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reason; for though in this he may fall into error, yet he will escape the sin; he may do violence to truth, but never to his own conscience; and an honest error is better than a hypocritical profession of truth, or la violeut luxation of the understanding, since if he retains honesty and simplicity, he cannot err in a matter of faith or absolute necessity. God's goodness hath secured all honest and careful persons from that; for other things, he must follow the best guides he can, and he cannot be obliged to follow better than God hath given him.
He that follows his guide so far as his reason goes along with him, or which is all one, he that follows his own reason, not guided only by natural arguments, but by divine revelation, and all other good means, hath great advantages over him that gives himself wholly to follow any human guide whatsoever, because he follows all their reasons and his own too; he follows them till reason leaves them, or till it seems so to him, which is all one to his particular, for by the confession of all sides, an erroneous conscience binds him, when a right guide does not bind him. But he that gives himself up wholly to a guide is oftentimes, I mean if he be a discerning person, forced to do violence to his own understanding, and to lose all the benefit of his own discretion, that he may reconcile his reason to his guide. • It is best to follow our guides, if we know nothing better; but if we do, it is better to follow the pillar of fire, than a pillar of cloud, though both possibly may lead to Canaan; but then also it is possible that it may be otherwise. But I am sure, if I do my own best; then if it be best to follow a guide, and if it be also necessary, I shall be sure by God's grace and my own endeavour to get to it; but if I, without the particular engagement of my own understanding, follow a guide, possibly I may be guilty of extreme negligence, or I may extinguish God's Spirit, or do violence to my owo reason. And whether intrusting myself wholly with another, be not a laying up my talent in a napkin, I ain not so well assured. I am certain the other is not. And since another man's answering for me will not hinder, but that I also shall answer for myself; as it concerns him to see he does not wilfully misguide me, so it concerns me to see that he shall not if I can help it; if I cannot, it will not be required at my hands; whether it be his fault, or his invincible error, I shall be charged with neither.
This is no other than what is enjoined as a duty. For since God will be justified with a free obedience, and there is an obedience of understanding as well as of will and affection, it is of great concernment, as to be willing to believe whatever God says, so also to inquire diligently whether the will of God be so as is pretended.* Even our acts of understanding are acts of choice, and therefore it is commanded as a duty, to "Search the Scriptures, to try the spirits whether they be of God or no, of ourselves to be able to judge what is right to try all things, and to retain that which is best.” For he that resolves not to consider, resolves not to be careful whether he have truth or no, and therefore hath an affection indifferent to truth or falsehood, which is all one as if he did choose amiss; and since when things are truly propounded and made reasonable and intelligible we cannot but assent, and then it is no thanks to
* Mat. xv. 10. John v. 40. 1 John iv. 1. Ephes. v. 17. Luke xxiv. 25. Rom. iii. 11. and i. 28. Apoc, ü. 2. Acts xvii. 11.
us; we have no way to give our wills to God in matters of belief, but hy our industry in searching it and examining the grounds upon which the propounders build their dictates. And the not doing it is oftentimes a cause that God gives a man over ons vou é doxonov, unto a reprobate and undiscerning mind and understanding.
And this very thing, though men will not understand it, is the perpetual practice of all men in the world that can give a reasonable account of their faith. For if you tell thein, Scripture and tradition are their rules to follow, they will believe you when they know a reason for it, and if they take you upon your word, they have a reason for that too, either they believe
learned man, or a good man, or that you can have no ends upon them, or something that is of an equal height to fit their understandings. If you tell them they must believe the church, you must tell them why they are bound to it, and if you quote Scripture to prove it, you must give them leave to judge, whether the words alledged speak your sense or no, and therefore to dissent if they say no such thing. And although all men are not wise, and proceed discreetly, yet all make their choice some way or other. He that chooses to please his fancy, takes his choice as much, as he that chooses prudently. And no man speaks more unreasonably, than he that denies to men the use of their reason in the choice of their religion.
In this question, by Reason I do not mean a distinct topic, but a transcendent that runs through all topics; for reason, like logic, is instrument of all things else, and when revelation and philosophy and public experience, and all other grounds of probability or demonstration have supplied us with matter, then reason does but make yse of them; that is, in plain terms, there being so many ways of arguing, so many sects, such differing interests, such variety of authority, so many pretences, and so many false beliefs, it concerns every wise man to consider which is the best argument, which proposition relies upon the truest grounds; and if this were not his only way, why do men dispute and urge arguments, why do they cite councils and fathers, why do they alledge Scripture and tradition, and all this on all sides, and to contrary purposes? If we must judge, then we must use our reason; if we must not judge, why do they produce evidence? Let them leave disputing and decree propositions magisterially, but then we may choose whether we will believe them or no; or if they say we must believe them, they must prove it, and tell us why. And all these disputes concerning tradition, councils, fathers, are not arguments against or besides reason, but contestations and pretences to the best arguments, and the most certain satisfaction of our reason.
But then all these coming into question, submit themselves to reason, that is, to be judged by human understanding, upon the best grounds and information it can receive. So that Scripture, tradition, councils, and fathers, are the evidence in a question, but reason is the judge, that is, we being the persons that are to be persuaded, we must see that we be persuaded reasonably, and it is unreasonable to assent to a lesser evidence, when a greater and clearer is propounded, but of that every man for himself is to take cognizance if he be able to judge, if he be not, he is not bound under the tie of necessity to know any thing of it; that that is necessary shall be certainly conveyed to him; God that best can, will certainly take care for that; for if he does not, it becomes to be not necessary; or if it should still remain necessary, and he be damned for not knowing it,
and yet to know it be not in his power, then who can help it? There can be no further care in this business. In other things, there being no absolute and prime necessity, we are left to our liberty to judge that makes best demonstration of our piety and of our love to God and truth, not that way that is always the best argument of an excellent understanding, for this may be a blessing, but the other only is a duty.
[Liberty of Prophesying.
Rev. Mr. Ware's Historical Discourses.
The Rev. Henry Ware, of Boston, has lately published two Historical Discourses, which were preached by him on a particular occasion in that place. They relate more immediately to the history and concerns of the church and society, over which he is settled. But they have more than a local importance. Together with the body of notes which accompany them, and which appear to have been collected with diligent research, they comprise much valuable information for the general historian. He has delineated at some length the characters of his two memorable predecessors, Increase Mather, and Cotton Mather; the former conspicuous for the part he acted in the early history of New England, both in a political and a theological capacity, and the latter renowned as the learned and eccentric author of the Magnalia Christi. Mr. Ware's example is worthy of imitation. If clergymen generally would adopt the same plan, we should soon have materials for an accurate and complete history of our country.