« AnteriorContinuar »
of body, distempers of soul, or crosses of fortune, SERM. (being their own greatest unhappinesses,) require rather our pity than our hatred, to be eased by our help than aggravated by our unkindness. 'Tis too scant therefore and narrow a charity that is limited by correspondence of courtesy, or by the personal merits of others. We are bound to live peaceably with, that is, to be innocent, beneficial, respective to all, and to seek the reciprocal good-will, love, and amity of all. But I have insisted too long upon this particular, concerning the object of this duty, and its extension.
III. I proceed briefly to consider whence it comes, that, (as I before observed was intimated in these words, If it be possible, as much as lieth in you,) though we do our parts, and perform carefully the duties incumbent on us, though we bear good-will, and do good offices, and yield due respects, and abstain from all not only injurious, but rigorous dealings toward all; though we revile none, nor censure harshly, nor presumptuously intermeddle with others' affairs; though we obey laws, and comply with received customs, and avoid all occasions of contention; though our tempers be meek, our principles peaceable, and our conversations inoffensive, we may yet prove successless in our endeavours to live peaceably, and may be hated, harmed, and disquieted in our course of life. That it so happens, we find by plain experience, and manifold example. For Moses, the meekest man upon earth, and commended beside by all circumstances of divine favour, and human worth, was yet often envied, impugned, and molested by those, whom by all manner of benefits he had most highly obliged. And we find David Vid. Ps. Iv. frequently complaining, that by those, whose good
SERM. will, by performing all offices of friendly kindness and brotherly affection, he had studiously laboured to deserve, whose maladies and calamities he had not only tenderly commiserated, but had prayed and humbled his soul with fasting for their recovery and deliverance from them, was yet recompensed by their treacherous devices against his safety, by grievous reproaches, and scornful insultings over him in his affliction; as we see at large in Psalms xxxv. and lxix. And in Psalm cxx. he thus lamentably bemoans his condition: Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar: My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace: I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war. And our blessed Saviour himself, though in the whole tenor of his life he demonstrated an incomparable meekness and sweetness of disposition, and exercised continually all manner of kindness and beneficence toward all men, was notwithstanding loaded with all kinds of injuries and contumelies, was bitterly hated, ignominiously disgraced, and maliciously persecuted unto death. And the same lot befell his faithful disciples, that although their design was benign and charitable, their carriage blameless and obliging toward all, they were yet pursued constantly both by the outrageous clamours of the people, and cruel usages from those in eminent power. Now though it seem strange and almost incredible, that they who are truly friends to all, and are ready to do to all what good they can; who willingly displease none, but industriously strive to acquire (not with glozing shows of popularity, but by real expressions of kindness) the goodwill and favour of all, should yet be maligned, or
molested by any; yet seeing it so happens, if we in- SERM. XXX. quire into the reason, we shall find this miracle in morality to proceed (to omit the neglect of the duties mentioned in our former discourse) chiefly from the exceeding variety, difference, and contrariety of men's dispositions, joined with the morosity, aptness to mistake, envy, or unreasonable perverseness of some; which necessarily render the means of attaining all men's good-will insufficient, and the endeavours unsuccessful. For men seeing by several lights, relishing with diversely disposed palates, and measuring things by different standards, we can hardly do or say any thing, which, if approved and applauded by some, will not be disliked and blamed by others; if it advance us in the opinion of some, will not as much depress us in the judgment of others; so that in this irreconcileable diversity and inconsistency of men's apprehensions, it is impossible not to displease many; especially since some men either by their natural temper, or from the influence of some sour principles they have imbibed, are so morose, rigid, and self-willed; so impatient of all contradiction to, or discrepancy from their sentiments, that they cannot endure any to dissent in judgment, or vary in practice from them, without incurring their heavy disdain and censure. And, which makes the matter more desperate and remediless, such men commonly being least able either to manage their reason or to command their passion, as guided wholly by certain blind impulses of fancy, or groundless prejudices of conceit, or by a partial admiration of some men's persons, examples, and authorities, are usually most resolute and peremptory in their courses, and thence hardly capa
SERM. ble of any change, mitigation, or amendment. Of XXX. which sort there being divers engaged in several
ways, it is impossible to please some without disgusting the other; and difficult altogether to approach any of these wasps without being stung or vexed by them. Some also are so apt to misunderstand men's meanings, to misconstrue their words, and to make ill descants upon, or draw bad consequences from their actions, that it is not possible to prevent their entertaining ill-favoured prejudices against even those that are heartily their friends, and wish them the best. To others the good and prosperous estate of their neighbour, that he flourishes in wealth, power, or reputation, is ground sufficient of hatred and enmity against him: for so we see that Cain hated his innocent brother Abel, because his brother's works were more righteous, and his sacrifices better accepted, than his own; that Joseph's brethren were mortally offended at him, because his father especially loved and delighted in him; that Saul was enraged against David, because his gallant deeds were celebrated with due praises and joyful acclamations of the people; and that the Babylonian princes upon no other score maligned Daniel, but because he enjoyed the favour of the king, and a dignity answerable to his deserts. And who, that loves his own welfare, can possibly avoid such enmities as these? But the fatal rock, upon which peaceable designs are most inevitably split, and which by no prudent steering our course can sometimes be evaded, is the unreasonable perverseness of men's pretences, who sometimes will upon no terms be friends with us, or allow us their good-will, but upon condition of concurring with
them in dishonest and unwarrantable practices; of SERM. omitting some duties, to which by the express command of God, or evident dictates of right reason, we are obliged, or performing some action repugnant to those indispensable rules. But though peace with men is highly valuable, and possessing their goodwill in worth not inferior to any other indifferent accommodation of life, yet are these nothing comparable to the favour of God, or the internal satisfaction of conscience; nor, though we were assured thereby to gain the entire love and favour of all men living, are we to purchase them at so dear a rate, as with the loss of these. We must not, to please or gratify men, commit any thing prohibited, or omit any thing enjoined by God, the least glimpse of whose favourable aspect is infinitely more to be prized, than the most intimate friendship of the mightiest monarchs upon earth; and the least spark of whose indignation is more to be dreaded, than the extremest displeasure of the whole world. In case of such competition, we must resolve with St. Paul, Do I yet conciliate God, or do I endeavour Gal. i. 10. to soothe men? For if I yet soothed (or flattered) men, (so you know ȧpéσke signifies,) I were not the servant of Christ. Nor are we, that we may satisfy any man's pleasure, to contravene the dictates of reason, (that subordinate guide of our actions,) to do any dishonourable or uncomely action, unworthy of a man, misbeseeming our education, or incongruous to our station in human society, so as to make ourselves worthily despicable to the most by contenting some: nor are we bound always to desert our own considerable interest, or betray our just liberty, that we may avoid the enmity of such