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rally enriched and qualified with the three forementioned requifites, that mind excels others in the riches of knowledge. And yet the teachings of the Spirit, in the way of fanctification, do very much fupply and recompenfe the defects and weaknesses of the forementioned qualifications. Whence two things are highly remarkable:
1. That men of great abilities of nature, clear apprehenfions in natural things; ftrong judgments, and tenacious memories, do not only frequently fall into grofs errors, and damnable herefies themselves, but become Herefiarchs, or heads of erroneous factions, drawing multitudes into the fame fin and mifery with themselves; as Arius, Socinus, Pelagius, Bellarmine, and multitudes of others have done.
And fecondly, It is no lefs remarkable, that men of weaker parts, but babes in comparison, through the fanctification and direction of the Spirit, for which they have humbly waited at his feet in prayer, have not only been directed and guided by him into the truth, but fo confirmed and fixed therein, that they have been kept found in their judgments, in times of abounding errors; and firm in there adherence to it, in days of fierceft per; fecution. How men of excellent natural parts have been blinded, and men of weak natural parts illuminated; fee 1 Cor. i. 26, 27. Mat. xi. 25.
Obferv. 4. Among the manifold impediments to the obtaining of true knowledge, and fettling the mind in the truth and faith of the gospel, these three are of special remark and confideration ; viz. ignorance, curiofity, and error.
Ignorance flights it, or defpairs of attaining it. Truth falls into contempt among the ignorant, from fluggishness, and apprehenfion of the difficulties that lie in the way to it, Prov. xxiv. 7. Wisdom is too high for a fool. Curiofity runs befide or beyond it. This pride and wantonnefs of the mind, puffs it up with a vain conceit, that it is not only able to penetrate the deepest mysteries revealed in the fcripture, but even unrevealed fecrets alfo; Col. ii. 18. "Intruding into thofe things. "which he hath not feen, vainly puffed up by his flethly mind." But error militates directly against it, contradicts and oppofeth truth, efpecially when an error is maintained by pride against inward convictions, or means of better information. 'Tis bad to maintain an error for want of light; but abundantly worfe to maintain it againft light. This is fuch an affront to the Spirit of God, as he ufually punishes with penal ignorance, and gives them up to a fpirit of error..
Obferv. 5. Error is binding upon the confcience, as well as truth; and altogether as much, and, fometimes, more influential upon the affections and paffions, as truth is
For it prefents not itself to the foul in its own name and nature, as error; but in the name and drefs of truth, and under that notion binds the confcience, and vigorously influences the paffions and affections; and then being more indulgent to luft, than truth is, it is, for that, fo much the more embraced and hugged by the deceived foul, Acts xxii. 4, 5. The heat that error puts the foul into, differs from religious zeal, as a feverish doth from a natural heat; which is not, indeed, fo benign and agreeable, but much more fervent and fcorching. A mind under the power of error, is reftlefs and impatient to propogate its errors to others, and thefe heats prey upon, and eat up the vital fpirits and powers of religion.
Obferv. 6. 'Tis exceeding difficult to get out error, when once it is imbibed, and hath rooted itself by an open profeffion.
Errors, like fome forts of weeds, having once feeded in a field or garden, 'tis fcarce poffible to fubdue and destroy them; especially if they be hereditary errors, or have grown up with us from our youth,; a teneris affuefcere multum eft, faith Seneca; 'tis a great advantage to truth, or error, to have an early and long poffeffion of the mind. The Pharifees held many erroneous opinions about the law, as appears by their corruptive commentaries upon it, refuted by Chrift, Mat. v. But did he root them out of their heads and hearts thereby? No, no; they fooner rid him out of the world. The Sadducees held a moft dangerous error about the refurrection; Chrift difputed with them, to the admiration of others, and proved it clearly against them; and yet, we find the error remaining long after Chrift's death, 2 Tim. ii. 18. The apoftles themselves had their minds tinctured with this error, that Christ should be outwardly great and magnificent in the world, and raise his followers to great honours and preferments amongst men. Chrift plainly told ther it was their mistake and error; "for the fon of man came not to be miniftred unto, but to minifter;" yet this did not rid their minds of the error; it fuck faft in them, even till his afcenfion to heaven. O how hard is it to clear the heart of a good man once leavened with error! and much more hard to feparate it from a wicked man *.
* I am perfuaded (faith Mr. Gurnal) fome men take more pains
Some have chofen rather to die, than to part with their darling errors, and foul-damning herefies. I have read (faith Mr Bridges) of a great Atheist, that was burnt at Paris for blafpheming Chrift, held faft his Atheistical opinions till he came to the very stake; boasted to the priests and friars that followed him, how much more confidently he went to facrifice his life in the strength of reafon, under which he suffered, than Christ himself did; but when he began to feel torments indeed, then he roared and raged to the purpofe. Vidi ego hominem, faith the author: In his life, he was loofe; in his imprisonments, fullen; and at his death, mad with the horrors of confcience.
Some, indeed, have recovered the foundness of their judgments, after deep corruptions by dangerous errors. Auflin was a Manichee, and fully recovered from it. So have many more; and yet multitudes hold them faft even to death, and nothing but the fire can reveal their work, and difcover what is gold, and what is ftraw and stubble.
Obferv. 7. It deferves a remark, That men are not so circumfpect and jealous of the corruption of their minds by errors, as they are of their bodies in times of contagion; or of their lives, with refpect to grofs immoralities.
Spiritual dangers affect us lefs than corporal; and intellectual evils lefs than moral. Whether this be the effect of hypocrify, the errors of the mind being more fecret and invifible than thofe of the converfation, God only knows, man cannot pofitively determine.
Or whether it be the effect of ignorance, that men think there is lefs fin and danger in the one than in the other; not confidering, that an apoplexy feizing the head, is every way as mortal as a fword piercing the body: And that a vertigo will as much unfit a man for fervice, as an ague or fever. The apostle, in 2 Pet. ii. 1. calls them as aλas, damnable herefies, or herefies of deftruction. An error in the mind may be as damning and deftructive to the foul, as an error of immorality or profanenefs in the life.
Or whether it may come to pafs from some remains of fear and tenderness in the conscience, which forbids men to reduce their erroneous principles into practice; their lying under ma
to furnish themselves with arguments to defend some error they have taken up, than they do for the most faving truths in the bible. Austin faid, when he was a Manichaean, Non tu eras, fed error meus erat Deus meus; Thou, O Lord, wert not, but my error was my God. Gurnal's Chriftian Armour, part 2, pag. 36.
ny confident errors in the mind, a fecret jealoufy, which we call formido oppofiti, which will not fuffer them to act to the full height of their profeffed opinions. Auftin gives this character even of Pelagius himself, Retract. lib. II. cap. 33. Nomen Pelagii non fine laude aliqua pofui, quia vita ejus a multis praedicabatur: I have not mentioned (Jaith he) the name of that man, without fome praife, because his life was famed by many. And of Swinkfeldius it is faid, Caput regulatum illi defuit, cor bonum non defuit: His heart was much more regular than his head. Yet this falls out but rarely in the world; for loofe principles naturally run into loose practices; and the errors of the head into the immoralities of life.
Obferv. 8. It is a great judgment of God, to be given over to an erroneous mind.
For the understanding being the leading faculty, as that guides, the other powers and affections of the foul follow, as horses in a team follow the fore-horse. Now, how fad and dangerous a thing is this, for Satan to ride the fore-horfe, and guide that which is to guide the life of man? That's a dreadful, fpiritual, judicial ftroke of God which we read of, Rom. i. 26. παρέδωκεν αυτές ο Θεός εις πάθη ατιμίας : God, by a penal tradition, fuffered them to run into the dregs of immorality, and pollutions of life; and that, because they abused their light, and became vain in their imaginations, ver. 21.
Wild whimsies and fancies in the head, ufually mislead men into the puddle and mire of profaneness, and then 'tis commonly obferved God fets fome vifible mark of his difpleasure upon them; especially the Herefiarchs, or ring-leaders in error. ftorius his tongue was confumed by worms. Cerinthus his brains knocked out by the fall of an houfe. Montanus hanged himself: It were easy to inftance in multitudes of others, whom the visible hand of God hath marked for a warning to others; but ufually the fpiritual errors of the mind are followed with a confumption and decay of religion in the foul. If grace be in the heart, where error fways its fceptre in the head, yet ufually there it languifhes and withers. They may mistake their droply for growth and flourishing; and think themselves to be more fpiritual, becaufe more airy and notional; but if men would judge themfelves impartially, they will certainly find that the feeds of grace thrive not in the heart, when shaded and overdropt by an erroneous head.
Obferv. 9. 'Tis a pernicious evil, to advance a mere opinion into the place and feat of an article of faith; and to lay as great a firefs upon it, as they ought to do upon the most
clear and fundamental point. To be as much concerned for a tile upon the roof, as for the corner-stone, which unites the walls, and fuftains the building.
Opinion (as one truly faith) is but reafon's projector, and the fpy of truth; it makes, in its fulleft difcovery, no more than the dawning and twilight of knowledge; and yet, I know not how it comes to pafs, but fo it is, that this idol of the mind holds fuch a fway and empire over all we hold, as if it were all the day we had. Matters of mere opinion, are every where cried up by fome errorists, for mathematical demonstration, and articles of faith written with a fun-beam; worshipping the fan-* cies and creatures of their own minds, more than God; and putting more truft in their ill founded opinions, than in the furer word of prophecy. Much like that Humorist that would not truft day-light, but kept his candle ftill burning by him; because, faith he, this is not fubject to eclipfes, as the fun is.
And what more frequent, when controverfies grow fervent, than for those that maintain the error, to boast every filly argument to be a demonftration; to upbraid and pity the blindness and dulness of their oppofers, as men that fhut their eyes against fun-beams; yea, fometimes, to draw their prefumptuous cenfures through the very hearts of their oppofers, and to infinuate, that they muft needs hold the truths of God in unrighteoufnefs, fin against their knowledge, and that nothing keeps them from coming over to them, but pride, fhame, or fome worldly intereft? What a complicated evil is here! Here's a proud exalting of our own opinions, and an iramodeft impofing on the minds of others, more clear and found than our own, and a dangerous ufurpation of God's prerogative in judging the hearts and ends of our brethren.
Obferv, 10. Error being confcious to itself of its own weaknefs, and the ftrong affaults that will be made upon it, evermore labours to defend and fecure itself under the wings of antiquity, reafon, fcripture, and high pretenfions to reformation and piety.
Antiquity is a venerable word, but ill ufed, when made a cloke for error. Truth must needs be elder than error; as the rule must neceffarily be, before the aberration from it. The grey hairs of opinions are then only beauty, and a crown, when found in the way of righteoufoefs. Copper (faith learned Du Moulin) will never become gold by age. A lie will be a lie, let it be never fo ancient. We dispute not by years, but by reafons drawn from fcripture. That which is now called an ancient opinion, if it be not a true opinion, was once but a new