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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 holdeth not, when the greediness and increase of his followers doth animate a sectary, even though he have no opposition). Men are so lothe 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 hold, and to keep my judgment to myself, 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 him to his own opinion.
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 judgment 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 schisms by them; and most have hindered godliness in themselves and others, and used them to divert '
men from the serious prosecuting of a holy life: and, as Sir Francis Bacon saith, in his Essay of Peace, that it is one great benefit of church-peace 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 difficulties, 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 mere 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 showed 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 mistake 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 further, that what I last mentioned on the by, is one of the notablest changes of my mind. In my youth, I was quickly past my fundamentals; and was running up into a multitude of controversies, and greatly delighted with metaphysical and scholastic writings, (though I must needs say, my preaching was still on the necessary points); but the older I grew, the smaller stress I laid upon these controversies and curiosities (though still my
intellect abhorreth confusion), as finding far greater uncertainties in them than I at first discerned, and finding less usefulness, comparatively, even where there is the greatest certainty * And now it is the fundamental doctrines of the Catechism, which I highliest value,
* The following quaint lines by Mr. Baxter contain so much truth and pleasantry combined, that they may find a place here : they mildly satirize the dogmatical spirit of controversialists, debating on points but dimly revealed, and well-nigh beyond the compass of our present faculties :
“ We crowd about a little spark,
Learnedly striving in the dark :
Never more bold than when most blind;
Yet the same points have been hotly debated, over and over again, since Baxter's time ; unquietness and presumption being parts of the corruption of Human Nature.-ED.
and daily think of, and find most useful to myself and others. The Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, do find me now the most acceptable and plentiful matter, for all my meditations : they are to me as my daily bread and drink : and, as I can speak and write of them over and over again, so I had rather read or hear of them, than of any of the school-niceties, which once so much pleased me. And thus I observed it was with old Bishop Usher, and with many other men: and I conjecture, that this effect also is mixed of good and bad, according to its
The bad cause may, perhaps, be some natural infirmity and decay: and as trees in the spring shoot up into branches, leaves, and blossoms, but in the autumn the life draws down into the root, so, possibly, my nature, conscious of its infirmity and decay, may find itself insufficient for numerous particles, and assurgency to the attempting of difficult things; and so my mind may retire to the root of Christian principles: and also, I have often been afraid, lest ill rooting at first, and many temptations afterwards, have made it more necessary
for me than
others to retire to the root, and secure my fundamentals. But, upon much observation, I am afraid lest most others are in no better a case; and that, at the first, they take it for a granted thing, that Christ is the Saviour of the world, and that the soul is immortal, and that there is a heaven and a hell, &c., while they are studying abundance of scholastic superstructures,
and, at last, will find cause to study more soundly their religion itself, as well as I have done.
The better causes are these :-1. I value all things according to their use and ends; and I find, in the daily practice and experience of my soul, that the knowledge of God, and Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and the truth of Scripture, and the life to come, and of a holy life, is of more use to me than all the most curious speculations. 2. I know that every man must grow, as trees do, downwards and upwards, both at once; and that the roots increase as the bulk and branches do. 3. Being nearer death and another world, I am the more regardful of those things which my everlasting life and death depend upon. 4. Having most to do with ignorant, miserable people, I am commanded, by my charity and reason, to treat with them of that which their salvation lieth on; and not to dispute with them of formalities and niceties, when the question is presently to be determined, whether they shall dwell for ever in heaven or in hell. In a word, my meditations must be most upon the matters of my practice and my interest: and, as the love of God, and the seeking of everlasting life, is the matter of my practice and
my interest, so must it be of my meditation. That is the best doctrine and study which maketh men better, and tendeth to make them happy. I abhor the folly of those unlearned persons, who revile or despise learning, because they know not what it is: and I take not any piece of true learning to be useless; and yet my soul approveth of the