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believe no falsehood, nor put darkness for light: much less to father men's lies, or errors, or conceits on God, and to lay your salvation on it as if they are all God's word. How dreadful a thing is this if it prove false! Is it not blaspheming God
No man in his wits then but a partial designer can look that you should make haste, or go any further than you have assuring or convincing evidence. If you know that any sect doth err, you need no preservative: if you do not, tell them, “I am ignorant of this matter, I will learn as fast as I can; not neglecting greater matters; and I will be neither for you, nor against you, further than I can know.'
And as to the former objection, of being still infants, I further answer, that as feigned knowledge is no knowledge, so manhood consisteth not in being of many uncertain opinions ; no, not so much in knowing many little controverted things, as in getting a clearer, more affecting, powerful, practical knowledge and belief of our Christianity, and the great and sure things which we know already; and in love and obedience practising of them. He is the strongest Christian who loveth God best, and hath most holiness; and he knoweth God better than any others do.
By this much you may see that the world is full of counterfeit faith, knowledge, and religion ; even fancy and belief of men, and their own opinions, which go under these names. One turneth an Anabaptist, another a Separatist, another an Antinomian, another a Pela. gian, and another a Papist, when if you try them
you shall find that they neither understand what they turn to, nor what they are against : they do but turn to his side, who hath the best advantage to persuade them, either by insinuating into their affections, or by plausible reasonings ; they talk for one doctrine, and against another, when they understand neither.
Reader, I advise thee therefore as thou lovest thy soul, 1. Not to neglect or delay any true knowledge that thou canst attain. 2. But not to be rash and hasty in judging. 3. Nor to take shows and men's opinions, or anything below a certifying or notifying evidence of truth, to make up thy Christian faith and knowledge. 4. And till thou see such certain evidence, suspend, and tell them that solicit thee, that thou understandest not the matter, and that thou art neither for them nor against them; but wilt yield as soon as truth doth certainly appear to thee.
CHAP. VII. INFERENCE 2. WHAT IS THE GREAT PLAGUE
AND DIVIDER OF THE CHRISTIAN WORLD. FALSELY PRETENDED KNOWLEDGE and FAITH are the great plague and dividers of the Christian world.
Even among divines this plague is most pernicious, as being of most public influence. Take him that never had a natural acuteness of wit, nor is capable of judging of difficult points, if he be but of long standing, and grey hairs, and can preach well to the people, and have studied long; he is not only confident of his fitness to judge of
that which he never understood, but his reputation of wisdom, must be kept up among the people by his supercilious talking against what he understandeth not.* Yea, if he be one that never macerated his flesh with the difficult and long studies of the matter, without which hard points will never be well digested and distinctly understood; yet, if he be a doctor, and have lived long in a reputation for wisdom, his igno. rant, flashy conjectures, and hasty, superficial apprehensions, must needs go for the more excellent knowledge. And if you put him to make good any of his contradictions to the truth, his magisterial contempt, or his uncivil wrath, and unmannerly interruptions of you in your talk must go for reason: and if he cannot resist the strength of your evidence, he cannot bear the hearing of it; but like a scold, rather than a scholar, taketh your words out of your mouth before you come to the end ; as if he said, 'Hold your tongue, and hear me who am wiser : I came to teach, and not to hear.' If you tell him how uncivil it is, not patiently to hear you to the end, he thinks you wrong him, and are too bold to pretend to a liberty to speak without interruption; or he will tell you that you are too long; he cannot remember all at once. If you reply that the sense of the former part of a speech usually depends much on the latter part, and he cannot have your sense till he have all; and that he must not answer before he understandeth you; and that if his memory fail, he should take notes; and that to have uninterrupted turns of
* Yea, now it is also young, ignorant novices that are sick of the same feverish temerity.
speaking, is necessary in the order of all sober conferences, without which they will be but noise and strife ; he will let you know that he came not to hear, or keep any laws of order or civility, but to have a combat with you for the reputation of wisdom or orthodoxy: and what he wants in reason and evidence, he will make up in ignorant confidence and reviling, and call you by some ill name or other, that shall go for a confutation.
But yet this is not the usual way: it is too great a hazard to the reputation of their wisdom, to cast it on a dispute. The common way is, never to speak to the person himself; but if any one cross their conceits, or become the object of their envy, they backbite him among those that reverence their wisdom ; and when they are sure that he is far enough out of hearing, they tell their credulous followers, O such a man holdeth unsound or dangerous opinions ! Take heed how you hear him or read his writings; this or that heresy they savour of;' when the poor man knoweth not what he talketh of. And if any one have the wit to say to him, 'Sir, he is neither so sottish, nor so proud as to be incapable of instruction; if you are so much wiser than he, why do you not teach him ?' he will excuse his omission and commission together with a further calumny, and say, These erroneous persons will hear no reason : it is in vain.' If he be asked, “Sir, did you ever try?' it is likely he must confess that he did not, unless some magisterial rebuke once went for evidence of truth. If the hearers (which is rare) have so much Christian wit and honesty, as to say, • Sir, ministers above all men must be no backbiters, nor unjust : you know it is unlawful for us to judge another man, till we hear him speak for himself. If you would have us know whether he or you be in the right, let us hear you both together :' his answer would be like Cardinal Turnon at the conference at Poisie, and as the Papists' ordinarily is, “It is dangerous letting heretics speak to the people, and it agreeth not with our zeal for God, to hear such odious things uttered against the truth.'
In a word, there are more that have the spirit of a pope in the world, than one, even among them that cry out against Popery, and that would be fain to be taken for the dictators of the world, whom none must dissent from, much less contradict. And there are more idolaters than heathens, who would have their ignorant understandings to be instead of God, the uncontrolled director of all about them.
But if these men have not any confidence in their self-sufficiency, if they can but embody in a society of their minds, or gather into a synod, he must needs go for a proud and arrogant schismatic at least, that will set any reason and evidence of truth, against the magisterial ignorance, when it is the major vote.
The very truth is, the great Benefactor of the world hath not been pleased to dispense his benefits equally, but with marvellous disparity. As he is the God of nature, he hath been pleased to give a natural capacity for judiciousness and acuteness in difficult speculations but to few. And as he is the Lord of all, he hath not given men equal education, nor advantages for such