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scribes against the accidental mischief and inconveni. ence of knowledge, is not ignorance, but charity, to govern their knowledge, and to help them to make a right use of it: ver. 20. of that chapter after he had declared that the service of God ought to be performed in a known tongue, he immediately adds, Brea thren, be not children in underdi anding, houbeit in 1.2lice be je children, but in understanding he je inen. He coinmends knowledge, he encourageth it, l:e requircs it of all Christians; fo far is he fro: checking the pursuit of it, and depriving the people of the means of it. And indeed there is nothing in the Christian religion, but what is fit for every man to know, because there is nothing in it, but what is deligned to promote holiness and a good life; and if men niake any other use of their knowledge, it is their own fault, for it certainly tends to make men good; and being so useful and necefıry to so good a purpose, men ought not to be debarred of it.
3. Let it be considered, that the proper and natural effects and consequences of ignorance are equally pernicious, and much more certain and unavoidable, than those which are accidentally occafioned by knowledge ; for fo far as a man is ignorant of his duty, it is impossible he should do it. He that hath the knowledge of religion, may be a b.d Chriitian ; but he that is deititute of it, can be none at all. Or if ignorance do beget and promote some kind of deFotion in men, it is such a devotion as is not properly religion, but fuperftition : the ignorant man may be zealously superstitious, but without some measure of knowledge no man can be truly religious. That the soul be without knowledge it is not good, fuys Solo mon, Prov. xix. 2. becaufe good practices depend upon our knowledge, and must be directed by it; when as a man that is trained up only to the outo ward performance of some things in religion, as to the saying over fo many prayers in an unknown tongue, this man cannot be truly religious, because nothing is religious that is not a reasonable service; an.' service can be reasonable, that is not dirett understandings. Indeed, if the end of px, VOL.V.
ly to give God to understand what we want, it were all one what language we prayed in, and whether we understood what we asked of him or not; but so long as the end of prayer is to testify the sense of our own wants, and of our dependence upon God for the supply of them, it is impossible that any man Thould in any tolerable propriety of speech be said to pray, who does not understand what he asks, ; and ihe saying over so many Pater Nofters by one that does not understand the meaning of them, is no more a prayer than the repeating over so many verses in Virgil. And if this were good reasoning, that men must not be permitted to know so much as they can in religion, for fear they should grow troublesome with their knowledge, then certainly the best way in the world to maintain peace in the Christian church, would be to let the people know nothing at all in religion; and the best way to secure the ignorance of the people would be to keep the priests as ignorant as the people, and then to be sure they could teach them nothing: but then the mischief would be, that out of a fondness to maintain peace in the Christian church, there would be no church, nor no Christianity ; which would be the same wise contrivance, as if a prince Aliquld destroy his subjects, to keep his kingdom quiet.
4. Let us likewise consider, that if this reason be good, it is much fronger for with-holding the fcrip. tures from the priests, and the learned, than from the people; because the danger of starting errors and heresies, and countenancing them from scripture, and managing them plausibly, and with advantage, is much more to be feared from the learned, than from the common people; and the experience of all ages hath shewn, that the great broachers and abettors of heresy in the Christian church, have been men of learning and wit; and most of the famous here, fies that are recorded in ecclesiastical history, have iheir names from some learned man or other : so that it is a great mistake to think, that the way to prevent error and heresy in the church, is to take the Bible put of the hands of the people, so long as the free
use of it is permitted to men of learning and skill, in whose hands the danger of perverting it is much greater. The ancient fathers, I am sure, do frequently preferibe to the people the constant and careful reading of the holy scriptures, as the sureft antidote against the poison of dangerous errors, and dampable herelies, and if there be so much danger of seduction into error from the oracles of truth,
by what other or better means can we hope to be secured against this danger? If the word of God be so cross and inproper a means to this end, one would think that the teachings of men should be much less effectual; fo that men must either be left in their ignorance, or they must be permitted to learn from the word of truth; and whatever force this reason of the danger of heresy hath in it, to deprive the common people of the use of the scriptures, I am sure it is much stronger to wrest them out of the hands of the priests and the learned, because they are much more capa• ble of perverting them to so bad a purpose.
5. and lastly, This danger was as great and vifible in the age of the Apostles, as it is now; and yet they took a quite contrary course : there were heresies then, as well as now, and either the scriptures were not thought, by being in the hands of the people, to be the cause of them, or they did not think the taking of them out of their hands a proper remedy. The Apostles in all their epistles do earnestly exhort the people to grow in knowledge, and commend them for searching the scriptures, and charge them that the word of God mould dwell richly in thent. And St Peter takes particular notice of some men wresting some difficult passages in St Paul's epistles, as likewise in the other feriptures, to their own destruction, 2 Pet.iii. 16.; where, speaking of St. Paul's epistles, he says, there are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other fcriptures, unto their own destruction. Here the danger objected is taken notice of; but the remedy prescribed by St Peter, is not to take from the people the use of the scriptures,
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and to keep them in ignorance ; but after he had cautioned against the like weakness and errors, he exhorts them to grow in knowledge : ver, 17. 18. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, (that is, feeing ye are to plainly told and warned of this danger), bervare left je also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastmess. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saricur Jesus Christ, (that is, of the Chri. ftian religion); believing, it seems, that the more knowledge they had in religion, the less they would be in danger of falling into damnable errors. I proceed to the
II. Second observation, viz. That the knowledge of our duty, and the practice of it, may be, and often are separated. This likewise is fupposed in the text, that men may, and often do know the will of God, and their duty, and yet fail in the practice of it. Our Saviour elsewhere supposeth, that many know their master's will who do not do it; and he compares those that hear his susirgs, and do them not, to a foolijo man that built bis house upon the sand. And St James speaks of fome, who are hearers of the word only, but not doers of it, and for that reason fall short of happiness. And this is no wonder, because the attaining to that knowledge of religion which is necessary to salvation is no difficult task. A great part of it is written on our hearts, and we cannot be ignorant of it if we would; as that there is a God, and a providence, and another state after this life, wherein we Thall be rewarded, or punished, according as we have lived here in this world ;. that God is to be worshipped, to be prayed to for what we want, and to be praised for what we enjoy, Thus far nature instructs men in religion, and in the great duties of morality, as justice, and temperance, and the like. And as for revealed religion, as that Jesus Christ the son of God came in our nature to save us, by revealing our duty more clearly and fully to us, by giving us a more perfect example of holiness and obedience in his own life and conversation, and by dying for our sins, and rising again for our justification, these are things
which men may easily understand ; and yet for all that, they are difficultly brought to the practice of religion.
I shall instance in three sorts of persons, in whom the knowledge of religion is more remarkably separated from the practice of it; and for distinction's fake, I may call them by these three naines; the fpeculative, the formal, and the hypocritical Christian. The firit of these makes religion only a science, the second takes it up for a fashion, the third makes some worldly advantage of it, and serves some secular interest and design by it. All these are upon several: accounts concerned to understand something of religion; but yet will not be brought to the practice of it.
1. The first of these, whom I call the speculative: Christian, is he who makes religion only a science, and studies it as a piece of learning, and part of that general knowledge in which he affects the reputation of being a master. He hath no design to practise it, but he is loth to be ignorant of it, because the knowledge of it is a good ornament of conversation, and will serve for discourse and entertainment among those who are disposed to be grave and serious; and because he does not intend to practise it, he paffethover those things which are plain and easy to be understood, and applies himself chiefly to the confide-ration of those things which are more abftrufe, and will afford matter of controversy and subtle dispute, as the doctrine of the Trinity, predeftination, freewill, and the like. Of this temper seem many of the schoolmen of old to have been, who made it their great study and business to puzzle religion, and to make: every thing in it intricate, by starting infinite questions and difficulties about the plainelt truths : and of the same rank usually are the heads and leaders of: parties and factions in religion, who by needless controversies and endlefs disputes about something or 0. ther, commonly of no great moment in religion, hinder themselves and others from minding the practice of the great and fubftantial duties of a good life,