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improvements of mind acquired by inore than ordi- SERM.
LVIII. nary study and experience; so that in them most people do want sufficient means of attaining knowledge requisite to guide their judgment or their practice: and for such persons in such cases it is plainly the best, the wisest, and the safest way, to rely upon the direction of their guides, assenting to what they declare, acting what they prescribe, going whither they conductd.
The very notion of guides, and the design of their office, doth import a difference of knowledge, and a need of reliance upon them in such cases; it signifieth, that we are in some measure ignorant of the way, and that they better know it; and, if so, plain reason dictateth it fit that we should follow them : and indeed what need were there of guides, to what purpose should we have them, if we can sufficiently ken the way, and judge what we should do without them?
In the state of learning, (in which the assigning us teachers supposeth us placed,) whatever our capacity may be, yet our judgment at least (for want of a full comprehension of things, which must be discovered in order and by degrees) is imperfect : in that state therefore it becometh us not to pretend exercise of judgment, but rather easily to yield assent to what our teachers, who see further into the thing, do assert; The learner, as Seneca saith, is Regi debet, bound to be ruled, while he beginneth to be able to se posse rerule himself
d 'Αλλ' ειδότες ετέροις βέλτιον είναι τας εαυτών ηνίας ενδιδόναι τεχνικωτέροις, ή άλλων ηνιόχους είναι ανεπιστήμονας, και ακοήν υποτιθέναι μάλλον ευγνώμονα, η γλώσσαν κινείν απαίδευτον. Naz. Or. 1.
de calidus, et virtute robustus, &c. Cypr. Ep. 23. de Luciano.
SERM. Δεϊ μανθάνοντα πιστεύειν, A learner should in some LVIII.
measure be credulous ; otherwise, as he will often fail in his judgment, so he will make little progress in learning; for if he will admit nothing on his master's word, if he will question all things, if he will continually be doubting and disputing, or contradicting and opposing his teacher, how can instruction proceed? He that presently will be his own master is a bad scholar, and will be a worse master: he that will fly before he is fledged, no wonder if he tumble down.
There are divers obvious and very considerable cases in which persons most contemptuous of authority, and refractory toward their guides, are constrained to rely upon the judgment of others, and are contented to do it, their conscience shewing them unable to judge for themselves : in admitting the literal sense of scripture, according to translations; in the interpretation of difficult places, depending upon the skill of languages, grammar, and criticism, upon the knowledge of human arts and sciences, upon histories and ancient customs; in such cases, all illiterate persons (however otherwise diffident and disregardful of authority) are forced to see with the eyes of other men, to submit their judgment to the skill and fidelity of their learned guides, taking the very principles and foundations of their religion upon trust : and why then consonantly may they not do it in other cases ; especially in the resolution of difficult, sublime, obscure, and subtile points, the comprehension whereof transcendeth their capacity ?
OF OBEDIENCE TO OUR SPIRITUAL GUIDES
HEB. xii. 17.
Obey them that have the rule over you.
SERM. The more to engage and incline us to the per- LIX. forming this part of our duty, (the regarding, prizing, confiding in the judgment of our guides,) we may consider the great advantages, both natural and supernatural, which they have to qualify them in order to such purposes.
1. They may reasonably be presumed more intelligent and skilful in divine matters than others; for as they have the same natural capacities and endowments with others, (or rather commonly somewhat better than others, as being designed and selected to this sort of employment,) so their natural abilities are by all possible means improved : it is their trade and faculty, unto which their education is directed; in acquiring ability toward which they spend their time, their care, their pains; in which they are continually versed and exercised, (having, as the apo- Heb. V. 14. stle speaketh, by reason of use their senses exercised to discern both good and evil;) for which also they employ their supplications and devotions to God.
SERM. Many special advantages they hence procure, needLIX.
ful or very conducible to a more perfect knowledge of such matters, and to security from errors; such as are conversing with studies, which enlarge a man's mind, and improve his judgment; a skill of disquisition about things; of sifting and canvassing points coming under debate; of weighing the force of arguments, and distinguishing the colours of things; the knowledge of languages, in which the divine oracles are expressed; of sciences, of histories, of practices serving to the discovery and illustration of the truth; exercise in meditation, reading, writing, speaking, disputing, and conference, whereby the mind is greatly enlightened, and the reason strengthened; acquaintance with variety of learned authors, who with great diligence have expounded the holy scriptures, and with most accuracy discussed points of doctrine; especially with ancient writers, who, living near the apostolical times, and being immediately (or within few degrees mediately) their disciples, may justly be supposed most helpful toward informing us what was their genuine doctrine, what the true sense of their writings: by such means, as in other faculties, so in this of theology, a competent skill may be obtained; there is no other ordinary or probable way; and no extraordinary way can be trusted, now that men appear not to grow learned or wise by special inspiration or miracle; after that all pretences to such by-ways have been detected of imposture, and do smell too rank of hypocrisy.
Since then our guides are so advantageously qualified to direct us, it is in matters difficult and doubtful (the which require good measure of skill
and judgment to determine about them) most rea- SERM.
LIX. sonable that we should rely upon their authority, preferring it in such cases to our private discretion; taking it for more probable that they should comprehend the truth than we (unassisted by them, and judging merely by our own glimmering light) can do; deeming it good odds on the side of their doctrine against our opinion or conjecture.
They have also another peculiar advantage toward judging sincerely of things, by their greater retirement from the world and disengagement from secular interests; the which ordinarily do deprave the understandings and pervert the judgments of men, disposing them to accommodate their conceits to the maxims of worldly policy, or to the vulgar appre- 2 Tim. ii. 4. hensions of men, many of which are false and base : by such abstraction of mind from worldly affairs, together with fastening their meditation on the best things (which their calling necessarily doth put them upon) more than is usual to other men, they commonly get principles and habits of simplicity and integrity, which qualify men both to discern truth better, and more faithfully to declare it.
Seeing then in every faculty the advice of the skilful is to be regarded, and is usually relied upon; and in other affairs of greatest importance we scruple not to proceed so; seeing we commit our life and health (which are most precious to us) to the physician, observing his prescriptions commonly without any reason, sometimes against our own sense; we intrust our estate, which is so dear, with the lawyer, not contesting his advice; we put our goods and safety into the hands of a pilot, sleeping securely whilst he steereth us as he thinketh fit; seeing in