Principles of Fleshly Wisdome used in the Pro∣pagation of the Gospel.
2 COR. 1. 12.
WE are describing the several particulars of fleshly wisdome, which men have made in the matters of Religion, all which are renounced by the Apostle in this Text. *
The first in order I shall now propound is, To advance those men who have been of their way, by lies attributing glorious things to them, and as much disparaging and falsly accusing all such who have been in a contrary way of Religion to them. This hath been the subtil policy and stratagem in the Church of Rome. For no Church in the world hath abounded more in fleshly wisdome then she hath done. How notoriously absurd and ridicu∣lous Page 428 are they in relating many foolish miracles done by their Saints? Yea they attribute many wonderfull things to some as Saints, when there were never any such persons in the world, as many learned Writers hold there were never such persons as St George, and St Christopher, and yet what fa∣bulous miracles are reported of them? And truly to read the lives of their Popish Saints, would make a man nauseate their Religion, they are writ∣ten by such who did so much serve their affections, and drive on their de∣signes: Which made Canus, even a Papist, complaine of it, though he saith he doth, Dolenter dicere magis quam contumeliose, speake it with grief rather than with reproach. The lives of Heathens (saith he) [Canus loc. Theolog. Lib. 11. cap. 6.] are written with more truth by Heathenish Writers, then of Saints by Catholicke Writers. Laertius hath more faithful∣ly related the lives of the Philosophers, and Suetonius the lives of the Cae∣sars, then ours have done the lives of Saints. Which maketh him goe on, and say, That he who wrote that Booke, which is called Aurea Legenda, was a man Perrei oris, and Plumbei cordis: He that wrote the Golden Legend, was a man of an iron Fore-head, and a leaden-Heart. Now all this is nothing but fleshly wisdome, not to regard the truth: But onely what will make for advantage, whereas we may see wonderfull sincerity in the Apo∣stles in this very matter; They did use no fleshly wisdome at all, but doe record their owne infirmities as well as miracles. Doth not the Evangel∣ist Matthew relate how he was a Publican? Is not Peter's deniall of his Master, in all the aggravations of it recorded? Are not the strifes of the Disciples about primacy mentioned? Doe we not read of Paul and Barnabas their sharp contention? Did not Paul withstand Peter to the face, because he was worthy to be reproved? Certainly the want of fleshly wis∣dome, and carnall policy in the Apostles, doing all things with sincerity and integrity, as well when it maketh against them as for them, doth plainly evidence, that they were of God. Christ doth not need the conceale∣ment of our imperfections. The more unworthy the instruments are, the more is his glory in bringing about his ends by them. Thus Austin was not ashamed to leave to the world a publick confession of his youthfull vanities and follies. And Beza doth 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, expose himselfe to shame upon that very word, Matth. 1. 19. where shewing that in Plu∣tarch one Archilochus a Poet, for dishonest verses which he had made, he did 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, expose himselfe to shame, Quod mihi aliquando accidit, &c. Which was once my case (saith he) while a young man, and not yet admitted into the Church; which blot, I hope, I have washed away both by sayings and deeds. He was a Papist while he made those wanton verses: Therefore they need not upbraid him so for them, especially seeing he ma∣nifested his repentance for them. Therefore Beza did say of his adver∣saries, Isti homines invident mihi gratiam Dei. These men envy me the grace of God. As fleshly wisdome is seene thus in an hyperbolical admira∣tion of men of our own way, not at all taking notice of their imperfe∣ctions: so is it no lesse manifest in the dispraising, disgraceing and false∣ly traducing those who are dissentients from us. This is fleshly wisdome to disgrace and calumniate those who are against us by forged lies. As the Heathens of old said, The Christians worshipped an Asses head, and that at their love-feasts all wantonnesse and uncleannesse were committed. It is Bel∣larmine's boast, That no Catholickes are found to praise the Doctrine or lives of Heretickes, which is it selfe false. For to omit many instances, Stapleton saith of Calvin, though he subjoyneth enough to marre all, That he is an Interpreter for the letter of the Scripture, Ita diligens, ita elegans, ita suavis, &c. (In Antid. Evang. in Praefat.) So diligent, so Page 429 elegant, so sweet that many Papists did reade him. Yea (saith he) I have heard many wish that those things which are disputed in his Commen∣taries against the Church, and its faith, were taken out, and then they would be very greatly usefull. But if it were true, that no Papists did praise the Protestants; this is not for their honour, but reproach; it being a duty to acknowledge the gifts and abilities that are in men, though we abomi∣nate their errours and vices. So that it is wholly fleshly wisdome in them thus to suppresse the excellency of those who are against them. Yea, if they stayed here, it were pardonable; but they doe most prodigious∣ly vent, and publish horrible lies about Luther and Calvin, as if they had beene monsters of men for their impieties. But all this is wis∣dome from the Devil, and God hath turned all their cursing into blessing.
In the second place, It is fleshly wisdome to maintaine any such perni∣cious*and deceitfull Doctrines, as doe maintaine falshood and deceit, and there∣by as much as lieth in them, overthrow all humane societies. The Priscil∣lianists of old did maintaine, That it was lawfull to lie, and sweare, and say any thing, so that they kept the heart pure. And the Papists (I meane the Jesuited ones) they come neare them; for they doe professedly di∣pute for the lawfullnesse of Equivocation and Mental Reservation; yea they call it prudence. And as the Pelagians of old, who privately to their Disciples, did plainly declare their opinions, but in publick spake craftily and ambiguously, thereby to deceive others, as if they were Orthodox, alledging Christs example, who to the multitude spake in Parables, but opened them plainly to his Disciples: so would these fasten upon Christ, and holy men recorded in Scripture, instances of equivocation. But the Scripture commands us, To lay aside lying, speaking every man the truth to his neighbour, Ephes. 4. 25. And this is subjoyned as a necessary conse∣quent of putting on the new man. Austin wrote much against this way of lying. And certainly seeing that words are appointed to signifie our mind to another; if we pervert them to the contrary end to deceive them, we doe overthrow the foundation of spiritual and civil societies. It is one thing indeed not to reveale all the truth, when not required, or command∣ed, this may sometimes be done; but to deny the truth, or equivocate, this doth no wayes become those, who with sincerity, and not with fleshly wis∣dome, are to propagate the Gospel. If you say, for all the Church of Rome hath used such carnal policy, yet she continueth in her externall prosperity, she is not blasted and crossed in her designes: and therefore Bellarmine would take advantages of the Protestants by this, If (saith he) the Church of Rome be so vile and impure as you say she is; if she use! all those unlawfull and ungodly wayes to keep up her glory, then it's the greater argument, that her constitution is of God, that all her craft and wickednesse hath not yet ruined her. But to this doubt it is easily answered, That by the Scripture we know it is foretold, that he must prevaile for a long time in the Church: and therefore their successe, notwithstanding all their cruelty and craft, is not to be any stumbling block to such who believe the Scri∣ptures.
The third instance of fleshly wisdome to propagate Religion by, is, To*indulge men in their lusts and sinnes, that so the party which follow∣eth them, may be the more numerous. This is fleshly wisdome in an high degree of impiety; and yet in this also the Church of Rome hath beene notorious, when other Churches have by their good Discipline cast out some offenders for scandalous impieties; They have appeal∣ed to the Church of Rome in that case and she craftily laying hold Page 430 on the opportunity, hoping thereby to establish her Supremacy, would like Absolom say to every one that came, that his cause was good; and by this policy in indulging and encouraging such licentious offenders, whom other Churches would not endure as members: At last with other politick devi∣ses, she arrived to that amplitude of power, she now glorieth in. We might instance in other subtil forgeries, as the corrupting or denying some Canons made in the Council of Nice, thereby to translate the chief Patri∣archship to her self; a famous cheat, and discovered most palpably to the shame of the Romane party, of which there is much in Ecclesiastical Au∣thours; as also the pretence of Constantines donation, a forged he like the rest. This I shall insist upon, as greatly considerable, The indulging of peo∣ple in prophanenesse, as also in horrible ignorance, that so they may rule without controll. And how well were it if this fleshly wisdome were inclo∣sed in the Romane Conclave? Are there not too many in the Protestant Churches, that out of a desire either to please men, or increase their earth∣ly advantages promote a promiscuous admission of all to the Lords Table, making no difference betweene the clean and unclean. This I confesse is the way to be applauded by the most: This is that which will give best content to all: This is accounted wisdome and moderation; but Wisdome is justified of her children; and the holy institution of Christs, will be own∣ed by those who worship God in Spirit and truth: But this fleshly wisoome whereby we please all, and indulge men in their lusts, is seldome successe∣full; but fire will come out of the Bramble, when it doth not out of the Fig-tree to consume: I meane even prophane and wicked spirits are many times stirred up by God to oppose such corrupt Teachers, when the godly meddle not at all. For God doth many times make use of the wicked∣nesse of one ungodly man, to torment another. Yea Luther's first stirrings against the abuses of Popery, were not so pure and sincere, as afterwards when the light and grace of God came more upon him. It is therefore a great duty incumbent upon the Ministers of the Gospel, to walk sincere∣ly by Christs rule in their pastoral exercises, avoiding this fleshly wisdome, which though it may seeme sometimes to prevent a mischiefe, yet as it did to David, doth afterwards plunge in a greater calamity. And indeed going to carnal policy in Church-administrations, is but like going to witches and wizards, forsaking Gods way, which never bringeth a per∣fect cure.
Fourthly, Then is carnal wisdome used to propagate Religion, When by it we propound carnal and selfish ends to our selves, not the glory of God, and*advancing the power and purity of his Ordinances. This is that which Paul doth principally disclaim, I seek not you but yours, saith he in this Epistle, 2 Cor. 12. 14. And that they might be perswaded hereof, he would take no maintenance of them, but made use of other Churches, that he might spare them; yea sometimes working with his own hands. How farre this is imitable by the Ministers of the Gospel now, as many do upbraid them with this example of Paul, will be clearly and fully evidenced (God assi∣sting in its time) for we shall meet with this part of Paul expresly men∣tioned and insisted on by him in this Epistle. But it is worth the observa∣tion, that Paul by no way he took, could escape the slander of a self∣seeker. For if in that case he had burdened the Church of Corinth, the false Apostles would have calumniated him, as using a cloak of covetousness, and seeking himself: But now because he will not do so, see how this is interpreted as a carnal designe also; for so he bringeth in their objection, vers. 16, Be it so, I did not burden you, but being crafty, I tooke you with guile. This was suggested against Paul, they made this construction of Page 431Paul's not burdening them, that he did this out of craft, that they should think themselves the more ingaged unto him; and so by this means, he get the more dominion over them. Thus what shall Paul do, if he doth not take mainte∣nance, it is his craft, and if he doth, it is his craft? By this instance we see, how much we are to avoid all fleshly wisdome, for do what we will, it shall be charged upon us. Only when we have this sincerity of conscience within to com∣fort and support us, this will be a means to make us bear the slanders of ene∣mies with greater alacrity. Now as we said, then we may certainly conclude, we are guided by fleshly wisdome; when our aimes in our ministerial way is ei∣ther glory, and applause, which was the poison of the Pharisees duties; or earthly wealth and external pomp; which motives do easily creep in, unlesse grace be the porter to keep the door of the soul. We see even the Disciples themselves, and that twice contending about superiority; and once this was done when our Saviour was fore-telling them of his sad sufferings, and how they should be scattered. And truly this should much prevail with us to walk by sincere rules, because nothing doth more awe peoples hearts, nothing doth more erect a throne of fear and reverence in mens hearts, so much as integrity. Even Herod did fear John, because he was a just man; he saw he was not car∣ried by carnal pinciples, and that made Herod reverence him, Mark 6. 20. And thus it was with Christ himself also, this made the people so greatly flock after him, because the hypocrise and self-seeking of the Pharisees began to be made clear to them. And thus the integrity of our Reformers was precious: whereas the luxury, pride and ambition of the Roman Clergy began to be ap∣parent. Yea before Luther's time, the Church generally groaned under them, which made Berengarius call them Romanos Pompifices, and Pulpi∣fices, as regarding their pompe and belly more than their ministerial duty.
Lastly, (For the differences I promised to speak to between fleshly wisdome, and heavenly wisdome, as also civil prudence, may be considered in the next particular.) Fleshly wisdome is seen, In glorying and boasting of humane elo∣quence and philosophical demonstrations. This some make to be a great part of, if not the only sense of fleshly wisdome. And certainly this is that which Paul renounceth, 1 Cor. 2. 1, 3, 4. the end whereof was, that their faith might not stand in the wisdome of men, but the power of God. And therefore the Thes∣salonians are commended, 1 Thess. 2. 13. That they received the Gospel, not as the word of men, but as of God, which effectually worketh in those that be∣lieve. That there may be no use made of humane learning, much lesse that it is not lawfull to improve the gifts and abilities of learned men in our Ministry, I think is scarcely in an absolute sense denied by any orthodox. But then they give this Caution, That such things must not be done out of ostentation, but edification, and conviction; neither must we so preach that our auditors should be more affected with the oratory or learning, than the matter, the gifts and parts of a Minister, more than the holy truths which are delivered for informa∣tion and conversion. And therefore as we the Ministers of the Gospel are to take heed of all fleshly wisdome, especially this latter, which is so subtil a thief, ready to steal away our treasure: So ought you the hearers to take heed of all fleshly wisdome. For it is this only maketh you go away unconverted, unhum∣bled, unreformed, your conscience, your mind condemns you for it, but on∣ly fleshly wisdome will not let you obey. As (I say) we are to take heed of this universally; so especially that you do not regard the parts, learning and oratory of a Minister more than holy matter. You must hear from a sincere heart, you must come to our Ministry with godly simplicity, as well as we are to preach so; and it is hard to say, whether is more difficult, to preach without fleshly wisdome, or hear without it. Do you desire to know nothing, but Je∣sus Page 432 Christ crucified? Are ye not like children that look upon Books, more to see the gayes and gaudy flourishes, than the matter contained therein? Do ye not mind more what may tickle your ear, please your fancy, then what may wound your heart? Aristotle even to his Lecture of moral Philosophy, doth require one who is purged from his lusts. How much rather is the word of God to be received with a pure and mortified heart? Oh this flesnly wisdome will prove cursed folly at last! In the flames of hell thou wilt cry out of this, Oh wretch that I was, I thought to be wise for my self, and how unspeakably am I undone thereby!