all his flock are more judicious than himself. In a word, it is not a true estimate of the thing or of ourselves, that is forbidden us; but a false. It is not belying ourselves, nor ingratitude to God, nor a contradiction, to know a thing, and not to know that I know it, nor an ignorance of our own minds, which is commanded us under the pretence of humility; but it is a proud conceit, that we know what we do not know, that is condemned.
II. WHAT PRETENDED KNOWLEDGE IS CONDEMNED, AND WHAT PHILOSOPHY
AND LEARNING IT IS THAT PAUL DISLIKED.
MORE distinctly, 1. It is condemnable for any man to think himself absolutely or highly wise : because our knowledge here is so poor, and dark, and low, that, compared with our ignorance, it is little : we know not what or how many, or how great the things are which we do not know ; but in general we may know that they are incomparably more and greater than what we do know ; we know now but as children, and darkly, and in a glass or riddle.(1 Cor. xiii. 11, 12.) In the sense that Christ saith, none is good but God, we may say that none is wise but God. For a man must know (unless he be a very sot) that he knoweth nothing perfectly in the world ; that he knoweth but little of any worm, or fly, or pile of grass which he seeth, or of himself, his soul or body, or any creature ; for this man to. assume the title of a wise man, is arrogant, unless comparatively understood, when he is ignorant of ten thousandfold more than he knoweth, and the predominant part denominateth. The old inquirers had so much modesty, as to arrogate no higher name than Philosophers.
2. It is very condemnable for any man to be proud of his understanding : while it is so low, and poor, and dark, and hath still so much matter to abase us. He knoweth not what a dungeon poor mortals are in, nor what a darkened thing a sinful mind is, nor what a deplorable state we are in, so far from the heavenly light, no, nor what it is to be a man in flesh, who findeth not much more cause of humiliation than of pride in his understanding. O how much ado have I to keep up from utter despondency under the consciousness of so great ignorance, which no study, no means, no time doth overcome. How long, Lord, shall this dungeon be our dwelling ! and how long shall our foolish souls be loath to come into the celestial light!
3. It is sinful folly to pretend to know things unrevealed and impossible to be known.
“ The secret things belong unto the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us, and to our children for ever, that we do them." (Deut. xxix. 29.) “ For who hath known the mind of the Lord ? or who hath been his counsellor ?” (Rom. xi. 34.) And how many such compose the theology of some, and the philosophy of more.
4. It is sinful folly to pretend to know that which is impossible or unrevealed to him, though it be possible and revealed to others. For as the eye, so the understanding must have its necessary light, and due constitutions and conditions of the object, and of itself; or else it cannot understand.
5. It is sinful folly to pretend to certainty of knowledge, when either the thing is but probable, or at best, we have but doubtful opinions or conjectures of it, and no true certainty.
6. It is sinful folly to pretend that we know or receive anything by Divine faith (or revelation) when we have it but by human faith, or probable conjecture from natural evidence. As soon as men are persuaded by a sect, a seducer, or a selfish priest, to believe what he saith, abundance presently take such a persuasion for a part of their religion, as if it were a believing God.
7. It is sinful folly to take on us that we know what we know not at all : because we do but know that it is knowable, and that wise men know it, and as soon as we understand that it