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a serious Christian to cast his soul upon any hurtful or dangerous disadvantage. Though Daniel and his companions may live well on pulse, yea, and Ezekiel upon bread baked with dung, when God will have it so, yet no wise man will choose such a diet; especially if his diseases require the most exact diet, or his weakness the most restorative, and all too little; which, alas, is the common case. Yet this caution you must here take with you, 1. That you pretend not your own benefit, to the common loss or hurt of others. 2. And that you consider as well where you may do most good, as where you may get most; for the way of greatest service, is the way of greatest gain.
Direct. v. • Understand what sort and measure of belief it is that you owe to your teachers, that so your incredulity hinder not your faith in Christ, nor your over-much credulity betray you to heresy, nor make you the servants of men, contrary to Matt. xxiii. 8—10. Eph. iv. 13. 2 Cor. i. 24. Acts xx. 30. We see on one side how many poor souls are cheated into schism and dangerous errors, by forsaking their teachers and refusing their necessary help, and all upon this pretence, that they must not make men the lords of their faith, nor pin their faith on the minister's sleeve, nor take their religion upon trust. And on the other side we see among the Papists, and in every sect, what lamentable quam multas ab episcopo de symbolo conciones andissent, diu et multum cum catechista contulissent; post quas omnes curas et meditationes, magnum erat si recta sentirent, consentanea responderent, &c. and he addeth, p. 360. Equidem sic opinor, neque ab ea opin'one avelli unquam potero, quin pessimo præceptori omnes esse auditores hebetes credam. A bad teacher bath always bad scholars. Even in the Roman church how little their authority can do against prosaveness and negligence, the same Acosta sheweth, lib. vi. c. ii, p. 519. Cum in provinciali concilio Limensi ab omnibus Peruensibus episcopis cæterisque gravibus viris ad ea vitia emendanda multum operæ et studii collatum sit, atque edita extent egregia decreta de reformatione permulta, nihil tamen amplius perfectum est, quan si ab otiosis nautis de republica moderanda consultatem esset. Bonific. Mogunt. Ep. iji. mentioneth it as the error of a new sprung sect, that heinous sinners even so continuing may be priests. And Ep. Ixxii, it is said, No man may be made a priest that hath sinned mortally after baptism, and, Si is qui tam in episcopatu vel presbyterio positus mortale peccatum aliquod admiserit, non debet offerre panes Domino, quanto magis—patienter retrahat se ab hoc non tam honore quam onere, et aliorum locum qui digni sunt non ambiat occupare. Qui enim in erudiendis et instituendis ad virtutem populis præest, necesse est, ut in omnibus sanctus sit, et in nullo reprehensibilis habeatur. Qui enim aliquem de peccato arguit, ipse á peccato debet esse immunis. Auct. Bib. Pat. Tom.ii. p. 81. If there were somewhat too much strictness in the ancient exclusion of them that heinously sinned after baptism from the priesthood, let not us be as much too loose.
work is made by an over-much credulity and implicit belief of ambitious, worldly, factious, proud and erroneous guides. That you may escape both these extremes, you must observe the truth of these conclusions following, which shew you what it is that your teachers have to reveal unto you, and in what order, and how far the several particulars are, or are not to be taken upon their words.
And first, as a preparative, it is presupposed, (1.) That you find yourself ignorant, and one that needeth a teacher: for if you think you know all that you need to know already, you are like a full bottle that will hold no more. (2.) It is presupposed that you take the man that you learn of to be wiser than yourself and fit to teach you: either because fame or other men's reports have told you so (as the woman John iv. drew the Samaritans to Christ), or because his own profession of skill doth make you think so (as you will hearken to him that professeth to be able to teach you any art or science); or else because your present hearing his discourse doth convince you of his wisdom; by one of these means you are brought to think that he is one that you may learn of, and is fit for you to hear; (so that here is no need that first you take him to be infallible, or that you know which is the true church, as the Papists say). These are supposed.
The doctrines which he is to teach you are these, and in this method to be taught. 1. He will teach you the natural knowledge of yourself; that being a man, you are a rati- . onal, free agent, made by another for his will and use, and by him to be ruled in order to your ultimate end, being wholly bis, and at his disposal.
2. He will next teach you that there is a God that made you, and what he is, and what relation he standeth in to you, and you to him, as your Creator, your Owner, your Ruler, and your Benefactor, and your End: and what duty you owe him in these relations, to submit to him, and resign yourselves to him as his own, to be obedient to all his laws, and to love him and delight in him: and this with all your heart, and soul, and might; even to serve him with all the powers of your soul and body, and with your estates and all his blessings.
3. He will next teach you that this God hath made your souls immortal, and that there is a life after this where everlasting happiness or misery will be your part, and where the great rewards and punishments are executed by the Judge of all the world as men have behaved themselves in this present life. That your end and happiness is not here, but in the life to come, and that this life is the way and time of preparation, in which everlasting happiness is won or lost,
Thus far he needeth no supernatural proof of what he saith ; but can prove it all to you from the light of nature : and these things you are not primarily to receive of him as a testifier by mere believing him; but as a teacher, by learning of him the evidences by which you may by degrees come to know these things yourselves.
Yet it is supposed that all along you give him so much credit as the difference between his knowledge and yours doth require, so far as it appeareth to you: as you will hear a physician, a lawyer, a philosopher, or any man with reyerence, while he discourseth of the matters of his own profession; as confessing his judgment to be better than your's, and therefore more suspecting your own apprehensions than his. Not but that the truth may compel you to discern it, though you should come with no such reverence or respect to him ; but then you cast yourself upon much disadvantage irrationally ; and this human belief of him is but a medium to your learning, and so to the knowledge of the matter; so that you do not stop and rest in his authority or credibility, but only use it in order to your discovery of that evidence which you rest in, which as a teacher he acquaints you with.
These things being thus far revealed by natural light, are (usually) at first apprehended by natural reason, not so as presently to put or prove the soul in a state of saving grace; but so as to awaken it to make further inquiry; and so when the soul is come so far as to see the same truths by supernatural grace in the supernatural revelation of the Holy Scriptures, then they become more effectual and saving, which before were known but preparatorily : and so the same truths are then both the objects of knowledge and of faith.
4. Having acquainted you with man's ultimate end and happiness in the life to come, the next thing to be taught
you by the ministers of Christ, is, that Christ as our Saviour, and faith, and repentance, and sincere obedience to be performed by us through his grace, is the way to heayen, or the means by which we must attain this end. Though the knowledge of the preacher's wisdom, piety and credibility remoye some impediments which would make the receiving of this the more difficult to you, yet you are not to take it barely on his word, as a point of human faith; but you are to call for his proof of it, that you may see better reasons than his affirmations for the entertainment of it.
5. The proof that he will give you is in these two propoșitions, 1. God's revelations are all true. 2. This is one of God's revelations: this is an argument, Whatsoever God saith is true: but this God saith, therefore this is true. The first proposition you are not to take upon the trust of his word, but to learn of him as a teacher to know it in its proper evidence : for it is the formal object of your faith : the veracity of God is first known to you, by the same evidence and means as you know that there is a God: and then it is by the force of this that you believe the particular truths which are the material object of faith. And the second proposition that God hath revealed this, is orderly to be first proved, and so received upon its proper evidence ; and not taken merely vpon your teacher's word : yet if you do believe him by a human faith as a man that is likely to know what he saith, and this in order to a divine faith, it will not hinder, but help your divine faith and salvation; and is indeed no more than is your duty.
Here note, 1. That primarily these two great principles of faith, ‘God is true,' and 'this is God's revelation, are not themselves ? credenda!, the material objects of divine faith, but of knowledge. 2. That yet the result of both is . de fide,' matter of faith. 3. And the same principles are secondarily de fide, as it is that there is a God. For though they are first to be known by natural evidence, yet when the Scripture is opened to us, we shall find them there revealed ; and so the same thing may be the object both of knowledge and of faith. 4. And faith itself is a sort of knowledge : for though human faith have that uncertainty in its premises (for the most part), as forbiddeth us to say (properly): I know this to be true, because such a man said it;' yet divine faith hath that certainty which may make it an excellent sort of knowledge ; as I have proved copiously elsewhere. In believing man we argue thus, · Whatsoever so wise and honest a man saith, is credible, that is, most likely to be true ; but this he saith: Therefore, &c. But in believing God we argue thus, · Whatever God saith is credible, that is, as infallible truth ; but this God saith : Therefore, &c.' So that the word “credible,' signifieth not the same thing in the two arguments; nor are divine faith, and human faith the same.
6. The next thing that the preacher hath to teach you, is the proof of the aforesaid minor proposition (for the major was proved in the proof of a deity): and that is thus; The Gospel which Christ and his apostles first preached, and is now delivered in the sacred Scriptures is the Word, or infallible revelation of God: but this doctrine, that Christ, with faith, and repentance, and obedience on our parts, are the way to life eternal, is the Gospel which Christ and his apostles first preached, &c. Therefore it is the Word of God. For the minor you need not take your teacher's word, if you can read; for you may see it in the Bible, (of which more anon): but the major is that which all men will desire to be assured of. That the Gospel is God's Word. And for that, though a belief of your teacher is a help and good preparatory, yet you are not there to stop, but to use him as a teacher to shew you the truth of it in the proofs : else you must take any thing for God's Word, which your teacher affirmeth to be such. And the proof which he will give you, must be some divine attestation which may be shewed to those whom we would convince.
7. This divine attestation, which he is next to shew you, hath many parts, that it may be complete and satisfactory. 1. God's antecedent testimony. 2. His inherent or impressed testimony. 3. His adherent, concomitant testimony. 4. His subsequent testimony. 1. God's antecedent testimony by which he attested the Gospel, is the train of promises, prophecies, types, and the preparing ministry of John, which all foretold Christ, and were fulfilled in him. 2. God's impressed testimony is that image and superscription of God (in his governing wisdom, holiness, and love,) which is inimitably engraven on the Gospel ; as an image