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SERM. verenced for this divine quality, wherein they so XXIX. nearly resemble the God of peace, and his blessed
Son the great Mediator. But further, without respect to other recompense, and from the nature of their employment, such are immediately happy, and in this their virtuous practice rewards itself, that by appeasing others' quarrels, they save themselves from trouble, and enjoy themselves that tranquillity which of peace is they procure to others. But those informing sycojoy. Prov. phants, those internuncios of pestilent tales, and inxii. 20. cendiaries of discord, that (from bad nature, or upon base design) by the still breath of clandestine whispers, or by the more violent blasts of impudent calumnies, kindle the flames of dissension, or foment them among others; that, by disseminating infamous rumours, and by malicious suggestions, instil jealousies into, and nourish malevolent surmises in the minds of Prov. xvi. men, separating, as it is in the Proverbs, between chief friends, and widening the distance between others: these, I say, from the seeds of variance they scatter among others, reap in the end mischief and disturbance to themselves; nor can expect to enjoy the benefit of that quiet, which they labour to deProv. xvii. prive others of. The beginning of strife, saith Solomon, is as when one letteth out water; and he that, to the intent his neighbour's lands should be overflown with a torrent of dissension, doth unloose the dams, and cut the banks of former friendship, may Prov. xxv. (if he be wise) expect the merciless flood should at length reach himself, and that his own habitation Vid. Prov. should be at last surrounded therewith. For when xi. 27. He that men at length begin to be weary, and to repent diligently of their needless quarrels, and the mischievous good pro- consequences attending them, and to be inquisi
tive into the causes and instruments of their vex- SERM. ation, they will certainly find out, detest, and in- XXIX. vert the edge of their displeasure upon these cureth fawretched makebates; and so the poison they mingled he that for others they themselves drink up; the cata- mischief, it strophe of the tragedy (begun by them) is acted shall come upon themselves; they sink down into the pit they made for others, and in the net which they hid is their own foot taken: Et delator habet quod dedit exitium.
Lastly, If we would effectually observe this precept, we must readily comply with the innocent customs, and obey the established laws of the places where we live. I say first comply with the customs; which also are in effect inferior laws enacted by the tacit agreement of the generality of men; the nonobservation of which is upon many accounts very prejudicial to peaceable life. For to those concerned in it, it will always seem to intimate a squeamish niceness, a froward perverseness, an arrogant selfconceitedness, a manifest despising other men's judgments, and a virtual condemning their practices of fault or folly, and consequently a monopolizing all goodness, and appropriating all wisdom to himself; qualities intolerably odious to men, and productive of enmity. It incenses the people (hugely susceptive of provocation) with a sense of notable injury done, and contempt cast upon it. For the only authority, which the commonalty can lay claim to, consists in prescribing rules of decency in language, habit, gesture, ceremony, and other circumstances of action, declared and ratified by ordinary practice; nonconformity to which is by them adjudged a marvellous irregularity, contumacy, and rebellion against the
SERM. majesty of the people, and is infallibly revenged and punished by them.
There is no preserving peace, nor preventing broils and stirs, but by punctually observing that ordinary rule of equity, that in cases of doubtful debate, and points of controverted practice, the fewest should yield to the most, the weakest bend to the strongest, and that to the greatest number should be allowed at least the greatest appearance of reason. To which purpose we may observe, that the best and wisest men (not to displease those with whom they conversed, as far as their duty to God, and their conscience would permit) have commonly in their manners of life followed not what in their retired judgment they most approved, but what suited to the customs of their times and places, avoiding a morose singularity, as offensive to others, and productive of disquiet to themselves. You know how Cicero censured Cato for endeavouring, against the grain and predominant genius of those times, to reduce things to a strict agreement with his private notions: Ille optimo animo utens, et summa fide, nocet interdum reipublicæ. Dicit enim tanquam in Platonis ToλTeía, non tanquam in Romuli fæce sententiam. But a more clear and pertinent instance we have in St. 1 Cor. ix. Paul, who thus represents his own practice: I have
20, 21, 22. x. 33.
made myself a servant to all: Unto the Jews I became as a Jew; to them that are without law, as without law: To the weak became I as weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all
f Id agamus, ut meliorem vitam sequamur quam vulgus, non ut contrariam; alioqui quos emendari volumus fugamus et a nobis avertimus.
Temperetur vita inter bonos mores et publicos, &c. Sen. Ep. 5.
means save some. St. Paul wisely knew, that, by a SERM. prudent compliance with men's customs, and condescension to their capacities, he engaged to him, or Vid. Acts at least did not alienate from him, their affections; and thereby became more capable of infusing good doctrine into their minds, and promoting their spiritual good. And the same course was generally taken by the primitive Christians, who in all things (not inconsistent with the rules and principles of their religion) did industriously conform their conversation to the usual practices of men; thereby shunning those scandalous imputations of pride and perverseness, which then rendered the Jews so odious to the world, as appears by divers passages in the ancient apologists for Christian religion: particularly Justin Martyr (in his Epistle to Diognetus) hath these words: Χριστιανοὶ γὰρ οὔτε γῇ, οὔτε φωνῇ, οὔτε ἔθεσι διακεκριμένοι τῶν λοιπῶν εἰσὶν ἀνθρώπων· οὔτε γὰρ που πόλεις ἰδίας κατοικ οὔσιν, οὔτε διαλέκτῳ τινὶ παρηλλαγμένῃ χρῶνται, οὔτε βίον παράσημον ἀσκοῦσιν—κατοικοῦντες δὲ πόλεις Ἑλληνικάς τε καὶ βαρβάρους, ὡς ἕκαστος ἐκληρώθη, ἐν τοῖς ἐγχωρίοις ἔθεσιν ἀκολουθοῦντες, &c. The Christians neither in dwelling, language, or customs differ from the rest of men; they neither inhabit towns proper to themselves, nor use any peculiar dialect, nor exercise an uncouth manner of living; but, as by chance it is allotted to them, inhabiting cities belonging both to Greeks and Barbarians, comply with the customs of the country. And much more hath he there; and much Tertullian likewise in his Apologetic, to the same purpose. Neither do we find in the life of our Saviour, that exact pattern of wisdom and goodness, that in any thing he did affect to differ from the received customs of his time and country, except such as were
SERM. grounded upon vain conceits, extremely prejudicial XXIX. to piety, or directly repugnant thereto.
And I cannot except from this rule the compliance with religious customs used in the worship and service of God: since a wilful discrepancy from them doth much more destroy peace, and kindle the flame of contention, inasmuch as men are apt to apprehend themselves much more slighted and more condemned by a disagreement in those, than in matters of lesser concernment. And it cannot reasonably be imagined, that the God of love and peace, who questionless delights to see men converse in peace and amity, and Rom. xiv. who therefore in general terms enjoins us to pursue the things that make for peace, (whereof certainly in reason and to experience, following indifferent and harmless customs, not expressly repugnant to his law, nor to the dictates of natural reason, is one thing, and not the least,) in our addresses to himself (partly designed and mainly serving more strictly to unite, not to dissociate men in affection) should dislike or disapprove the use of this course so expedient and conducible to peace: especially since he infinitely more regards the substance of the duty, and the devotion of the heart therein, than the manner, or any circumstantial appendages thereof: it is certain however, that St. Paul intimates a wilful departure from ordinary practice in such cases, to proceed from a 1 Cor. xi. contentious disposition: But if any man, saith he, have a mind to be contentious, (so dokei piλÓVEIKOS Elva imports,) we have no such custom, nor the churches of God.
But yet much more is peaceable conversation impeached by disobedience to established laws, those great bulwarks of society, fences of order, and sup