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THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
AND MOST TRULY NOBLE LORD,
CHRISTOPHER LORD HATTON,
BARON HATTON, OF KIRBY, &c.
When interest divides the church, and the calentures of men breathe out in problems and unactive discourses, each part, in pursuance of its own portion, follows that proposition, which complies with and bends in all the flexures of its temporal ends; and while all strive for truth, they hug their own opinions dressed up in her imagery, and they dispute for ever; and either the question is indeterminable, or, which is worse, men will never be convinced. For such is the nature of disputings, that they begin commonly in mistakes, they proceed with zeal and fancy, and end not at all but in schisms and uncharitable names, and too often dip their feet in blood. In the mean time, he that gets the better of his adversary, oftentimes gets no good to himself; because, although he hath fast
hold upon the right side of the problem, he may be an ill man in the midst of his triumphant disputations. And therefore it was not here, that God would have man's felicity to grow: for our condition had been extremely miserable, if our final state had been placed upon an uncertain hill, and the way to it had been upon the waters, upon which no spirit but that of contradiction and discord did ever move : for the man should have tended to an end of an uncertain dwelling, and walked to it by ways not discernible, and arrived thither by chance; which, because it is irregular, would have discomposed the pleasures of a Christian hope, as the very disputing hath already destroyed charity, and disunited the continuity of faith; and in the consequent there would be no virtue, and no felicity. But God, who never loved that man should be too ambitiously busy in imitating his wisdom, (and man lost paradise for it,) is most desirous we should imitate his goodness, and transcribe copies of those excellent emanations from his holiness, whereby as he communicates himself to us in mercies, so he propounds himself imitable by us in graces. And in order to this, God hath described our way plain, certain, and determined : and although he was pleased to leave us undetermined in the questions of exterior communion, yet he put it past all question, that we are bound to be charitable. He hath placed the question of the
state of separation in the dark, in hidden and undiscerned regions; but he hath opened the windows of heaven, and given great light to us, teaching how we are to demean ourselves in the state of conjunction. Concerning the salvation of heathens he was not pleased to give us account; but he hath clearly described the duty of Christians, and tells upon what terms alone we shall be saved. And although the not inquiring into the ways of God and the strict rules of practice have been instrumental to the preserving them free from the serpentine enfoldings and labyrinths of dispute, yet God also, with a great design of mercy, hath writ his commandments in so large characters, and engraven them in such tables, that no man can want the records, nor yet skill to read the hand-writing upon this wall, if he understands what he understands, that is, what is placed in his own spirit. For God was therefore desirous that human nature should be perfected with moral, not intellectual excellencies; because these only are of use and compliance with our present state and conjunction. If God had given to eagles an appetite to swim, or to the elephant strong desires to fly, he would have ordered that an abode in the sea and the air respectively should have been proportionable to their manner of living; for so God hath done to man, fitting him with such excellencies, which are useful to him in his ways and progress to per
fection. A man hath great use and need of justice, and all the instances of morality serve his natural and political ends; he cannot live without them, and be happy: but the filling the rooms of the understanding with airy and ineffective notions, is just such an excellency, as it is in a man to imitate the voice of birds ; at his very best the nightingale shall excel him, and it is of no use to that end, which God designed him in the first intentions of creation.
In pursuance of this consideration, I have chosen to serve the purposes of religion by doing assistance to that part of theology, which is wholly practical ; that which makes us wiser, therefore, because it makes us better. And truly, my Lord, it is enough to weary the spirit of a disputer, that he shall argue till he hath lost his voice, and his time, and sometimes the question too; and yet no man shall be of his mind more than was before. How few turn Lutherans, or Calvinists, or Roman Catholics, from the religion either of their country or interest ! Possibly two or three weak or interested, fantastic and easy, prejudicate and effeminate understandings, pass from church to church, upon grounds as weak as those, for which formerly they did dissent; and the same arguments are good or bad, as exterior accidents or interior appetites shall determine. I deny not but, for great causes, some opinions are to be quitted : but when I consider how few do for