Obrazy na stronie

does not, it is he that must smart for it; and it is not required of us not to be in error, but that we may endeavour to avoid it.

2. 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 tillit 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. And of this we see infinite inconveniences in the church of Rome: for we find persons of great understanding oftentimes so amused with the authority of their church, that it is pity to see them sweat in answering some objections, which they know not how to do, but yet believe they must, because the church hath said it. So that if they read, study, pray, search records, and use all the means of art and industry, in the pursuit of truth, it is not with a resolution to follow that which shall seem truth to them, but to confirm what before they did believe : and if any argument shall seem unanswerable against any article of their church, they are to take it for a temptation, not for an illumination, and they are to use it accordingly : which makes them make the devil to be the author of that, which God's Spirit hath assisted them to find in the use of lawful means and the search of truth. And when the devil of falsehood is like to be cast out by God's Spirit, they say that it is through Beelzebub : which was one of the worst things that ever the Pharisees said or did. And was it not a plain. stifling of the just and reasonable demands made by the emperor, by the kings of France and Spain, and by the ablest divines among them, which was used in the council of Trent, when they demanded the restitution of priests to their liberty of marriage, the use of the chalice, the service in the vulgar tongue; and these things not only in pursuance of truth, but for other great and good ends, even to take away an infinite scandal and a great schism ? and yet, when they themselves did profess it, and all the world knew these reasonable demands were denied merely upon a politic consideration, yet that these things should be framed into articles and decrees of faith, and they for ever after bound, not only not to desire the same things, but to think the contrary to be divine truths; never was reason made more a slave or more useless. Must not all the world

Must not all the world say, either they must be great hypocrites, or do great violence to their understanding, when they not only cease from their claim, but must also believe it to be unjust? If the use of their reason had not been restrained by the tyranny and imperiousness of their guide, what the emperor and the kings and their theologues would have done, they can best judge who consider the reasonableness of the demand, and the unreasonableness of the denial. But we see many wise men who with their " optandum esse ut ecclesia licentiam daret," &c. proclaim to all the world, that in some things they consent and do not consent, and do not heartily believe what they are bound publicly to profess; and they themselves would clearly see a difference, if a contrary decree should be framed by the church; they would with an infinitely greater confidence rest themselves in other propositions than what they must believe as the case now stands; and they would find that the authority of a church is a prejudice, as often as a free and modest use of reason is a temptation.

3. God will have no man pressed with another's inconveniences in matters spiritual and intellectual, no man's salvation to depend upon another; and every tooth that eats sour grapes, shall be set on edge for itself, and for none else: and this is remarkable in that saying of God by the Prophet; “ If the prophet ceases to tell my people of their sins, and leads them into error, the people shall die in their sins, and the blood of them I will require at the hands of that prophet9;" meaning, that God hath so set the prophets to guide us, that we also are to follow them by a voluntary assent, by an act of choice and election. For although accidentally and occasionally the sheep may perish by the shepherd's fault; yet that which hath the chiefest influence upon their final condition, is their own act and election : and therefore God hath so appointed guides to us, that if we perish, it may be accounted upon both our scores, upon our own and the guides' too, which says plainly, that although we are entrusted to our guides, yet we are entrusted to ourselves too. Our guides must direct us; and yet, if they fail, God hath not so left us to them, but he hath given us enough to ourselves to discover their failings, and our own duties in all things necessary. And for other things, we must do as well as we can.

q Ezek. ssxiii.

But 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 ifl, 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 own reason. And whether entrusting myself wholly with another be not a laying up my talent in a napkin, I am 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.

4. 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

'Malt. xv. 10. John, v. 39. 1 John, iv. 1. Eph. v. 17. Luke, xxiv. 25. Rom. i. 28. ïïi. 11. Apoc. ii. 2. Acts, xvii. 11.

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 us; we have no way to give our wills to God in matters of belief, but by 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 eig voūv ảdúKyjov, ‘into a reprobate and undiscerning mind and understanding.'

5. 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. The very catholic church itself is ‘rationabilis et ubique diffusa,' saith Optatus;

reasonable, as well as diffused every where' For, take the proselytes of the church of Rome, even in their greatest submission of understanding, they seem to themselves to follow their reason most of all. For if you tell them, 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 you a 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 alleged 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 choice of their religion. For that I may, by the way, remove the common prejudice, reason and authority are not things incompetent or repugnant, especially when the authority is infallible and supreme: for there is no greater reason in the world than to believe such an authority. But then we must consider whether every authority that pretends to be such, is

s Lib. s.

so indeed. And therefore 'Deus dixit, ergo hoc verum est,' is the greatest demonstration in the world for things of this nature. But it is not so in human dictates, and yet reason and human authority are not enemies. For it is a good argument for us to follow such an opinion, because it is made sacred by the authority of councils and ecclesiastical tradition, and sometimes it is the best reason we have in a question, and then it is to be strictly followed: but there may also be, at other times, a reason greater than it that speaks against it, and then the authority must not carry it. But then the difference is not between reason and authority, but between this reason and that which is greater: for authority is a very good reason, and is to prevail, unless a stronger comes and disarms it, but then it must give place. So that 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 use 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 allege Scripture and tradition, and 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, &c. 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,



« PoprzedniaDalej »