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extraordinary knowledge; nor have all that have leisure and capacity, self-denial and patience enough for so long and difficult studies. But the devil and ourselves have given to all men pride enough, to desire to be thought to be wiser and better than we are ; and he that cannot be equal with the wisest and best, would be thought to be so: and while all men must needs seem wise, while few are so indeed, you may easily see what must thence follow.
2. And it is not divines only, but all ranks of people, who are sick of this disease. The most unlearned, ignorant people, the silliest women, if they will not for shame say that they are wiser than their teachers in general, yet when it cometh to particular cases, they take themselves to be always in the right: and 0 how confident are they of it! And who more peremptory and bold in their judgments, than those that least know what they say? It is hard to meet with a person above eighteen or twenty years of age, that is not notably tainted with this malady.
And it is not only these great mischiefs in matters of religion which spring from self-conceitedness; but even in our common converse, it is the cause of disorder, ruin, and destruction: for it is the common vice of blinded nature, and it is rare to meet with one that is not notably guilty of it, when they are past the state of professed learners.
1. It is ordinary for self-conceited persons to ruin their own estates, and healths, and lives. When they are rashly making ill bargains, or undertaking things which they understand not, they rush on till they find their error too late ; and poverty, prisons, or their ruined families, must declare their sin : for they have not humility enough to seek counsel in time, nor to take it when it is offered to them. What great numbers have I heard begging relief from others, under the confession of this sin! And far more, even the most of men and women, overthrow their health, and lose their lives by it. Experience doth not suffice to teach them what is hurtful to their bodies; and as they know not, so you cannot convince them that they know not. Most persons, by the excess in quantity of food, do suffocate nature, and lay the foundation of future maladies : and most of the diseases that kill men untimely, are but the effects of former gluttony or excess. But as long as they feel not any present hurt, no man can persuade them but their fulness is for their health, as well as for their pleasure. They will laugh, perhaps, at those that tell them what they do, and what diseases they are preparing for.
Many a one have I known that daily lived in that fulness which I saw would shortly quench the vital spirits ; and fain I would have saved their lives, but I was not able to make them willing. Had I seen another assault them, I could have done somewhat for them ; but when I foresaw their death, I could not save them from themselves. They still said, they found their measures of eating and drinking between meals' refresh them, and they were the worse if they forbore it; and they would not believe me against both appetite, reason and experience. And thus have I seen abundance of my acquaintance wilfully hasten to the grave; and all through an unhumbled, selfconceited understanding, which would not be brought to suspect itself, and know its error.
But the saddest work is that in churches, kingdoms, families, and souls. I must expect that opening the crime will exasperate the guilty.
1. Should I largely open what work this maketh in families, I have too much matter for the complaint. If the wife differ from the husband, she seemeth always in the right: if the servant differ from the master, and the child from the parent, if but a little past infancy, they are always in the right: what is the contention in families, and in all the world, but who shall have his way and will ? If they are of several parties in religion, or if any be against religion itself; if they be foolish, erroneous, or live in any sin, that can without utter impudence be defended, still they are able to make it good : and except children at school, or others that professedly go to be taught, whom can we meet with so ignorant or mistaken, that will not still think, when even superiors differ from them and reprove them, that they are in the right?
2. And what mischiefs doth it cause in churches ! When the Papal tyrannical part are so confident that they are in the right, that when they silence preachers, and imprison and burn Christians, they think it not their duty so much as to hear what they have to say for themselves. Or if they hear a few words, they have not the patience to hear all, or impartially to try the cause : but they are so full of themselves and overwise, that it must seem without any more ado a crime to dissent from them, or contradict them. And thus proud self-conceitedness smiteth the shepherds, scattereth the flocks, and will allow the church of Christ no ,unity or peace. And the popular crowd are usually or often as self-conceited in their way; and if they never so unreasonably oppose their teachers, how hard it is to make them know or once suspect that they are mistaken! O what mutinies in Christ's armies, what schisms, what confusions, what scandals, what persecutions in the church, what false accusations, what groundless censures, do proud self-conceited understandings cause !
But scarcely any where is it more lamentably seen than among injudicious, unexperienced ministers! What work is made in the Christian world, by sect against sect, and party against party, in cases of controversy, by most men's bold and confident judging of what they never truly studied, tried, or understood ! Papists against Protestants, Protestants against Papists, Lutherans (or Arminians) and Calvinists, &c. usually charge one another by bare hearsay, or by a few sentences or scraps collected out of their writings by their adversaries ; contrary to the very scope of the whole discourse or context. And men cannot have leisure to peruse the books, and to know before they judge. And then they think that seeing their reverend doctors have so reported their adversaries before them, it is arrogance or injury to think that they knew not what they said, or else belied them. And on such supposition the false judging doth go on. Of all the pulpits that often trouble the people with invectives against this side or that, especially in the controversies of Predestination, Grace, and Freewill, how few do we hear that know what they talk against !
Yea, those young or unstudied men, who might easily be conscious how little they know, are ready to oppose and contemn the most ancient studied divines ; when if ever they would be wise men, they should continue scholars to such, even while they are teachers of the people.
I will not presume to open the calamities of the world, for want of rulers truly knowing their subjects' case, but judging hastily by the reports of adversaries : but that rebellions ordinarily hence arise I may boldly say. When subjects that know not the reasons of their ruler's actions, are so overwise as to make themselves judges of that which concerneth them not: and how few be they that think not themselves wiser than all their guides and governors !
And lastly, by this sin it is that the wisdom of the wisest is as lost to the world : for let a man know never so much more than others, after the longest, hardest studies, the self-conceitedness of the ignorant riseth up against it, or maketh them incapable of receiving it, so that he can do little good to others.
I conclude again, that this is the plague and misery of mankind, and the cause of all sin and shame and ruin, -that ignorant unhumbled understandings will be still judging rashly before they have thoroughly tried the case, and will not suspend till they are capable of judging, nor be convinced that they know not what they know not, but be confident in their first or ungrounded apprehensions.