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can play well on an instrument; for they hear thy words, SERM. LVIII. but they do them not: they for a time rejoice in the light of God's messengers, as those Jews did in the light of that burn-John v. 35. ing and shining lamp, St. John the Baptist; but all comes to nothing; but they are backward and careless to perform, at least more than they please themselves, or what suiteth to their fancy, their humour, their appetite, their interest: many hearers will believe only what they like, or what suiteth to their prejudices and passions; many of what they believe will practise that only which sorteth with their temper, or will serve their designs; they cannot conform to unpleasant and unprofitable doctrines: sometimes care choketh the word; sometimes temptation of pleasure, of profit, of honour allureth; sometimes difficulties, hazards, persecutions, discourage from obedience to it.

These particulars are obvious, and by most will be consented to: there is one point which perhaps will more hardly be admitted, which therefore I shall more largely insist upon; it is this:

6. That as in all cases it is our duty to defer much regard to the opinion of our guides, so in some cases it behoveth us to rely barely upon their judgment and advice; those especially among them who excel in dignity and worth, who are approved for wisdom and integrity; their definitions, or the declarations of their opinion, (especially such as are exhibited upon mature deliberation and debate, in a solemn manner,) are ever very probable arguments of truth and expediency; they are commonly the best arguments which can be had in some matters, especially to the meaner and simpler sort of people. This upon many accounts will appear reasonable.

It is evident to experience, that every man is not capable to judge, or able to guide himself in matters of this nature, (concerning divine truth and conscience.) There are child- Rom. xiv. ren in understanding; there are men weak in faith, (or vi 18. knowledge concerning the faith;) there are idiots, anazor, 1 Cor. xiv. (men not bad, but simple,) persons occupying the room of v the unlearned, unskilful in the word of righteousness, who,

1. xv. 1, &c.

16. iii. 2. viii. 10.

SERM. as the Apostle saith, need that one should teach them which LVIII. be the first principles of the oracles of God.



Heb. v. 12. The vulgar sort of men are as undiscerning and injudiciVulgo non ous in all things, so peculiarly in matters of this nature, so non veritas. much abstracted from common sense and experience; whence we see them easily seduced into the fondest conceits and wildest courses by any slender artifice or fair pretence; like Eph. iv. 14. children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.


* Ακριτον ὁ s. M.


There are also some particular cases, a competent information and skill in which must depend upon improvements of mind acquired by more than ordinary study and experience; so that in them most people do want sufficient means of attaining knowledge requisite to guide their judgment or their practice; and for such persons in such cases it is plainly the best, the wisest, and the safest way, to rely upon the direction of their guides, assenting to what they declare, acting what they prescribe, going whither they conduct d.

The very notion of guides, and the design of their office, doth import a difference of knowledge, and a need of reliance upon them in such cases: it signifieth, that we are in some measure ignorant of the way, and that they better know it; and if so, plain reason dictateth it fit that we should follow them and indeed what need were there of guides, to what purpose should we have them, if we can sufficiently ken the way, and judge what we should do, without them?


In the state of learning, (in which the assigning us teachers supposeth us placed,) whatever our capacity may be, yet our judgment at least (for want of a full comprehension of things, which must be discovered in order and by degrees) is imperfect in that state therefore it becometh us not to pretend exercise of judgment, but rather easily to

d'Αλλ ̓ εἰδότες ἑτέροις βέλτιον εἶναι τὰς ἑαυτῶν ἡνίας ἐνδιδόναι τεχνικωτέροις, η ἄλλων ἡνιόχους εἶναι ἀνεπισήμονας, καὶ ἀκοὴν ὑποτιθέναι μᾶλλον εὐγνώμονα, ἢ γλῶσσ σαν κινεῖν ἀπαίδευτον. Νaz. Οr. 1.

-fide calidus, et virtute robustus, &c. Cypr. Ep. 23. de Luciano.

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yield assent to what our teachers, who see farther into the SERM. thing, do assert; The learner, as Seneca saith, is bound to LVIII. be ruled, while he beginneth to be able to rule himself. Regi debet,

se posse regere. Sen.

Δεῖ μανθάνοντα πιτεύειν, A learner should in some measure be dum incipit credulous; otherwise, as he will often fail in his judgment, so he will make little progress in learning; for if he will ad- Ep. 94. mit nothing on his master's word, if he will question all things, if he will continually be doubting and disputing, or contradicting and opposing his teacher, how can instruction proceed? He that presently will be his own master is a bad scholar, and will be a worse master. He that will fly before he is fledged, no wonder if he tumble down.

There are divers obvious and very considerable cases in which persons most contemptuous of authority, and refractory toward their guides, are constrained to rely upon the judgment of others, and are contented to do it, their conscience shewing them unable to judge for themselves: in admitting the literal sense of Scripture, according to translations; in the interpretation of difficult places, depending upon the skill of languages, grammar, and criticism, upon the knowledge of human arts and sciences, upon histories and ancient customs: in such cases, all illiterate persons (however otherwise diffident and disregardful of authority) are forced to see with the eyes of other men, to submit their judgment to the skill and fidelity of their learned guides, taking the very principles and foundations of their religion upon trust and why then consonantly may they not do it in other cases; especially in the resolution of difficult, sublime, obscure, and subtile points, the comprehension whereof transcendeth their capacity?



HEB. xiii. 17.

Obey them that have the rule over you.

SERM. BUT farther,


The more to engage and incline us to the performing this part of our duty, (the regarding, prizing, confiding in the judgment of our guides,) we may consider the great advantages, both natural and supernatural, which they have to qualify them in order to such purposes.

1. They may reasonably be presumed more intelligent and skilful in divine matters than others; for as they have the same natural capacities and endowments with others, (or rather commonly somewhat better than others, as being designed and selected to this sort of employment,) so their natural abilities are by all possible means improved: it is their trade and faculty, unto which their education is directed; in acquiring ability toward which they spend their time, their care, their pains; in which they are continually versed and exercised, (having, as the Apostle speaketh, by reason of use their senses exercised to discern both good and evil;) for which also they employ their supplications and devotions to God.

Many special advantages they hence procure, needful or very conducible to a more perfect knowledge of such matters, and to security from errors; such as are conversing with

studies, which enlarge a man's mind, and improve his judg- SERM, ment; a skill of disquisition about things; of sifting and LIX. canvassing points coming under debate; of weighing the force of arguments, and distinguishing the colours of things; the knowledge of languages, in which the divine oracles are expressed; of sciences, of histories, of practices serving to the discovery and illustration of the truth; exercise in meditation, reading, writing, speaking, disputing, and conference, whereby the mind is greatly enlightened, and the reason strengthened; acquaintance with variety of learned authors, who with great diligence have expounded the holy Scriptures, and with most accuracy discussed points of doctrine; especially with ancient writers, who, living near the apostolical times, and being immediately (or within few degrees mediately) their disciples, may justly be supposed most helpful toward informing us what was their genuine doctrine, what the true sense of their writings: by such means as in other faculties, so in this of theology, a competent skill be obtained; there is no other ordinary or probable way; and no extraordinary way can be trusted, now that men appear not to grow learned or wise by special inspiration or miracle; after that all pretences to such by-ways have been detected of imposture, and do smell too rank of hypocrisy.


Since then our guides are so advantageously qualified to direct us, it is in matters difficult and doubtful (the which require good measure of skill and judgment to determine about them) most reasonable that we should rely upon their authority, preferring it in such cases to our private discretion; taking it for more probable that they should comprehend the truth than we (unassisted by them, and judging merely by our own glimmering light) can do; deeming it good odds on the side of their doctrine against our opinion or conjecture.

They have also another peculiar advantage toward judg ing sincerely of things, by their greater retirement from the world and disengagement from secular interests; the which ordinarily do deprave the understandings and pervert the

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