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have taught their ignorant (in Ireland, and other barbarous parts) the knowledge of those truths that all are agreed in. Nor can we get many Anabaptists, or any such sect, that is engaged in a division, to forbear their opinions, till we have endeavoured to lay the necessary grounds, on which all must build, that will be saved. But though it be apparent to the world, that their disputes and contentions do exceedingly harden the ignorant and ungodly against all religion, and hinder their conversion and salvation; yet will they go on in the unseasonable, intemperate bruiting of their conceits, and will not be persuaded to agree on those terms, for the managing of differences, as most tend to secure the interest of Christ and his Gospel in the main. If an opinionist be for the truth, he is usually without much zeal for it, because that nature doth not befriend the great spiritual truths of the Gospel, so much as it doth errors, and private conceits. But if he be of erroneous opinions, he is usually very zealous for them. For corrupted nature, and self, and satan, (and the world oft-times) do more befriend these, and furnish him with a zeal for them, and blow the coal. The counterfeit angel of light, is very ordinarily also a spirit of heat, and great activity; not a reviving fire, nor a refining fire, but a consuming fire, devouring Christian love, and meekness, and patience, and therewith the church, and truth of God, so far as it can prevail. For lesser matters, that minister questions, such men can lay by that which tends to godly edifying in faith. Yea, that Charity, which is the very end of the commandment, out of a "pure heart, a good conscience, and faith unfeigned. From these they swerve, and turn aside to vain jangling; oft-times desiring to be teachers of such things, in which they understand not what they say, nor whereof they speak. Consenting not to the wholesome words of Christ, and the doctrine which is according to godliness, they teach otherwise, being proud, knowing nothing, but doating about questions, and strife of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputing of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth;" 1 Tim. i. 4—6. vi. 3-5. Yea, they sometimes take their opinions, or their worldly gain that they often aim at, to be instead of godliness. And think, that to be godly, is to be of their mind and way. They use to strive
about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers, and their vain babblings increase to more ungodliness;"' 2 Tim. ii. 14. 16.
But the true convert looks principally to the main. He loves every known truth of God; but in their order, and accordingly to their worth and weight. He will not, for his own opinions, wilfully do that which will hazard the main, or hinder the Gospel, and the saving of men's souls. Though he will not be false to any truth, yet he will avoid "foolish and unlearned questions, knowing that they do gender strife; and the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle to all men, and meekly instruct opposers: following righteousness, faith, charity, peace with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart;" 2 Tim. ii 22—25.
10. Lastly, True converts are steadfast, but opinionists are usually mutable and inconstant. The sound convert receiveth the greatest truths, and receives the goodness as well as the truth; and takes it not only into the head, but into the heart, and giveth it deep rooting: he closeth with God as his only felicity, and with Christ as his only refuge, and Redeemer, and with heaven as the sure, everlasting glory, to which the world is but a mole-hill, or a dungeon. No wonder then if this man be "steadfast, and immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, that knows his labour is not in vain in the Lord;" 1 Cor. xv. 58.
But the opinionist, either fasteneth on smaller matters, or else holdeth these great matters but as bare opinions, and therefore they have no such interest in his heart, as to establish him against shaking trials and temptations. For two sorts there are of these opinionists, the one sort have no zeal for their own opinions, because they are but opinions; and these are time-servers, and will change, as the king their landlords change, and fit their opinions to their worldly end. The other sort have a burning zeal for their opinions and these use to wander from one opinion to another, not able to resist the subtlety of seducers, but are taken with fair and plausible reasonings, not able to see into the heart of the cause. These are as 66 children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight and cunning craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;" Ephes. iv. 14. When with great. confidence they have held one sort of opnions awhile, and
railed against those that were not of their mind; ere long they will themselves forsake them, and take up another way, and be as confident in that, and take no warning by the experience of their former deceit. And thus they go oft from one opinion to another, till at last, finding themselves deceived so oft, some of them cast off all religion, and think there is no certainty to be found in any, suspecting religion, when they should have suspected their false hearts: and all this comes to pass because they never received the truth in the love of it, that they might be sanctified and saved by it; 2 Thess. ii. 10–12. Nor ever gave it deep entertainment, or took it to heart that it might thoroughly convert them; but as a bare opinion into the brain to polish their tongues and outsides, and deceive themselves as much as others.
And thus I have shewed you the difference between a sound convert and an opinionist, or one that hath but an overly, superficial change, that you may see which of these is your own condition.
To return now to my advice, and exhortation, I entreat every person that readeth or heareth these words, to see that they stick not in an opinionative conversion. To which end I further desire you, 1. To consider that it is a higher matter that Christ came into the world for, than to change men's bare opinions; and it is a higher matter that the Gospel is intended for, and that ministers are sent to you for. For it is more than a corruption of men's opinions, that sin hath brought upon you; and therefore it must be a deeper disease that must be cured. The work of Christ by his Gospel, is no less, than to fetch you off all that which flesh and. blood accounts your happiness, and to unite you to himself, and make you holy, as God is holy, and to give you a new nature, and make you as the dwellers or citizens of heaven, while you walk on earth; Phil. iii. 20, 21. And these are greater matters than the changing of a party or opinion. The Holy Ghost himself must dwell in you, and work in you, and employ your soul and life for God, that you may study him, and love him, and live to him here, and live with him for ever. Do but think well of the ends and meaning of the Gospel, and how much greater matters it drives at, and then you will see that there is no taking up with an opinionative religiousness.
2. Keep company, if it be possible, with the most sober,
spiritual, and heavenly professors, that will be drawing you to the observation of your own heart and life, and opening to you the riches of the love of Christ, and winning up your affections to God and heaven: and be not the companions of inexperienced wranglers, that have no other religion, but a zeal for their opinions, and will endeavour rather to make you like satan, than like God, by possessing your minds with malice, and bitter thoughts of your brethren, and employing your tongues in reproaches, and vain strivings, and make you firebrands in the places where you live: neither be companions of them that hold the truth no deeper than opinion; for though some such may be useful to you in their places, yet if you have not more edifying familiars, your danger will be very great, lest you should let go the life of religion, and take up with mere notions and formalities as they.
3. When you have considered that every truth of God is a message to your hearts, as well as to your heads, and hath a work of God to do upon them, look after that work; and when you have heard or read a truth, go down into your hearts, and see what it hath done there and if you find not in your will, and resolutions, and affections the image and fruits of the truth you have heard, fetch it up again, and ruminate upon it, and do not think you have received it, or done with it, till this be done : yea, take it but as lost, and sinfully rejected, if it have not done you some good at the very heart.
4. Also be sure that you practise all practical truths, upon the first opportunity, as soon as you have heard them. Imprison them not in unrighteousness. Cast them not out in forgetfulness: use not a lecture of divinity as if it were a lesson of music, or a mere philosophical or historical discourse. Read not the doctrine of salvation, and the promise of heaven, and the forewarnings of everlasting misery, as you read a common story, or a groundless conjecture in an almanack; but as a message from God, which tells you where you must dwell for ever, and as a direction sent from heaven, to teach you the way thither. thither. Fall to work then, and practise what you know, if you would be Christians indeed. "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." For the opinionative hearer seeth but a slight appearance of the truth, as a man that looks on his face in a glass, which he quickly forgets; but he that is
a sound believer and practiser, and not only an opinionative, forgetful hearer, is the man that shall "be blessed in his deed;" James i. 22-25. Opinion without practice, is building on the sand; but hearing, and sound believing, and doing, is building upon the rock, where the building will stand after all assaults; Matt. vii. 26-28. An opinionist doth but seem to be religious, while he keeps his reigning sins, and therefore his religion is in vain; but the practical religion is the pure and undefiled religion; James i. 26, 27. Hearty obedience will not only shew that your religion is deeper than mere opinion, but it will also advance it to a greater purity, and root it more deeply than it was before. A man that hath studied the art of navigation in his closet, may talk of it almost as well as he that hath been at sea; but when he comes to practise it, he will find that he is far to seek; but let this man go to sea, and join practice and experience to his theory, and then he may have a knowledge of the right kind. So, if a man that hath only read over military books, would be a true soldier; or a man that hath only studied physic, would be a true physician, what better way is there, than to fall to practice? And so you must, if you would have a religion that shall save your souls; and not only a religion that will furnish you with good opinions and expressions.
5. Moreover, if you would get above opinion, be still searching more and more after the evidences of the ancient fundamental truths that you have received; and lay open your hearts to the power of them. Think it not enough that you take the Christian religion for true, but labour after a clearer sight of its truth: for you may possibly upon some conjecture take it for a truth, by bare opinion, when as the sight of fuller evidences, and a full sight of those evidences might raise you from opinion to a working, saving faith.
6. Lastly, Take heed lest any thing be suffered to keep possession of your hearts, and so to confine the truth to your brain. When the world is kept up in life and power, and is nearest the heart, there is no room for the word there, but it must float upon the top, and swim in your opinion, because it can go no deeper, your lusts and profits having possession before it. The word can never go to the heart with unmortified men, but by casting your idols out of your hearts: nor will it take rooting in you, but by rooting out the world.