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my greatest duties; and for those parts of men's wresting them to their own destruction my obedience to my conscience and God, which Heaven will not be made, to perfect spirits, the cost me dearest : and where I pleased my flesh occasion of so many errors, controversies, and least, I pleased the world least. At how cheap a quarrels, as the scriptures are to us imperfect rate to my flesh could I have got the applause men on earth : yea, heaven is the more desirable, of factious men, if that had been my end and because there I shall better understand the scripbusiness ? Would I have conformed to their tures than here I can ever hope to do. All the wills, and taken a bishopric, and the honours hard passages now misunderstood, will be there and riches of the world, how good a man had I made plain, and all the seeming contradictions been called by the diocesan party! O what reconciled ; and, which is much more, that God, praise I should have with the Papists, could Ithat Christ, that new Jerusalem, that glory, and turn Papist! And all the backbitings and bitter that felicity of souls, which are now known but censures of the Antinomians, Anabaptists, and darkly and enigmatically in the glass, will then Separatists, had been turned into praise, could I be known intuitively as we see the face itself, bave said as they, or not contradicted them. But whose image only the glass first showed us. To otherwise there is no escaping their accusations. leave my bible, and go to the God and the And is this tumultuous, militant, yea, malignant heaven that is revealed, will be no otherwise a world, a place that I should be loth to leave ? loss to me, than to lay by my crutches or spec
Alas, our darkness, and weakness, and pas- tacles when I need them not, or to leave his sions, are such, that it is hard for a family or a image for the presence of my friend. few faithful friends, to live so evenly in the ex- Much less do I need to fear the loss of all ercise of love, as not to have often unpleasant other books, sermons, or other verbal informajars! What then is to be expected from stran- tion. Much reading hath often been a wearigers and from enemies? Ten thousand persons ness to my flesh; and the pleasure of my mind will judge of abundance of my words and actions, is much abated by the great imperfection of the who never knew the reasons of them : every one's means. Many books must be partly read, that I conceptions are as the report and conveyance of may know that they are scarcely worth the readthe matter to them is : and while they have a ing: and many must be read to enable us to various light, and false reports, and defective satisfy other men's expectations, and to confute ness will make them false, what can be expected those who abuse the authority of the authors but false, injurious censures ?
against the truth: and many good books must Though no outward thing on earth is more be read, that have little to add to what we have precious than the holy word, worship, and read in many others before ; and many that are ordinances of God, yet even here I see that blotted with ensnaring errors : which, if we detect which points me up higher, and tells me it is not, we leave snares for such as see them not: much better to be with Christ. Shall I love the and if we detect them, ever so tenderly, if truly, name of heaven, better than heaven itself? The we are taken to be injurious to the honour of the holy scriptures are precious, because I have there learned, godly authors, and proudly to overvalue the promise of glory; but is not the possession our own conceits. So lamentable is the case of better than the promise ? If a light and guide all mankind, by the imperfections of human thither through this wilderness be good, surely language, that those words which are invented the end must needs be better: and it hath pleased for the communication of conceptions, are so God that all things on earth, and therefore even little fitted to their use, as rather to occasion the sacred scriptures, should bear the marks of misunderstanding and contentions : there being our state of imperfection : imperfect persons were scarcely a word that hath not many significations, the penmen; and imperfect human language is and that needs not many more words to bring us the conveying, signal, organical part of the to the true notice of the speaker's mind. Every matter. The method and phrase, though true word is a sign, that hath three relations,—to and blameless, are far short of the heavenly per- the matter spoken of;—to the mind of the fection. Else so many commentators had not speaker, as signifying his conceptions of that found so hard a task of it to expound innumera- matter ;-and to the mind of the hearer or reader ble difficulties, and reconcile so many seeming which is to be informed by it. Hence it is so contradictions ; nor would infidels find matter of hard to find and use words that are fitted indeed so strong temptation, and so much cavil as they to all these uses, and to have store of such, and do; nor would Peter have told us of the diffi- mix no other, that few, if any, in the world were culties of Paul's epistles, and such occasions of ever so happy as to attain it. If words be not fitted to the matter or things, they are false as profound matter, or an accurate style, must into their first and proper use : and yet the penury commodate multitudes that are incapable of it. of apt words, and the redundancy of others, and Therefore such must be content with few approv. the authority of the masters of sciences impos- ers, and leave the applause of the multitude to ing arbitrary terms and notions on their disci- the more popular, unless he be one that can seaples, and the custom of the vulgar, who have the sonably suit himself to both. empire as to the sense of words, have all con- A man that resolves not to be deceived by spired to make words of very uncertain signifi- ambiguous words, and makes it his first work in cation. So that when students have learned words all his readings and disputings to distinguish beby long and hard studies, they are often little the tween words, sense, and things, and strictly to nearer the true knowledge of the things; and too examine each disputed term, till the speaker's often, by their ineptitude, misled to false concep- meaning be distinctly known, will see the lamenttions. So their saying is too often true, that a able case of the church, and all mankind, and great book is a great evil, while it contains so what shadows of knowledge deceive the world, great a number of uncertain words, which be- and in what useless dreams the greatest part of come the matter of great contentions.
men, yea, of learned men, do spend their days : When the mind of the speaker or writer is no much of that which some men unweariedly study, better informed by such notions, but his concep- and take to be the honour of their understandtions of things are some false, some confused and ings, and their lives, and much of that, in which undigested, what wonder if his words do not multitudes place their piety and hopes of salvaotherwise express his mind to others, when even tion, being a mere game at words, and useless men of clearest understanding find it difficult to notions, and as truly to be called vanity and have words still ready to communicate their con- vexation as is the rest of the vain-show that most ceptions with truth and clearness. To form true men walk in. My sad and bitter thoughts of the sentiments of things into apt significant words, heathen, infidel, mahometan world, and of the is a matter of mere art, and requires an apt common corruptions of rulers and teachers, cities teacher, a serious learner, and long use : too many and countries, senates and councils, I will not take their art of speaking in prayer, conference, here open to others, lest they offend ; nor cry out or preaching, to have more in it of wisdom and as Seneca, “We all are bad,'or, ‘Fools exist everypiety, than it hath ; and some too much condemn where,' nor describe the furious spirits of the the unaccustomed that want it.
clergy, and their ignorance, and unrighteous calIf we could fit our words well to the matter, umnies and schisms, as Gregory Nazianzen and and to our minds, with that double verity, yet others do, nor voluminously lament the seeming still it is hard to fit them to the reader or hearer : hopeless case of earth, bythe boldness, blindness, for want of which they are lost as to him: his and fury of men that make use of such sad coninformation being our end, they are therefore so siderations, to loosen' my love from such a world, far lost to us. That which is spoken most con- and make me willing to be with Christ. gruously to the matter, is seldom fitted to the If other men's word and writings are blecapacity of the receiver. Some readers or hear- mished with so much imperfection, why should ers, yea, almost all, are so used to unapt words I think that my own are blameless ? I must. and notions, obtruded on mankind by the master for ever be thankful for the holy instructions of words, that they cannot understand us if we and writings of others, notwithstanding human change their terms and offer them fitter, and yet frailty, and contentious men’s abuse of words : least understand those which they think that and so I must be thankful that God hath they best understand: all men must have long made any use of my own, for the good of time to learn the art of words, before they can souls, and his church's edification.
But with understand them, as well as before they can how many drawbacks are such comforts here readily use them. The duller any man is, and mixed : we are not the teachers of a well ruled of less understanding, the more words are ne- school, where learners are ranked into seve cessary to make him understand : yet his memory ral forms, that every one may have the teachis the less capable of retaining many. This is ing which is agreeable to his capacity: but our difficulty, not only in catechising, but in all we must set open the door to all that will crowd our writings and teaching, a short catechism, in, and publish our writings to all sorts of reador a short style, the ignorant understand not; ers: and there being as various degrees of and a long one they remember not. He that will capacity as there are men and women, and conaccommodate one judicious reader or hearer, with sequently great variety and contrariety of apprehensions, it is easy to anticipate what various re- f preaching, which would please them ; and on the ception we must expect: we cast out our doctrine other side vehemently censuring me as guilty of almost as a foot-ball is turned out among boys grievous sin, for declaring my judgment for so in the street, in some congregations ; few under- much of conformity as I have done ; and chargstand it, but every one censures it. Few come ing me by predictions as guilty of the sufferings as learners, or teachable disciples, but most come of all that are otherwise minded, for communito sit as judges on their teacher's words ; and cating in the sacrament, and the common prayers yet-have not either the skill, or the patience, or of the church; and others in the mid-way, perthe diligence, which is necessary in a just trial, suading me equally to bear my testimony against to a righteous judgment. But as our words agree unjust separation and persecution, and to enor disagree with the former conceptions of every deavour still, if possible, to save a self-destroyhearer, so are they judged to be wise or foolish, ing people, from the tearing fury of these two sound or unsound, true or false, fit or unfit. extremes : and how should I answer these con
Few sermons that I preach, but one extols trary expectations, or escape the censures of them, and wishes they were printed, and another such expectations ? accuses them of some heinous fault: some men It hath pleased God, who thirty years and are pleased with clearness and accurateness of more hath tried me by human applause, of late, doctrine; and others account it too high, and in this city, where multitudes of persons of consay we shoot over the hearers' heads, and like trary minds are, like passengers in crowded nothing but the fervent application of what they streets still jostling and offending one another, knew. before: most hearers are displeased with to exercise me with men's daily backbitings and that which they most need : if they err, they re- cavils: and so many have chosen me for the subproach that doctrine as erroneous that would ject of their discourse, that I may say as Paul, eure them : if they are guilty of any prevailing Weare made a spectacle (or theatre) to the world, distemper and sin, they take that application to and to angels, and to men: we are fools for be injurious to them, which would convince them, Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ,' &c. and save them from that guilt. Most are much Did I not live out of the noise in retirement, pleased with plain and zealous reproof of sin; taken up with pain, and expectations of my but it must be other men's sins, and not their change, what an annoyance to me would it be own. The poor love to hear of the evil of op- to hear religious persons, that have a God, a pression and unmercifulness, of pride, fulness Christ, a heaven to talk of, to abuse their time and idleness, and all the sins of the rich: sub- and tongues in so much talking of one so inconjects love to hear of their rulers’ faults, and say, 0 siderable, and that hath so little to do with them, this man is no flatterer; he dares tell the greatest or they with him ; while with some overvaluing of their sins : but if they hear of their own, they me, and others still quarrelling, I am the matter take it for an injury. Rulers like a sermon for of their idle, sinful talk. The persecutors for submission and obedience, but how few love to divers years after first silencing, if not still, and hear of the evil of injustice and oppression, or the separatists for two or three years past, have pride and sensuality, or to hear of the necessity been possessed with so strange a jealousy and of holiness, justice, temperance, of death, judg- quarrelsome a disposition against me, that they ment, and the life to come ? Every sectarian and seem to take it for their interest to promote my dogmatist delights to have his own opinion cried defamation, and for much of their work to search up, and his party praised as the chief saints : but what may afford them any matter of accusation all that tends to the praise of those that he dis- in every sermon that I preach, and every book sents from, and accounts adversaries to the truth, that I write. Though the fury of the persecuis distasteful to him, as a complying with ini- tors be such as makes them incapable of such quity, and a strengthening of the enemies of converse and sober consideration as is needful Christ : and all that uncharitableness which to their true information and satisfaction: yet he expects from us against others, is as much most of the more religious cavillers are satisfied expected by others against him, and such as soon as I have spoken with them: for want
of accurateness and patience, they judge rashly This day, while I am writing these words, my before they understand, and when they underpockets are full of letters sent me, on one side stand confess their error ; and yet many go on importunately charging it on me as my duty to and take no warning after many times convicconform to the oaths, declarations, covenants, tion of their mistake. and practices, now imposed, or else to give over Even in books that are still before their eyes, as well as in transient words and sermons, they | sires to leave the world It is long since riches heedlessly leave out, or put in, or alter, and mis- and worldly honour appeared to me as they are, report plain words, and with confidence affirm as not rendering the world either lovely or dethose things to have been said that never were sirable. But the love and concord of religious said, but perhaps the contrary. When all people persons hath a more amiable aspect: there is so will judge of the good or evil of our words, as much holiness in these, that I was loth to call they think we have reason to use them or forbear them vanity and vexation : but yet as flesh and them, how can we satisfy men that are out of blood would refer them to selfish ends, and any our hearing, and to whom we cannot tell our way value them as a carnal interest, I must so reasons ? Most men are of private, narrow ob- call them, and number them with the things that servation, and judge of the good or hurt that are loss and dung. Selfishness can serve itself our words do, by those that they themselves upon things good and holy: and if good men, converse with : and when I convince then that and good books, and good sermons, would make my decisions of many questions, which they are the world seem overlovely to us, it will be a offended at, are true ; they say, It is an unsea- mercy of God to abate the temptation : and if sonable and a hurtful truth : and when I have my soul, looking toward the heavenly Jerusalem, called them to look further abroad in the world, be hindered as Paul was, in his journey to Jerand told them my reasons ; they say, Had these usalem, by the love of ancient friends and been all set down, men would have been satisfied. hearers, I must say, "What mean you to weep On how hard terms do we instruct such persons, and break my heart! I am ready to leave the whose narrow understandings cannot know ob- dearest friends on earth, and life, and all the vious reasons of what we say till they are par- pleasures of life, for the presence of far better ticularly told them? So to tell men the reasons friends with Christ, and the sweeter pleasures of of all that such can quarrel with, will make every a better life. That little amiableness which is book to swell with commentaries to such a size in things below, is in godly men as life in the as they can neither buy nor read : and they come heart, which dies last : when that is all gone, not to us to know our reasons ; nor have we when we are dead to the love of the godly themleisure to open them to every single person : and selves, and to learning, books, and mediate orthus suspicious men, when their understandings dinances, so far as they serve a selfish interest, want the humbling acquaintance with their ig- and tempt down our hearts from heavenly aspirnorance, and their consciences, that tenderness ings, the world is then crucified to us indeed, which should restrain them from rash judging, and we to it. I rejoice to tread in the footsteps go on to accuse such needful truths of which of my Lord, who had some indeed weeping about they know not the use and reason. What man his cross, but was forsaken by all his disciples, living bath the leisure and opportunity to acquaint while in the hour of temptation they all Hed! all the ignorant persons in city and country, But my desertion is far less, for it is less that I with all the reasons of all that he shall say, write, am fit to bear. If God will justify, who shallor do ? Or who, that writes not a page instead condemn ? If he be for me, who shall be against of a sentence, can so write, that every unprepared me? O may I not be put to that dreadful ease, reader shall understand him? What hopes hath to cry out, "My God, my God, why hast thou that tutor or schoolmaster of preserving his re- forsaken me? And may nothing separate me putation, who shall be accounted erroneous, and from his love! Then were I forsaken of the accused of unsound or injurious doctrine, by sober and peaceable, as I am, in part, of some every scholar that understands not his words, quarrelsome dividers, how tolerable a trial would and all the reasons of them ?
it be ? Man is as dust in the balance, that adds But God in great mercy to me hath made little to it, and signifies nothing when God is in this my lot, not causing, but permitting, the sins the other end. But I suspect still that I make of the contentious, that I might before death be too much account of man, when this case bath better weaned from all below: had my tempta- taken up too much of my observation. tions from inordinate applause had no alloy, they Of all things, surely a departing soul hath might have been more dangerously strong. Even least cause to fear the losing of its notice of the yet while church-dividers, on both extremes, do affairs of the world ; of peace, wars, church, or make me the object of their daily obloquy, the kingdoms. If the sun can send forth its material continued respects of the sober and peaceable, beams, and operate by motion, light, and heat, are so great, as to be a temptation strong enough, at such a distance as this earth, why should I to so weak a person, to give a check to my de- think that blessed spirits are such local, confined
and impotent substances, as not to have notice the rage and success of cruel tyrants; of the of the things of earth? Had I but bodily eyes, bloody wars of proud, unquiet, worldly men, of I could see more from the top of a tower or hill, the misery of the oppressed, desolate countries, than any one that is below can do. Shall I know the dissipated churches, the persecuted, innocent less of earth from heaven than I do now? It is Christians, are no such pleasing things as that unlike that my capacity will be so little : if it we should be afraid to hear of such no more. To were, it is unlike that Christ and all the angels know or hear of the poor in famine, the rich in will be so strange to me, as to give me no notice folly, the church distracted, the kingdom disof things that so much concern my God and my contented, the godly scandalous by the effects of Redeemer, to whom I am united, and the holy their errors, imperfections, and divisions, the society of which I am a part, and myself as a wicked outrageous and waxing worse, the falsemember of Christ and that society! I do not ness or miscarriages, or sufferings of friends, the think that the communion of the celestial inhab- fury or success of enemies, is this an intelligence itants is so narrow and slow, as it is of walking which I cannot spare ? What is the daily tidings clods of earth, and of souls that are confined to that I hear, but of bloody wars, the undone such dark lanthorns as this body is ? Stars can countries, the persecuted churches, the silenced, shine one to another. We on earth can see them banished, or imprisoned preachers, of the best so far off in their heaven. Surely then, if they removed in judgment from an unworthy world have a seeing faculty, each of them can see many by death, and worse succeeding in their rooms, of us ; even the kingdoms of the world. Spirits of the renewed designs and endeavours of the are most active, and of powerful and quick com-church's enemies ; the implacable rage of the munication. They need not send letters, or worldly and unquiet clergy, and the new diviwrite books to one another, nor lift up a voice sions of self-conceited sectaries, and the obloquy to make each other hear: nor is there any un- and backbitings of each party against the other ? kindness, division, or unsociable selfishness among How often hear I the sad tidings of this friend's them, which may cause them to conceal their sickness or death, and that friend's discontent, notices or their joys: but as activity, so unity, and of another's fall, and of many, very many's is greatest, where there is most perfection : they sufferings ? My ears are daily filled with the will so be many, as yet to be one ; and their cries of the poor whom I cannot relieve, with knowledge will be one knowledge, their love one the endless complaints of fearful, melancholy, love, and their joy one joy : not by so perfect a despairing persons : with the wranglings of the unity as in God himself, who is one and but ignorant and proud professors, and contentious one ; but such as is suitable to created imper- divines, who censure most boldly where they fection, which participates of the perfection of are most erroneous or dark; or with the trouthe Creator, as the effect doth of the virtue of blesome discontents of those that I converse 'the cause, and therefore hath some participation with : should I be afraid of the ending of so sad of his unity. O foolish soul! If I shall fear this a tragedy, or of awaking out of such an unpleaunity with God, Christ, and all the holy spirits, sant dream? Have I not many times thought lest I should lose my present separate individu- of the privilege of the deaf, that hear not these ality, when perfection and upity are so near a- troublesome and provoking things; and of the kin. In a word, I have no cause to think that blind, that see not the vanities and temptations my celestial advancement will be a diminution of this world; it is one part of the benefit of of any desirable knowledge, even of things on solitude, or a private life and habitation, to free earth ; but contrarily, that it will be inconceiv- me from many of these unpleasing objects ; and ably increased.
a great part of the benefit of sleep, that with But if indeed I shall know less of things my clothes I may lay by these troublesome below, it will be because that the knowledge of thoughts. them is a part of vanity and vexation, which But other men tell me, the church cannot yet hath no place in heaven. So much knowledge spare you : there is yet this and that necessary of good and evil in lower matters, as came to us work to be done: there is this and that need, &c. by sin, is unworthy of our fond tenaciousness, But is it we or God that must choose his serand fear of losing it? Surely the sad tidings vants, and cut out their work? Whose work am I which we have weekly in our news books, our doing? Is it my own, or his? If his, is it not lamentable notices of heathen and infidel king- he that inust tell me what, and when, and how doms, of the over-spreading prevalency of bar- long? And will not his will and choice be best? Larism, idolatry, ignorance, and infidelity; of If I believe not this, how do I take him for my