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upon them. In some cases 'a supposition of that which is false may be made, while it no way tends to infer the truth of it: but nothing must be built upon that falsehood, as intimating it to be a truth. False suppositions cunningly and secretly worked into arguments, are very ordinary instruments of deceit.
Direct. XIII. · Plead not uncertainties against certainties:' but make certain points the measure to try the uncertain by. Reduce not things proved and sure to those that are doubtful and justly controverted : but reduce points disputable to those that are past doubt. - Direct. xiv. · Plead not the darker texts of Scripture against those that are more plain and clear, nor a few texts against many that are as plain:' for that which is interpreted against the most plain and frequent expressions of the same Scripture is certainly misinterpreted.
Direct. xv. ? Take not obscure prophecies for precepts.' The obscurity is enough to make you cautious how you venture yourself in the practice of that which you understand not; but if there were no obscurity, yet prophecies are no warrant to you to fulfil them ; no, though they be for the church's good. Predictions tell you but de eventu' what will come to pass, but warrant not you to bring it to pass : God's prophecies are ofttimes fulfilled by the wickedest men and the wickedest means. As by the Jews in killing Christ, and Pharaoh in refusing to let Israel go, and Jehu in punishing the house of Ahab. Yet many self-conceited persons think that they can fetch that out of the Revelations or the prophecies of Daniel, that will justify very horrid crimes, while they use wicked means to fulfil God's prophecies.
Direct. XVI. · Be very cautious in what cases you take men's practice or example to be instead of precept, in the sacred Scriptures.' In one case a practice or example is obligatory to us as a precept; and that is, when God doth give men a commission to establish the form or orders of his church and worship, (as he did to Moses and to the apostles,) and promiseth thèm his Spirit to lead them into all truth, in the matters which he employeth them in; here God is engaged to keep them from miscarrying; for if they should, his work would be ill done, his church would be ill
constituted and framed, and his servants unavoidably deceived. The apostles were authorized to constitute church officers, and orders for continuance; and the Scripture which is written for a great part historically, acquaints us what they did (as well as what they said and wrote) in the building of the church, in obedience to their commission; (at least in declaring to the world what Christ had first appointed). And thus if their practice were not obligatory to us, their words also might be avoided by the same pretences, And on this ground (at least) the Lord's day is easily proved to be of Divine appointment and obligation. Only we must see that we carefully distinguish between both the words and practice of the apostles which were upon a particular and temporary occasion (and obligation) from those that were upon an universal or permanent ground.
Direct. xvII. · Be very cautelous what conclusions you raise from any mere works of Providence.' For the bold and blind exposition of these, hath led abundance into most heinous sins: no providence is instead of a law to us : but sometimes and ofttimes Providence changeth the matter of our duty, and so occasioneth the change of our obligations : (as when the husband dieth, the wife is disobliged, &c.) But men of worldly dispositions do so over-value worldly things, that from them they venture to take the measure of God's love and hatred, and of the causes which he approveth or disapproveth in the world. And the wisdom of God doth seem on purpose, to cause such wonderful, unexpected mutations in the affairs of men, as shall shame the principles or spirits of these men, and manifest their giddiness and mutability to their confusion. One year they say, 'This is sure the cause of God, or else he would never own it as he doth :' another year they say, 'If this had been God's cause he would never have so disowned it:' just as the barbarians judged of Paul when the viper seized on his hand. And thus God is judged by them to own or disown by his prospering or afflicting, more than by his word..
Direct. XVIII. ' In controversies which much depend on the sincerity and experience of godly men, take heed that you affect not singularity, and depart not from the common sense of the godly.' For the workings of God's Spirit are
better judged of, by the ordinary tenor of them, than by some (real or supposed) case that is extraordinary. )
jsDirect. xix., ' In controversies which most depend on the testimony of antiquity, depart not from the judgment of the ancients. They that stood within yiew of the days of the apostles could better tell what they did, and what a condition they left the churches in than we can do. To appeal to the ancients in every cause, even in those where the later Christians do excel them is but to be fools in reverence of our forefathers' wisdom. But in points of history, or any thing in which they had the advantage of their posterity, their testimony is to be preferred.
Direct. xx. 'In controversies which depend on the experience of particular Christians or of the church, regard most the judgment of the most experienced, and prefer the judgment of the later ages of the church before the judge ment of less experienced ages ;' (except the apostolical age that had the greater help of the Spirit). An ancient, experienced Christian or divine is more to be regarded in many points, which require experience, than many of the younger sort, that are yet more zealous and of quicker understanding and expression than the elder. So those that we call the fathers or ancients were indeed in the younger ages, of the church, and we that are fallen into the later and more experienced age, have all the helps of the wisdom and ex. perience of the ages that were before uş : and therefore God will require at our hands an account of these greater talents which we have received !. As it were inexcusable now in a physician, that hąth the help of such voluminous institutions, observations and experiments of former ages, to know no more than those former times that had no such helps ; so would it be as inexcusable for this present age of the church to be no wiser than those former ages. When Aquiņas, Scotus, Ariminensis, and other schoolmen, delivered the doctrine of Christianity to the church in a dress so far different from Ignatius, Irenæus, Tertullian, Cyprian, or any of those former ages, they certainly thought that they had attained to a far greater excellency and accurateness in the knowledge of divinity than those their ancestors had attained: and whatever they swear in the Trent oath, of not expounding any Scripture otherwise than the fathers do, I
doubt not but Suarez, and Vasquez, and others of their modern schoolmen thought so too, and would have been loath to be accounted wise in the measure only of those ancients. The later and elder ages of the church have had abundant experience, e. g. of the tendency of ambition and papal aspirings and usurpations; of the mischiefs of composing and imposing the popish missals and numerous ceremonies, and of their implicit faith, and their concealment of the Scriptures from the vulgar, and many such points; and if we are never the-wiser for all this experience, we are the more inexcusable; and may be judged as the neglecters of our greater helps.
Direct. XXI. 'In controversies which depend most upon skill in the languages, philosophy, or other parts of common learning, prefer the judgment of a few that are the most learned in those matters, before the judgment of the most ancient, or the most godly, or of the greatest numbers, even whole churches, that are unlearned.' In this case neither numbers, nor antiquity, nor godliness will serve turn: but as one clear eyé will see further than ten thousand that are purblind, so one Jerome or Origen may judge better of a translation, or the grammatical sense of a text than a hundred of the other fathers could. One man that understandeth a language is fitter to judge of it, than a whole nation that understand it not. One philosopher is fitter to judge of a philosophical question, than a thousand illiterate persons. Every man is most to be regarded in the matters which he is best acquainted with.
Direct. xx11. `In controversies of great difficulty where divines themselves are disagreed, and a clear and piercing wit is necessary, regard more the judgment of a few acute, judicious, well-studied divines that are well versed in those controversies, than of a multitude of dull and common wits that think to carry it by the reputation of their number u.' It is too certainly attested by experience, that judicious men are very few, and that the multitude of the injudicious that have not wit enough to understand them, nor humility enough to confess it, and to learn of them, have yet pride and arrogancy enough to contradict them, and often malice
u Satis triumphat veritas si apud paucos bonosque accepta : nec indoles ejus est placere multis. Lipsius.
enough to vilify them. In such differences it is not only a sign of a wise man to be content with the approbation of a few, but also to have but few approvers; (except where the injudicious do implicitly believe those few that are judicious). Commonly a very few that are wiser than the multitude, are fain to stand by, and compassionate not only the world but the church, and see the disease, and the easy remedy, and all in vain ; while they are but neglected or despised by the rest, that will not be made wiser by them..
Direct. XXIII. `In all contentions hold close to that which all sides are agreed in:' there is so much agreed on, even between the Papists and Protestants, as would saye them all, if all of them did sincerely believe, love and practise it; for they all confess that the whole canonical Scripture is true. Therefore be more studious sincerely to hold and improve those common truths which they all profess, than to oppose the particular opinions of any, further than that common truth requireth it. See that the articles of the common creed which all profess, be unfeignedly believed by you; and that the petitions in the Lord's prayer be sincerely and earnestly put up to God; and that the ten commandments be heartily and entirely obeyed ; and then no error or difference will be damning to you.
Direct. xxiv. •Take nothing as necessary to salvation in point of faith, nor as universally necessary in point of practice, which the universal church in every age since Christ did not receive. For if any thing be necessary to salvation which the church received not in every age, then the church itself of that age could not be saved; and then the church was indeed no church; for Christ is the Saviour of his body. But certainly Christ had in every age a church of saved ones, who openly professed all that was of common necessity to salvation. An opinion may be true which accuseth the generality in the church of some error or imperfection; for it is most certain that the church on earth is composed of none (that have the use of reason) but erring and imperfect members ; but no opinion can be true that condemneth all the church to hell, in any one age; for the head and husband of the church must be her judge.
Direct. xxv. 'Be not borne down by the censoriousness of any, to overrun your own understanding and the truth,