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the truth: and many good books must be read, that have little to add to what we have read in many others before; and many that are blotted with ensnaring errors; which, if we detect not, we leave snares for such as see them not; and if we detect them, (never so tenderly, if truly,) we are taken to be injurious to the honor of the learned, godly authors, and proudly to overvalue our own conceits. And so lamentable is the case of all mankind, by the imperfections of human language, that those words which are invented for communication of conceptions, are so little fitted to their use, as rather to occasion misunderstanding and contentions; their being scarce a word that hath not many significations, and that needeth not many more words to bring us to the true notice of the speaker's mind; and when every word is a signum, that hath three relations, 1. To the matter spoken of. 2. To the mind of the speaker, as signifying his conceptions of that matter. 3. And to the mind of the hearer, or reader, which is to be informed by it, it is so hard to find and use words that are fitted indeed to all these uses, and to have store of such, and mix no other, that few, if any, 'in the world were ever so happy as to attain it. 1. And if words be not fitted to the matter or things, they are false as to their first and proper use; and yet the penury of apt words, and the redundancy of others, and the authority of the masters of sciences, imposing arbitrary terms and notions on their disciples, and the custom of the vulgar, who have the empire, as to the sense of words, have all conspired to make words inapt, and of very uncertain signification. So that when students have learned words by long and hard studies, they are oft little the nearer the true knowledge of the things; and too oft, by their inaptitude, misled to false conceptions. And so their saying is too often true, that a great book is a great evil, while it containeth so great a number of uncertain words, which become the matter of great contentions.
2. And when the mind of the speaker or writer is no better informed by such notions, but his conceptions of things are some false, some confused and undigested, what wonder if his words do no otherwise express his mind to others, when even men of clearest understanding find it difficult to have words still ready to communicate their conceptions with truth and clearness. To form true sentiments Vol. II.
of things into apt, significant words, is a matter of mere art, and requireth an apt teacher, and a serious learner, and long use (and too many take their art of speaking, in prayer, conference, or preaching, to have more in it of wisdom and piety, than it hath; and some too much condemn the unaccustomed that want it.)
3. And if we could fit our words well to the matter, and to our minds, (with that double verity,) yet still it is hard to fit them to the reader or hearer; for want of which they are lost as to him; and his information being our end, they are therefore so far lost to us. And that which is spoken most congruously to the matter, is seldom fitted to the capacity of the receiver. And recipitur ad modum recipientis, et pro capto lectoris, fc. Some readers or hearers, (yea, almost all,) are so used to unapt words and notions, obtruded on mankind, by the master of words, that they cannot understand us if we change their terms and offer them fitter, and yet least understand those which they think that they best understand; and all men must have long time to learn the art of words, before they can understand them as well as before they can readily use them. And the duller any man is, and of less understanding, the more words are necessary to make him understand ; and yet his memory is the less capable of retaining many. This is our difficulty, not only in catechising, but in all other writings and teaching, a short catechism, or a short style, the ignorant understand not : and a long one they remember not. And he that will accommodate one judicious reader or hearer, with profound matter, or an accurate style, must incommodate multitudes that are incapable of it; and, therefore, such must be content with few approvers, and leave the applause of the multitude to the more popular, unless he be one that can seasonably suit himself to both.
A man that resolveth not to be deceived by ambiguous words, and maketh it his first work, in all his readings and disputings, to difference between words, and sense, and things, and strictly to examine cach disputed term, till the speaker's meaning be distinctly known, will see the lamentable case of the church, and all mankind, and what shadows of knowledge deceive the world, and in what useless dreams the greatest part of men, yea, of learned men, do spend their days: much of that which some men unweariedly study, and
take to be the honor of their understandings, and their lives; and much of that, which multitudes place their piety and hopes of salvation in, being a mere game at words, and useless notions; and as truly to be called vanity and vexation, as is the rest of the vain show, that most men walk in. My sad and bitter thoughts of the heathen, infidel, Mahommetan world, and of the common corruptions of rulers and teachers, cities and countries, senates and councils, I will not here open to others, lest they offend ; nor cry out as Seneca, Omnes mali sumus, or Stultorum plena sunt omnia, nor describe the furious spirits of the clergy, and their ignorance, and unrighteous calumnies and schisms, as Gregory Nazianzen and others do, nor voluminously lament the seeming hopeless case of earth, by the boldness, blindness, and fury of men that make use of such sad considerations, to loosen my love from such a world, and make me willing to be with Christ.
9. And if other men's words and writings are blemished with so much imperfection, why should I think that my own are blameless? I must for ever be thankful for the holy instructions and writings of others, nothwithstanding human frailty, and contentious men's abuse of words: and so I must be thankful that God hath made any use of my own, for the good of souls, and his church's edification. But with how many allays are such comforts here mixed? We are not the teachers of a well-ruled school, where learners are ranked into several forms, that every one may have the teaching which is agreeable to his capacity ; but we must set open the door to all that will crowd in, and publish our writings to all sorts of readers : and there being as various degrees of capacity as there are men and women, and consequently great variety and contrariety of apprehensions, it is easy ab antecedente to know what various reception we must expect : we cast out our doctrine almost as a foot-ball is turned out among boys in the street, in some congregations: few understand it, but every one censureth it. Few come as learners, or teachable disciples, but most come to sit as judges on their teacher's words; and yet have not either the skill, or the patience, or the diligence, which is necessary in a just trial, to a righteous judgment. But as our words agree or disagree with the former conceptions of every hcarer,
so are they judged to be wise or foolish, sound or unsound, true or false, fit or unfit. Few sermons that I preach, but one extolleth them, and wisheth they were printed, and another accuseth them of some heinous fault: some men are pleased with clearness and accurateness of doctrine; and others account it too high, and say we shoot over the hearers' heads, and like nothing but the fervent application of what they knew before : most hearers are displeased with that which they most need : if they err, they reproach that doctrine as erroneous that would cure them : if they are guilty of any prevailing distemper and sin, they take that application to be injurious to them, which would convince them, and save them from that guilt. Most are much pleased with plain and zealous reproof of sin ; but it must be other men's sins, and not their own. The poor love to hear of the evil of oppression and unmercifulness, of pride, fulness, and idleness, and all the sins of the rich: subjects love to hear of their ruler's faults, and say, O this man is no flatterer; he dares tell the greatest of their sins: but if they hear of their own, they take it for an injury. Rulers like a sermon for submission and obedience, but how few love to hear of the evil of injustice and oppression, or pride and sensuality, or to read Luke xvi. or xii. or James v.; to hear of the necessity of holiness, justice, and temperance, and of death, and judgment, and the life to come! Every sectary and dogmatist delighteth to have his own opinion cried up, and his party praised as the chiefest saints : but all that tendeth to the praise of those he dissenteth from, and accounteth adversaries to the truth, is distasteful to him, as a complying with iniquity, and a strengthening of the enemies of Christ : and all that uncharitableness which he expecteth from us against others, is as much expected by others against him, and such as he.
This day, while I am writing these words, my pockets are full of letters sent to me, on one side importunately charging it on me as my duty to conform to the oaths, declarations, covenants, and practices, now imposed, or else to give over preaching (which would please them); and on the other side vehemently censuring me as guilty of greivouse sin, for declaring my judgment for so much of conformity as I have done; and charging me by predictions as guilty of the suf
ferings of all that are otherwise minded, for communicating in the sacrament, and the common prayers of the church; and others in the mid-way, persuading me equally to bear my testimony against unjust separation and persecution, and to endeavor still, if possible, to save a self-destroying people from the tearing fury of these two extremes. And how should I answer these contrary expectations, or escape the censures of such expectants ?
And it hath pleased God, who thirty years and more had tried me by human applause, of late in this city (where multitudes of persons of contrary minds are, like passengers in crowded streets, still jostling and offending one another) to exercise me with men's daily backbitings and cavils : and so many have chosen me for the subject of their discourse, that I may say as Paul, (1 Cor. iv. 9, 10, &c.,) “We are made a spectacle (or theater) to the world, and to angels, and to men: we are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ,” &c. Did I not live out of the noise in retirement, taken up with pain, and expectations of my change, what an annoyance to me would it be to hear religious persons, that have a God, a Christ, a heaven, to talk of, to abuse their time and tongues in so much talking of one so inconsiderable, and that hath so little to do with them, or they with him; while with some overvalueing me, and others still quarreling, I am the matter of their idle, sinful talk. The persecutors, for divers years after, first silencing, (if not still,) and the separatists for two or three years last past, have been possessed with so strange a jealousy and quarrelsome a disposition against me, that they seem to take it for their interest to promote my defamation, and for much of their work to search what may afford them any matter of accusation in every sermon that I preach, and every book that I write. And though the fury of the persecutors be such as maketh them much incapable of such converse and sober consideration as is needful to their true information and satisfaction; yet most of the more religous cavillers are satisfied as soon as I have spoken with them, and all endeth in a putarem or non putarem: for want of accurateness and patience, they judge rashly before they understand, and when they understand, confess their error; and yet many go on and take no warning after many times conviction of their mistake. Even