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gospel ; the same questionless he hath not withdrawn from those, who under the evangelical dispensation (which is pecu-, liarly the ministration of the Spirit,' unto which the aid of God's Spirit is most proper and most needful) do still by a settled ministry supply the room of those extraordinary ministers; but imparteth it to them in a way although more ordinary and occult, yet no less real and effectual, according to proportions answerable to the exigencies of need and occasion ; and by the influence hereof on the pastors of his ehurch it is, that our Lord accomplisheth his promise to be with it until the end of the world.'
Clavis scientiæ, the key of knowlege spiritual, is one of those keys which he hath given to them, whereby they are enabled to open the kingdom of heaven.
Great reason therefore we have to place an especial confidence in their direction ; for whom can we more safely follow than those whom (on such grounds of divine declarations and promises) we may bope that God doth guide; so that consequently in following them we do in effect follow God himself? “ He that heareth you heareth me,' might be said, not only because of their relation unto Christ; but because their word proceedeth from his inspiration, being no other than his mind conveyed through their mouth.
4. We may also for our encouragement to confide in our guides consider that they are themselves deeply concerned in our being rightly guided ; their present comfort, their salvation hereafter depending on the faithful and careful discharge of their duty herein : they must render an account for it; so that if by their wilful or negligent miscarriage we do fall into dan. gerous error or sin, they do thence not only forfeit rich and glorious rewards, (assigned to those who turn many unto righteousness,') but incur woful punishment; this doth assure their integrity, and render our confidence in them very reasonable : for as we may safely trust a pilot who hath no less interest than ourselves in the safe conveyance of the vessel to port ; so may we reasonably confide in their advice whose salvation is adven, tured with ours in the same bottom, or rather is wrapped up and carried in ours: it is not probable they will (at least de
signedly) misguide us to their own extreme damage, to their utter ruin : “if they do not warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, God hath said that he will require his blood at their hands ;' and is it likely they wittingly should run such a hazard, that they should purposely cast away the souls for which they are so certainly accountable ? it is our Apostle's enforcement of the precept in our text: Obey them that guide you; for they watch for your souls as they that must give an account :' which argumentation is not only grounded on the obligations of ingenuity and gratitude, but also on considerations of discretion and interests ; we should obey our guides in equity and honesty; we may do it advisedly, because they, in regard to their own accounts at the final judgment, are obliged to be careful for the good of our souls.
On these considerations, it is plainly reasonable to follow our guides in all matters wherein we have no other very clear and certain light of reason or revelation to conduct us: the doing so is indeed (which is farther observable) not only wise in itself, bụt safe in way of prevention, that we be not seduced by other treacherous guides; it will not only secure us from our own weak judgments, but from the frauds of those who lie in wait to deceive.' The simpler sort of men will in effect be always led, not by their own judgment, but by the authority of others; and if they be not fairly guided by those whom God hath constituted and assigned to that end, they will be led by the nose by those who are concerned to seduce them : so reason dictateth that it must be, so experience showeth it ever to have been ; that the people, whenever they have deserted their true guides, have soon been hurried by impostors into most dangerour errors and extravagant follies ; being carried about with divers and strange doctrines;' being like children, tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine.'
It is therefore a great advantage to us, and a great mercy of God, that there are (by God's care) provided for us such helps, on which we may commonly for our guidance in the way to happiness more safely rely, than on our own judgments, liable to mistake, and than on the counsel of others, who may be inter
ested to abuse us ; very foolish and very ingrateful we are, if we do not highly prize, if we do not willingly embrace this advantage.
I farther add, that as wisdom may induce, so modesty and humility should dispose us to follow the direction of our guides : "Ye younger,' saith St. Peter, “submit yourselves unto the elder,' (that is, ye inferiors to your superiors, ye that are the flock to your pastors,) ‘and,' subjoineth he immediately, .be clothed with humility;' signifying, that it is a point of humility to yield that submission ; every modest and humble person is apt to distrust his own, and to submit to better judgments ; and, · Not to lean to our understanding, not to be wise in our own eyes, not to seem to know any thing,' not to seem any body to oneself, in humility to prefer others before ourselves,' are divine injunctions, chiefly applicable to this case, in reference to our spiritual guides; for if it be pride or culpable immodesty to presume ourselves wiser than any man, what is it then to prefer ourselves in that respect before our teachers; as indeed we do, when without evident reason we disregard, or dissent from their opinion ?
It is then a duty very reasonable, and a very commendable practice, to rely on the guidance of our pastors in such cases, wherein surer direction faileth, and we cannot otherwise fully satisfy ourselves.
Neither in doing so (against some appearances of reason, or with some violence to our private conceits) do we act against our conscience, but rather truly according to it; for conscience (as the word in this case is used) is nothing else but an opinion in practical matters, grounded on the best reason we can discern: if therefore in any case the authority of our guides be a reason outweighing all other reasons apparent, he that in such a case, notwithstanding other arguments less forcible, doth conform his judgment and practice thereto, therein exactly followeth conscience ; yea, in doing otherwise, he would thwart and violence his own conscience, and be self-condemned, adhering to a less probable reason in opposition to one more probable.
I do not hereby mean to assert that we are obliged indifferently (with an implicit faith, or blind obedience) to believe all that our teachers say, or to practise all they bid us : for they
are men, and therefore subject to error and sin; they may neg. lect or abuse the advantages they have of knowing better than others; they may sometimes, by infirmity, by negligence, by pravity, fail in performing faithfully their duty toward us; they may be swayed by temper, be led by passion, be corrupted by ambition or avarice, so as thence to embrace and vent bad doctrines : we do see our pastors often dissenting and clashing among themselves, sometimes with themselves, so as to change and retract their own opinions.
We find the prophets of old complaining of priests, of pastors, of elders and prophets, who · handled the law, yet were ignorant of God;' who erred in vision, and stumbled in judg. ment;' who were profane, brutish, light, and treacherous persons; who polluted the sanctuary, and did violence to the law, and profaned holy things;' who • handled the law, yet knew not God;' from whom the law and counsel did perish; who taught for hire, and divined for money; who themselves de. parted out of the way, and caused many to stumble, and corrupted the covenant of Levi; who destroyed and scattered the sheep of God's pasture.'
There were in our Saviour's time guides, of the ferment of whose doctrine good people were bid to beware;' who “transgressed and defeated the commandment of God by their traditions ;' who did take away the key of knowlege, so that they would not enter themselves into the kingdom of heaven, por would suffer others to enter;' blind guides, who both themselves did fall, and drew others into the ditch of noxious error and wicked practice : the followers of which guides did .in vain worship God, observing for doctrine the precepts of men.'
There have not since the primitive times of the gospel wanted those who indulging to ambition, avarice, curiosity, faction, and other bad affections) have depraved and debased religion with noxious errors and idle superstitions ; such as St. Bernard describeth, &c.*
We are, in matters of such intinite concernment to our eternal welfare, in wisdom and duty obliged not wholly without farther heed or care to trust the diligence and integrity of others, but
Vid. Apol. Eccl. Ang.
to consider and look about us, using our own reason, judgment, and discretion, so far as we are capable; we cannot in such a case be blamed for too much circumspection and caution.
We are not wholly blind, not void of reason, not destitute of fit helps ; in many cases we have competent ability to judge, and means sufficient to attain knowlege : we are therefore concerned to use our eyes, to employ our reason, to embrace and improve the advantages vouchsafed us.
We are accountable personally for all our actions, as agreeable or cross to reason ; if we are mistaken by our own default, or misled by the ill guidance of others, we shall however deeply suffer for it, and · die in our iniquity;' the ignorance or error of our guides will not wholly excuse us from guilt, or exempt us from punishment; it is fit therefore that we should be allowed, as to the sum of the matter, to judge and choose for ourselves : for if our salvation were wholly placed in the hands of others, so that we could not but in case of their error or default miscarry, our ruin would be inevitable, and consequently not just: we should perish without blame, if we were bound, as a blind and brutish herd, to follow others.
We, in order to our practice, (which must be regulated by faith and knowlege,) and toward preparing ourselves for our grand account, are obliged to get a knowlege and persuasion concerning our duty; 'to prove (or search and examine) what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God;' for ignorance, if anywise by our endeavor vincible, will not secure
• He that,' saith our Lord and Judge, .knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes;' (few; not in themselves, but comparatively to those which shall be inflicted on them who transgress against knowlege and conscience.)
We are bound to study truth, to improve our minds in the knowlege and love of it, to be firmly persuaded of it in a rational way; so that we be not easily shaken, or seduced from it.
The Apostles do charge it on us as our duty and concernment, that we .abound in faith and knowlege ;' that we be rooted and built up in Christ, and stablished in the faith, so as to be stedfast, and unmovable,' not to be soon shaken in mind, or troubled ; to grow up and increase in all divine know.