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ment, cannot but condemn the poverty of his conception, that thought to obscure himself from his Creator in the shade of the garden, who had beheld him before in the darkness of his chaos, and the great obscurity of nothing; that thought to fly from God, which could not fly himself; or imagined that one tree should conceal his nakedness from God's eye, as another had revealed it unto his own. Those tormented spirits that wish the mountains to cover them, have fallen upon desires of minor absurdity, and chosen ways of less improbable concealment. Though this be also as ridiculous unto reason, as fruitless unto their desires; for he that laid the foundations of the earth cannot be excluded the secrecy of the mountains; nor can there any thing escape the perspicacity of those eyes which were before light, and in whose optics there is no opacity. This is the consolation of all good men, unto whom his ubiquity affordeth continual comfort and security: and this is the infliction of hell, unto whom it affordeth despair and remediless calamity. For those restless spirits that fly the face of the Almighty, being deprived the fruition of his eye, would also avoid the extent of his hand; which, being impossible, their sufferings are desperate, and their afflictions without evasion; until they can get out of Trismegistus his circle, that is, to extend their wings above the universe, and pitch beyond ubiquity.
The second is that speech of Adam unto God, “The woman whom thou gavest me to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” This indeed was an unsatisfactory reply, and therein was involved a very impious error, as implying God the author of sin, and accusing his maker of his transgression. As if he had said, “If thou hadst not given me a woman, I had not been deceived; thou promisedst to make her a help, but she hath proved destruction unto me: had I remained alone, I had not sinned; but thou gavest me a consort, and so I became seduced.” This was a bold and open accusation of God, making the fountain of good the contriver of evil; and the forbidder of the crime, an abettor of the fact prohibited. Surely, his mercy was great, that did not revenge the impeachment of his justice; and his goodness to be admired, that it refuted not his argument in the
punishment of his excusation, 9 and only pursued the first transgression, without a penalty of this the second,
The third was that of Eve, "The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” In which reply there was not only a very feeble excuse, but an erroneous translating her own offence upon another; extenuating her sin from that which was an aggravation, that is, to excuse the fact at all, much more upon the suggestion of a beast, which was before, in the strictest terms, prohibited by her God. For although we now do hope the mercies of God will consider our degenerated integrities unto some minoration of our offences; yet had not the sincerity of our first parents so colourable expectations, unto whom the commandment was but single, and their integrities best able to resist the motions of its transgression. And therefore so heinous conceptions have risen hereof, that some have seemed more angry therewith than God himself: being so exasperated with the offence, as to call in question their salvation, and to dispute the eternal punishment of their maker. Assuredly with better reason may posterity accuse them, than they the serpent, or one another; and the displeasure of the Pelagians must needs be irreconcilable, who, peremptorily maintaining they can fulfil the whole law, will insatisfactorilyo condemn the non-observation of one.
The fourth was that speech of-Cain, upon the demand of God, “Where is thy brother?” and he said, “I know not.” In which negation, beside the open impudence, there was implyed a notable error; for, returning a lie unto his maker, and presuming in this manner to put off the searcher of hearts, he denied the omnisciency of God, whereunto there is nothing concealable. The answer of Satan, in the case of Job, had more of truth, wisdom, and reverence than this : “Whence comest thou, Satan?” and he said, “From compassing the earth.” For, though an enemy of God, and hater of all truth, his wisdom will hardly permit him to falsifie with
9 his goodness to be admired, &c.] their maker.] To dispute his justice in Meaning that God's goodness withheld inflicting for the offence of our first pahim from proving himself just, by pun- rents, eternal punishment on their posishing Adam for his implied charge of terity. injustice.
insatisfactorily.) i. e. unappeasably. to dispute the eternal punishment of Ir.
the Almighty. For, well understanding the omniscience of his nature, he is not so ready to deceive himself as to falsifie unto him, whose cognition is no way deludable. And, therefore, when in the tentation of Christ he played upon the fallacy, and thought to deceive the author of truth, the method of this proceeding arose from the uncertainty of his divinity; whereof had he remained assured, he had continued silent, nor would his discretion attempt so unsucceedable a temptation. And so again at the last day, when our offences shall be drawn into accompt, the subtilty of that inquisitor shall not present unto God a bundle of calumnies or confutable accusations, but will discreetly offer up unto his omnisciency a true and undenyable list of our transgressions."
The fifth is another reply of Cain, upon the denouncement of his curse : “My iniquity is greater than can be forgiven;" for so it is expressed in some translations. The assertion was not only desperate, but the conceit erroneous, overthrowing that glorious attribute of God, his mercy, and conceiving the sin of murder unpardonable. Which, how great soever, is not above the repentance of man, but far below the mercies of God, and was (as some conceive) expiated in that punishment he suffered temporally for it. There are but two examples of this error* in Holy Scripture, and they both for murder, and both as it were of the same person; for Christ was mystically slain in Abel, and, therefore, Cain had some influence on his death, as well as Judas; but the sin had a different effect on Cain from that it had on Judas; and most that since have fallen into it. For they, like Judas, desire death, and not unfrequently pursue it. Cain on the contrary, grew afraid thereof, and obtained a securement from it. Assuredly, if his despair continued, there was punishment enough in life, and justice sufficient in the mercy of his protection. For the life of the desperate equalls
3 And so again at the last day, fc.] at the judgment day as the accuser of all Here is an evident allusion to that singu- men. On the contrary, we are expressly lar passage in which Satan is spoken of told that men will then be judged, "acas the accuser of the brethren, which ac- cording to those things which were writ. cused them before God day and night. ten in the books." But surely it would be incorrect to con- * this error.]
Namely, despair of clude from thence, that he will stand up God's mercy.
the anxieties of death; who in uncessant inquietudes, but act the life of the damned, and anticipate the desolations of hell. 'Tis indeed a sin in man, but a punishment only in devils; who offend not God, but afflict themselves, in the appointed despair of his mercies. And, as to be without hope is the affliction of the damned, so is it the happiness of the blessed; who having all their expectations present, are not distracted with futurities. So is it also their felicity to have no faith; for enjoying the beatifical vision, there is nothing unto them inevident; and in the fruition of the object of faith, they have received the full evacuation of it.
The last speech was that of Lamech, “ I have slain a man to my wound, and a young man to my hurt: If Cain be avenged seven fold, truly Lamech seventy and seven fold.” Now herein there seems to be a very erroneous illation: from the indulgence of God unto Cain concluding an immunity unto himself; that is, a regular protection from a single example, and an exemption from punishment in a fact that naturally deserved it. The error of this offender was contrary to that of Cain, whom the Rabbins conceive that Lamech at this time killed. He despaired of God's mercy in the same fact, where this presumed of it; he by a decollation of all hope annihilated his mercy, this by an immoderancy thereof destroyed his justice. Though the sin were less, the error was as great : for, as it is untrue that his mercy will not forgive offenders, or his benignity co-operate to their conversions, so is it also of no less falsity to affirm His justice will not exact account of sinners, or punish such as continue in their transgressions.
Thus may we perceive how weakly our fathers did err before the flood; how continually, and upon common discourse, they fell upon errors after; it is therefore no wonder we have been erroneous ever since. And being now at greatest distance from the beginning of error, are almost lost in its dissemination, whose ways are boundless, and confess no circumscription.
Of the second Cause of Common Errors; the erroneous
Disposition of the People.
Having thus declared the fallible nature of man, even from his first production, we have beheld the general cause of
But as for popular errors, they are more nearly founded upon an erroneous inclination of the people; as being the most deceptable part of mankind, and ready with open arms to receive the encroachments of error. Which condition of theirs, although deducible from many grounds, yet shall we evidence it but from a few, and such as most nearly and undeniably declare their natures.
How unequal discerners of truth they are, and openly exposed unto error, will first appear from their unqualified intellectuals, unable to umpire the difficulty of its dissentions. For error, to speak largely, is a false judgement of things, or an assent unto falsity. Now, whether the object whereunto they deliver up their assent be true or false, they are incompetent judges.
For the assured truth of things is derived from the principles of knowledge, and causes which determine their verities. Whereof their uncultivated understandings scarce holding any theory, they are but bad discerners of verity, and in the numerous track of error, but casually do hit the point and unity of truth.
Their understanding is so feeble in the discernment of falsities, and averting the errors of reason, that it submitteth to the fallacies of sense, and is unable to rectifie the error of its sensations. Thus the greater part of mankind, having but one eye of sense and reason, conceive the earth far bigger than the sun, the fixed stars lesser than the moon, their figures plain, and their spaces from the earth equidistant. For thus their sense informeth them, and herein their reason cannot rectifie them; and, therefore, hopelessly continuing in mistakes, they live and die in their absurdities; passing their