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'homines multæ religionis, nullius penè pietatis,'' men of much religion and little godliness,'-it would not be that there should be so many quarrels in and concerning that religion, which is wholly made up of truth and peace, and was sent amongst us to reconcile the hearts of men, when they were tempted to uncharitableness by any other unhappy argument. Disputation cures no vice, but kindles a great many, and makes passion evaporate into sin: and though men esteem it learning, yet it is the most useless learning in the world. When Eudamidas, the son of Archidamus, heard old Xenocrates disputing about wisdom, he asked very soberly, If the old man be yet disputing and inquiring concerning wisdom, what time will he have to make use of it?' Christianity is all for practice; and so much time as is spent in quarrels about it, is a diminution to its interest. Men inquire so much what it is, that they have but little time left to be Christians. I remember a saying of Erasmus, 'that when he first read the New Testament, with fear and a good mind, with a purpose to understand it and obey it, he found it very pleasant; but when, afterwards, he fell on reading the vast differences of commentaries, then he understood it less than he did before, then he began not to understand it :' for, indeed, the truths of God are best dressed in the plain culture and simplicity of the Spirit; but the truths that men commonly teach, are like the reflections of a multiplyingglass; for one piece of good money, you shall have forty that are fantastical; and it is forty to one if your finger hit upon the right. Men have wearied themselves in the dark, having been amused with false fires; and instead of going home, have wandered all night iv dois àßáтois, in untrodden, unsafe, uneasy ways;' but have not found out what their soul desires. But, therefore, since we are so miserable, and are in error, and have wandered very far, we must do as wandering travellers use to do, go back just to that place from whence they wandered, and begin upon a new account. Let us go to the truth itself, to Christ; and he will tell us an easy way of ending all our quarrels: for we shall find Christianity to be the easiest and the hardest thing in the world: it is like a secret in arithmetic, infinitely hard till it be found out by a right operation, and then it is so plain, we wonder we did not understand it earlier.
Christ's way of finding out of truth, is by " doing the will of God." We will try that by and by, if possibly we may find that easy and certain: in the meantime, let us consider what ways men have propounded to find out truth, and upon the foundation of that to establish peace in Christendom.
1. That there is but one true way, is agreed upon; and therefore almost every church of one denomination that lives under government, propounds to you a system or collective body of articles, and tells you that is the true religion, and they are the church, and the peculiar people of God: like Brutus and Cassius, of whom one says, "Ubicunque ipsi essent, prætexebant esse rempublicam," "They supposed themselves were the commonwealth;" and these are the church, and out of this church they will hardly allow salvation but of this there can be no end; for divide the church into twenty parts, and in what part soever your lot falls, you and your party are damned by the other nineteen; and men on all hands almost keep their own proselytes by affrighting them with the fearful sermons of damnation: but, in the meantime, here is no security to them, that are not able to judge for themselves, and no peace for them that are.
2. Others cast about to cure this evil, and conclude, that it must be done by submission to an infallible guide; this must do it or nothing; and this is the way of the church of Rome; follow but the pope and his clergy, and you are safe, at least as safe as their warrant can make you. Indeed, this were a very good way, if it were a way at all; but it is none; for this can never end our controversies: not only because the greatest controversies are about this infallible guide; but also because, 1. We cannot find, that there is, upon earth, any such guide at all. 2. We do not find it necessary that there should. 3. We find that they who pretend to be this infallible guide, are themselves infinitely deceived. 4. That they do not believe themselves to be infallible, whatever they say to us; because they do not put an end to all their own questions, that trouble them. 5. Because they have no peace, but what is constrained by force and government. 6. And lastly: Because, if there were such a guide, we should fail of truth by many other causes: for, it may be, that guide would not do his duty; or we are fallible followers of this infallible leader; or we should not understand his
meaning at all times, or we should be perverse at some times, or something as bad; because we all confess, that God is an infallible guide, and that some way or other he does teach us sufficiently, and yet it does come to pass, by our faults, that we are as far to seek for peace and truth as ever.
3. Some very wise men, finding this to fail, have undertaken to reconcile the differences of Christendom, by a way of moderation. Thus they have projected to reconcile the papists and the Lutherans, the Lutherans and the Calvinists, the remonstrants and contra-remonstrants, and project, that each side should abate of their asperities, and pare away something of their propositions, and join in common terms and phrases of accommodation,-each of them sparing something, and promising they shall have a great deal of peace for the exchange of a little of their opinion. This was the way of Cassander, Modrevius, Andreas Frisius, Erasmus, Spalato, Grotius, and, indeed, of Charles the Fifth, in part, but something more heartily of Ferdinand the Second. This device produced the conferences at Poissy, at Montpelier, at Ratisbon, at the Hague, at many places more: and what was the event of these? Their parties, when their delegates returned, either disclaimed their moderation, or their respective princes had some other ends to serve, or they permitted the meetings upon uncertain hopes, and a trial if any good might come; or, it may be, they were both in the wrong, and their mutual abatement was nothing but a mutual quitting of what they could not get, and the shaking hands of false friends; or, it may be, it was all of it nothing but hypocrisy and arts of craftiness, and, like Lucian's man, every one could be a man and a pestle when he pleased. And the Council of Trent, though under another cover, made use of the artifice, but made the secret manifest and common for at this day the Jesuits, in the questions 'de auxiliis Divinæ gratiæ,' have prevailed with the Dominicans to use their expressions, and yet they think they still keep the sentence of their own order. From hence can succeed nothing but folly and a fantastic peace: this is but the skinning of an old sore; it will break out upon all occasions.
4. Others, who understand things beyond the common rate, observing that many of our controversies and peevish wranglings are kept up by the ill stating of the question,
endeavour to declare things wisely, and make the matter intelligible, and the words clear; hoping, by this means, to cut off all disputes. Indeed this is a very good way, so far as it can go; and would prevail very much, if all men were wise, and would consent to those statings, and would not fall out upon the main inquiry, when it were well stated: but we find, by a sad experience, that few questions are well stated; and when they are, they are not consented to; and when they are agreed on by both sides that they are well stated, it is nothing else but a drawing up the armies in battalia with great skill and discipline; the next thing they do is, they thrust their swords into one another's sides.
5. What remedy after all this? Some other good men have propounded one way yet; but that is a way of peace, rather than truth; and that is, that all opinions should be tolerated, and none persecuted, and then all the world will be at peace. Indeed, this relies upon a great reasonableness; not only because opinions cannot be forced, but because if men receive no hurt, it is to be hoped they will do none. But we find that this alone will not do it; for besides that all men are not so just as not to do any injury,-for some men begin the evil; besides this, I say, there are very many men amongst us, who are not content that you permit them; for they will not permit you, but rule over your faith,' and say that their way is not only true, but necessary; and therefore the truth of God is at stake, and all indifference and moderation is carnal wisdom, and want of zeal for God; nay, more than so, they preach for toleration when themselves are under the rod, who, when they got the rod into their own hands, thought toleration itself to be intolerable. Thus do the papists, and thus the Calvinists; and, for their cruelty, they pretend charity. They will, indeed, force you to come in, but it is in true zeal for your soul; and if they do you violence, it is no more than if they pull your arm out of joint, when, to save you from drowning, they draw you out of a river; and if you complain, it is no more to be regarded than the outcries of children against their rulers, or sick men against physicians. But as to the thing itself, the truth is, it is better in contemplation than practice; for reckon all that is got by it, when you come to handle it, and it can never satisfy for the infinite disorders happening in the government; the
scandal to religion, the secret dangers to public societies, the growth of heresy, the nursing up of parties to a grandeur so considerable, as to be able, in their own time, to change the laws and the government. So that if the question be, whether mere opinions are to be persecuted,-it is certainly true, they ought not. But if it be considered how, by opinions, men rifle the affairs of kingdoms, it is also as certain, they ought not to be made public and permitted. And what is now to be done? Must truth be for ever in the dark, and the world for ever be divided, and societies disturbed, and governments weakened, and our spirits debauched with error, and the uncertain opinions and the pedantry of talking men? Certainly there is a way to cure all this evil; and the wise Governor of all the world hath not been wanting in so necessary a matter as to lead us into all truth. But the way hath not yet been hit upon, and yet I have told you all the ways of man, and his imaginations, in order to truth and peace: and you see these will not do; we can find no rest for the soles of our feet, amidst all the waters of contention and disputations, and little artifices of divided schools. Every man is a liar,' and his understanding is weak, and his propositions uncertain, and his opinions trifling, and his contrivances imperfect, and neither truth nor peace does come from man. I know I am in an auditory of inquisitive persons, whose business is to study for truth, that they may find it for themselves, and teach it unto others. I am in a school of prophets and prophets' sons, who all ask Pilate's question, "What is truth?" You look for it in your books, and you tug hard for it in your disputations, and you derive it from the cisterns of the fathers, and you inquire after the old ways, and sometimes are taken with new appearances, and you rejoice in false lights, or are delighted with little umbrages and peep of day. But where is there a man, or a society of men, that can be at rest in his inquiry, and is sure he understands all the truths of God? Where is there a man, but the more he studies and inquires, still he discovers nothing so clearly as his own ignorance? This is a demonstration that we are not in the right way, that we do not inquire wisely, that our method is not artificial. If men did fall upon the right way, it were impossible so many learned men should be engaged in contrary parties and opinions. We have examined all ways but one,