Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

what mind and course of life to prefer by the judgment of one that hath tried both before them.

The temper of my mind hath somewhat altered with the temper of my body. When I was young, I was more vigorous, affectionate, and fervent in preaching, conference and prayer, than (ordinarily) I can be now; my stile was niore extemporate and lax, but by the advantage of affection, and a very familiar moving voice and utterance, my preaching then did more affect the auditory, than many of the last years before I gave over preaching ; but yet what I delivered was much more raw, and had more passages that would not bear the trial of accurate judgments; and my discourses bad both less substance and less judgment than of late.

My understanding was then quicker, and could easilier manage any thing that was newly presented to it upon a sudden; but it is since better furvished, and acquainted with the ways of truth and error, and with a multitude of particular mistakes of the world, which then I was the more in danger of because I had only the faculty of knowing them, but did not actually know them. I was then like a man of a quick understanding that was to travel a way which he never went before, or to cast up an account which he never laboured in before, or to play on an instrument of music which he never saw before: and I am now like one of somewhat a slower understanding (by that prematura senectus which weakness and excessive bleedings brought me to) who is travelling a way which he hath often gone, and is casting up an account which he hath often cast up, and hath ready at hand, and that is playing on an instrument which he hath often played on: so that I

can

can very confidently say, that my judgment is much sounder and firmer now than it was then; for though I am not now as competent judge of the actings of my own understanding then, yet I can judge of the effects: and when I peruse the writings which I wrote in my younger years, I can find the footsteps of my unfurnished mind, and of my emptyness and insufficiency: so that the man that followed my judgment then, was likelier to have been misled by me, than he that should follow it now.

And yet, that I may not say worse than it deserveth of

my former measure of understanding, I shall truly tell you what change I find now, in the perusal of my own writings. Those points which then I throughly studied, my judgment is the same of now, as it was then; and therefore in the substance of my religion, and in those controversies which I then searcht into, with some extraordinary diligence, I find not my mind disposed to a change; but in divers points that I studied slightly and by the halves, and in many things which I took upon trust from others, I have found since that my apprehensions were either erroneous, or very lame. And those things which I was orthodox in, I had either insufficient reasons for, or a mixture of some sound and some insufficient ones, or else an insufficient apprehension of those reasons; so that I scarcely knew what I seemed to know. And though in my writings I have found little in substance which my present judgment differeth from, yet in my Aphorisms and Saints Rest (which were my first writings) I find some raw unineet expressions; and one common infirmity I perceive, that I put off matters with some kind of confidence, as if I had done something new or more than ordinary in them, when upon my more mature reviews, I find that I said 119t half that VOL. V.

Oo

which

which the subject did require: as exempli gratia, in the doctrine of the covenants, and of justification, but especially about the divine authority of the Scripture in the second part of the Saints Rest; where I have not said half that should have been said; and the reason was, because that I had not read any of the fuller sort of books that are written on those subjects, nor conversed with those that knew more than myself, and so all those things were either new or great to me, which were com: mon and small perhaps to others : and because they all came in by the way of my own study of the naked matter, and not from books, they were apt to affect my mind the more, and to seem greater than they were. And this token of my weakness accompanied those my younger studies, that I was very apt to start up controversies in the way

of

my practical writings, and also more desirous to acquaint the world with all that I took to be the truth, and to assault those books by name which I thought did tend to deceive them, and did contain unsound and dangerous doctrine. And the reason of all this was, that I was then in the vigour of my youthful apprehensions; and the new appearance of any sacred truth, it was more apt to affect me, and be highlier valued, than afterward, when commonness had dulled my delight; and I did not sufficiently discern then how much in most of our controversies is verbal, and upon mutual mistakes. And withal I knew not how impatient divines were of being contradicted, nor how it would stir up all their powers to defend what they have once said, and to rise up against the truth which is thus thrust upon them, as the mortal enemy of their honour : and I knew not how hardly men's minds are changed from their former apprehensions be the evidence never so plain. And I have perceived, that nothing so much bindereth the reception of the truth, as urging it on men with too harsh importunity, and falling too heavily on their errors: for hereby you engage their honour in the business, and they defend their errors as themselves, and stir up all their wit and ability to oppose you. In controversies it is fierce opposition which is the bellows to kindle a resisting zeal; when if they be neglected, and their opinions lie a while despised, they usually cool and come again to themselves (though I know that this boldeth not when the greediness and increase of his followers, doth animate a sectary, even though he have no opposition.) Men are su loth to be drenched with the truth, that I am no more for going that way to work; and to confess the truth, I am lately much prone to the contrary extreme, to be too indifferent what men tiold, and to keep my judgment to myself

that

, and never to mention any thing wherein I differ from another, or any thing which I think I know more than he; or at least, if he receive it not presently, to silence it, and leave hina to his own opivion. And I find this effect is mixed according to its causes, which are some good, and some bad. The bad causes are, 1. An impatience of men's weakness and mistaking frowardness and self-conceitedness. 2. An abatement of my sensible esteem of truths, through the long abode of them on my mind: though my judginent value them, yet it is hard to be equally affected with old and common things, as with new and rare ones.

The better causes are, 1. That I am much more sensible than ever of the necessity of living upon the principles of religion, which we are all agreed in, and uniting these; and how much mischief men that over-value their own opinions have done by their controversies in the church; how some have destroyed charity, and some caused

002

schisms

schisms by them, and most have bindered godliness in themselves and others, and used them to divert men from the serious prosecuting of a boly life; and as sir Francis Bacon saith, (in his Essay of Peace) that it is one great benefit of churchpeace and concord, that writing controversies is turned into books of practical devotion for increase of piety and virtue. 2. And I find that it is much more for most men's good and edification, to converse with them only in that way of godliness which all are agreed in, and not by touching upon differences to stir up their corruptions; and to tell them of little more of your knowledge, than what you find them willing to receive from you as meer learners; and therefore to stay till they crave information of you (as Musculus did with the Anabaptists; when he visited them in prison, and conversed kindly and lovingly with them, and shewed them all the love he could, and never talked to them of their opinions, till at last they who were wont to call him a deceiver and false prophet, did intreat him to instruct them, and received his instructions.) We mistate men's diseases when we think there needeth nothing to cure their errors, but only to bring them the evidence of truth: alas! there are many distempers of mind to be removed, before men are apt to receive that evidence. And therefore that church is happy where order is kept up, and the abilities of the ministers command a reverend submission from the hearers; and where all are in Christ's school in the distinct ranks of teachers and learners : for in a learning way men are ready to receive the truth, but in a disputing way they come armed against it with prejudice and animosity,

And I must say farther, that what I last mentioned on the by, is one of the notablest changes

of

« ForrigeFortsæt »