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THE natural inability of most men to judge exactly of things, makes it very difficult for them to discern the real good and evil of what comes before them, to consider and weigh circumstances, to scatter and look through the mists of error, and so separate appearances from reality. For the greater part of mankind is but slow and dull of apprehension; and therefore in many cases under a necessity of seeing with other men's eyes, and judging with other men's understandings. To which their want of judging or discerning abilities, we may add also their want of leisure and opportunity to apply their minds to such a serious and attent consideration, as may let them into a full discovery of the true goodness and evil of things, which are qualities which seldom display themselves to the first view: There must be leisure and retirement, solitude and a sequestration of man's self from the noise and toil of the world; for truth scorns to be seen by eyes too much fixed upon inferior objects. It lies too deep to be fetched up with the plough, and too close to be beaten out with the hammer. It dwells not in shops or workhouses; nor till the late age was it ever known, that any one served seven years to a smith or a tailor, that he might at the end thereof, proceed master of any other arts, but such as those trades taught him: and much less that he should commence doctor or

divine from the shopboard, or the anvil; or from whistling to a team, come to preach to a congregation. These were the peculiar, extraordinary privileges of the late blessed times of light and inspiration otherwise nature will still hold on its old course, never doing any thing which is considerable without the assistance of its two great helps-art and industry. But above all, the knowledge of what is good and what is evil, what ought and what ought not to be done in the several offices and relations of life, is a thing too large to be compassed, and too hard to be mastered, without brains and study, parts, and contemplation.*

Such were the sentiments of South. Shakespeare, in Troilus and Cressida, says,

Paris, and Troilus, you have both said well;
And on the cause and question now in hand
Have gloz'd, but superficially; not much
Unlike young men, whom Aristotle thought
Unfit to hear moral philosophy:

The reasons you allege, do more conduce
To the hot passion of distemper'd blood,
Than to make up a free determination

'Twixt right and wrong; for pleasure and revenge,
Have ears more deaf than adders to the voice

Of any true decision.

Lord Bacon, in stating the objections made by divines to the advancement of learning, says, "They urge that knowledge is of the nature and number of those things, which are to be accepted with great limitation and caution; that the aspiring to overmuch knowledge, was the original temptation and sin, whereupon ensued the fall of man." To which Lord Bacon answers, "the divines do not observe and consider, that it was not that pure and primitive knowledge of

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We know how great an absurdity our Saviour accounted it, for the blind to lead the blind; and to put him that cannot so much as see, to discharge the office of a watch. Nothing more exposes to contempt than ignorance. When Samson's eyes were out, of a public magistrate he was made a public sport. And when Eli was blind,

nature, by the light whereof man did give names to other creatures in paradise, as they were brought before him, according to their proprieties, which gave the occasion to the fall; but it was that proud knowledge of good and evil, with an intent to shake off God and to give law unto himself.

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So too, in his tract on education, he says, " Is it not a wise opinion of Aristotle and worthy to be regarded: That young men are no fit auditors of Moral philosophy, because the boiling heat of their affections is not yet settled, nor attempered with time and experience. And to speak truth, doth it not hereof come that those excellent books and discourses of ancient writers, (whereby they have persuaded unto virtue most effectually; representing as well her stately majesty to the eyes of the world, as exposing to scorn popular opinions in disgrace of virtue, attired as it were, in their parasite coats) are of so little effect towards honesty of life and the reformation of corrupt manners; because they use not to be read and revolved by men mature in years and judgment, but are left and confined only to boys and beginners. But is it not true also that young men are much less fit auditors of policy than morality, till they have been thoroughly seasoned with religion and the knowledge of manners and duties; lest their judgments be corrupted and made apt to think that there are no moral differences true and solid of things; but that all is to be valued according to utility and fortune."

* Vol. i. 258.

we know how well he governed his sons, and how well they governed the church under him. But now the blindness of the understanding is greater and more scandalous: especially in such a seeing age as ours; in which the very knowledge of former times passes but for ignorance in a better dress; an age that flies at all learning, and enquires into every thing, but especially into faults and defects. Ignorance, indeed, so far as it may be resolved into natural inability, is, as to men, at least, inculpable, and consequently not the object of scorn, but pity; but in a governor, it cannot be without the conjunction of the highest impudence; for who bid such a one aspire to teach and to govern. A blind man sitting in the chimney corner is pardonable enough, but sitting at the helm he is intolerable. If men will be ignorant and illiterate, let them be so in private, and to themselves, and not set their defects in a high place, to make them visible and conspicuous. If owls will not be hooted at, let them keep close within the tree, and not perch upon the upper boughs. Solomon built his temple with the tallest cedars; and surely when God refused the defective and the maimed for sacrifice, we cannot think that he requires them for the priesthood. When learning, abilities, and what is excellent in the world forsake the church, we may easily foretell its ruin without the gift of prophesy. And when ignorance succeeds in the place of learning, weakness in the room of judgment, we may be sure

heresy and confusion will quickly come in the room of religion.*


EVERY rebuke of vice comes, or should come, from the preacher's mouth, like a dart or arrow thrown by some mighty hand, which does execution proportionably to the force or impulse it received from that which threw it; so our Saviour's matchless virtue, free from the least tincture of any thing immoral, armed every one of his reproofs with a piercing edge and an irresistible force. We may easily guess with what impatience the world would have heard an incestuous Herod discoursing of chastity, a Judas condemning covetousness, or a Pharisee preaching against hypocrisy.‡


THAT the eye of conscience may be always quick and lively, let constant use be sure to keep it constantly open, and thereby ready and prepared to admit and let in those heavenly beams which are always streaming forth from God upon minds fitted to receive them. And to this purpose let a man fly from every thing which may leave either a foulness or a bias upon it; let him dread every

* Vol. i. 258. † Vol. iv. 423. See Proverbs, c. 29.

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