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thing which may make us wiser. Would their Lordships have burnt such modest persons ?
Suppose in a church where men are put to profess or subscribe to, or against the opinions of Freewill, or Reprobation, or Predetermination, or such like, a humble man should say, these are things above my understanding ; I cannot reach to know what Freewill is, nor whether all causes natural and free be predetermined by Divine premotion, &c. I can say neither it is 80, nor it is not; they are above my reach: would they silence and cast out such an humble person, and forbid him to preach the Gospel of Christ? Perhaps they would : but there are not so many hardened to such inhumanity, as there are men that would deal sharply with one that is as confident as they are on the other side. And those few that were thus silenced, would have the more peace, that they had procured it not by self-conceited singularities ; and the silencers of them would be the more ashamed before all sober persons that shall hear it. Other instances I pass by.
CHAP. X. PROOFS OF THE LITTLE KNOWLEDGE THAT IS
IN THE WORLD, TO MOVE US TO A DUE DIS
TRUST OF OUR UNDERSTANDINGS. If you think this sin of a proud understanding, and pretended knowledge, doth need for the cure of a fuller discovery of its vanity, I know not how to do it more convincingly, than by showing you how little true knowledge is in the world, and consequently that all mankind have cause to think meanly of their understandings.
1. The great imperfection of the sciences, is a plain discovery of it: when mankind hath had above five thousand years already to have grown to more perfection ; yet how much is still dark, and controverted! And how much unknown in comparison of what we know! But above all, though nothing is perfectly known which is not methodically known, yet how few have a true methodical knowledge! He that seeth but some parcels of truth, or seeth them but confusedly, or in a false method, not agreeable to the things, doth know but little, because he knoweth not the place, and order, and respects of truths to one another, and consequently neither their composition, harmony, strength or use.
Like a philosopher that knew nothing but elements, and not mixed bodies, or animate beings : or like an anatomist that is but an anatomist, and can say no more of the body of a man, but that it is made up of atoms, or at most can only enumerate the similar parts; or like a man that knoweth no more of his clock and watch, but as the pieces of it lie on a heap, or at best, setteth some one part out of its place, which disableth the whole engine: or like one that knoweth the chessmen only as they are in the bag, or at least in some disorder. Who will make me so happy as to show me one true scheme of physics, of metaphysics, of logic, yea of theology, which I cannot presently prove guilty of such mistake, confusion, disorder, as tendeth to great error in the subsequent. I know of no small number that have been offered to the world, but never saw
one that satisfied my understanding. And I think I scarcely know any thing to the purpose, till I can draw a true scheme of it, and set each compounding notion in its place.
II. And the great diversity and contrariety of opinions, of notions and of methods, proveth that our knowledge indeed is yet but small. How many methods of logic have we! how many hypotheses in physics, yea, how many contentious volumes written against one another, in phi. losophy and theology itself! What loads of • Videturs' in the schoolmen! How many sects and opinions in religion ! Physicians agree not about men's lives. Lawyers agree not about men's estates; no nor about the very fundamental laws. If there be a civil war, where both sides appeal to the law, there will be lawyers on both sides. And doth not this prove that we know but little !
III. But men's rage and confidence in these contrarieties doth discover it yet more. Read their contentious writings of philosophy and theology; observe their usage of one another ; what contempt, what reproach, what cruelties they can proceed to! The Papist silenceth and burneth the Protestant; the Lutheran silenceth and revileth the Calvinist ; the Calvinist sharply judgeth the Arminians, and so round : and may I not judge that this wisest part of the world is low in knowledge, when not the vulgar only, but the leaders and doctors are so commonly mistaken in their greatest zeal! and that Solomon erred not in saying, “The fool rageth, and is confident."
IV. If our knowledge were not very low, the
long experience of the world would have long ago reconciled our controversies. The strivings and distractions about them, both in philosophy, politics and theology, have torn churches, and raised wars, and set kingdoms on fire, and should in reason be to us as a bone out of joint, which by the pain should force us all to seek for a cure: and surely in so many thousand years, many remedies have beeen tried : the issues of such disingenious-ingenious wars, do furnish men with such experience as should teach them the cure. And yet after so many years' war of wits, to be so witless as to find no end, no remedy, no peace, doth show that the wit of man is not such a thing to be proud of.
V. The great mutability of our apprehensions doth show that there are not many things that we are certain of. Do we not feel in ourselves how new thoughts and new reasons are ready to breed new conjectures in us, and that looketh doubtful to us, upon further thoughts, of which long before we had no doubt. Besides the multitudes that change their very religion, every studious person so oft changeth his conceptions, as may testify the shallowness of our minds.
VI. The general barbarity of the world, the few countries that have polite learning, or true civility, or Christianity, do tell us that knowledge in the world is low : when besides the vast unknown regions of the world, all that are of late discovery in the West Indies, or elsewhere, are found to be so rude and barbarous; some little differing from subtle brutes ; when the vast regions of Africa, of Tartary, and other parts of Asia, are no wiser to this day. When the Roman Eastern empire so easily parted with Christianity, and is turned so much to barbarous ignorance; this showeth what we are ; for these men are all born as capable as we.
VII. Especially the sottish opinions, which the Heathen and Mahometan world do generally entertain, do tell us how dark a creature man is. That four parts of the whole world (if not much more, that is unknown) should receive all the sottish opinions as they do, both against the light of nature, knowing so little of God, and by such vain conceits of their prophets and petty deities; that above the fifth part of the known world, should receive, and so long and quietly retain, so sottish an opinion as Mabometanism is, and build upon it the hopes of their salvation. If the Greek Church can be corrupted into so gross a foolery, why may not the Latin, and the English, if they had the same temptations ? O what a sad proof is here of human folly!
VIII. But in the Latin Church (be it spoken without any comparing Mahometanism with Christianity) the wonder is still greater, and the discovery of the fallaciousness of man's understanding is yet more clear : were there no proof of it, but the very being of Popery in the world, and the reception of it by such and so many, it affordeth the strongest temptation that ever I thought of in the world, to the brutish, to question whether instinct advance not brutes above man! The brutes distrust not their right disposed senses ; but the Papists not only distrust them, but renounce them : bread is no bread, and wine is no wine with them, all men's senses are deceived that think otherwise :