« السابقةمتابعة »
produce happy fruits. We fhould not indeed prefs upon perfons, when there is no other prospect than that of provoking them: but we ought to watch all opportunities, whilft there is any hope left; and not only make it our endeavour to convert the mistaken and vicious, but ftir up the negligent to ferious thought, and the good themselves to more eminent goodnefs. Efpecially fuch perfons of rank and influence, as we find well difpofed, thefe we muft earneftly excite to appear and give countenance to the cause of religion, ever remembring that awful declaration of our bleffed Lord: Whofoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and finful generation, of him alfo fhall the Son of Man be afhamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy Angels (g)• We must convince them of the urgent neceffity there is, for interpofing in behalf of piety and virtue and fuggeft to them the means for engaging with fuccefs in this excellent employment. Yet muft we never fpend fo much of our attention on the higher part of the world, as to give the least fufpicion of neglecting the lower; whofe number is fo much larger, whofe difpofitions are usually fo much more favourable to religion, and whofe eternal happiness is of equal importance to them, and ought to be of equal concern to us: but we must prove we are in earnest in our work; by making it our care, as it was our Mafter's, that the poor have the Gospel preached to them (h). And one opportunity of preaching it with fingular advantage, both to the poor and the rich, is when fickness brings near to them the view of another life. At fome times indeed the fick may be incapable of attending to exhortations: at others they may be endangered by them: and at all times great prudence is requifite, to avoid the extremes, of terrifying or indulging them too much. But, provided due caution be used in these respects; laying before them what they ought to be, and reminding them to confult their own consciences what they have been, is a moft likely method of exciting in them fuch affections and refolutions at that season of recollection and seriousness, as, through the bleffing of heaven, may produce the happiest effects.
To these excellent offices therefore we muft all of us chearfully apply ourfelves, each in fuch degree as his ftation requires. If they do require pains, if they do take up time, if they are inconfiftent with agreeable amusements, and even interrupt useful ftudies of other kinds; yet this is the business which we have folemnly chofen, and the vows of God are upon us it is the most important and most honourable, it ought to be the most delightful too, of all employments: and therefore we have every reason not to feek the means of evading our duty, but of fulfilling it; and each to take the overfight of the flock of God, committed to him, not by confiraint, but willingly (i). For if we only just do what we can be punished by our fuperiors for neglecting, we muit neither expect fuccefs nor reward.
But then to fecure either, the chief thing requifite is ftill behind: that our own tempers and lives be fuch, as we tay thofe of other perfons fhould. For if we, who teach religion, live, or fuffer our families to live, with little or no fenfe of religion, what can we poffibly expect,
(b) Matt, xi, 5.
(g) Mark viii. 38.
(i) Pet, v. 2.
but that men will improve fo palpable an advantage against us to the utmoft will argue, that we believe not our own doctrine; and therefore it deserves no belief: or, we practise not our own precepts; and therefore they cannot be practifed? Thus we fhall increate that infidelity and wickedness, which our business is to oppofe. Too much of it will be really owing to us and the whole will be laid upon us. The enernies of religion will have the best pretence in the world to ruin us and the friends of it will grow unconcerned for us, and ready to give us up to them. But, were these confequences not to follow, ftill very bad ones muft follow. Men, irreligious or vicious themselves, cannot be hearty in oppofing irreligion and vice: they cannot do it with boldness, if they were hearty and could they be ever so bold, it must fit much too ill upon them, to have any good effect. Wrong-minded perfons will be furnifhed with the most plausible excufe imaginable for difregarding them intirely and the righteft-minded perfons that ever were, cannot, if they would, regard them as they ought. This will be the cafe, even with refpect to their public teaching: and as for private admonitions, they will feldom have the face to venture upon them, and never fucceed in them: whereas every word, that comes from an exemplary man, hath great weight; and his bare example is most valuable inftruction of itself. But, were a bad life not to hinder at all the fuccefs of our miniftry; yet we must remember, it will abfolutely hinder the falvation of our fouls: and fubject us to that forer punishment, of which he may well be thought worthy, who, teaching others, teacheth not himself, but through breaking the law dijhonoureth God (k).
Nor is it fufficient by any means for us to be guilty of no vice. This. is fmall praife, for one of our order. We are bound to be patterns of the most diligent practice of virtue, and the stricteft regard to religion:* and we shall never make others zealous for what we ourselves appear indifferent about. It is very true, that, peculiarly in our cafe, the generality of the world both expect and find fault, quite beyond reafon and doubtless they are much to blame in doing fo. But then furely we are no less to blame, if, when we know the severity, with which our conduct will be examined, we do not watch over it with equal feverity ourfelves; and take the only way to be looked on as good men, that is, being fuch undeniably. And whoever hath a due fenfe of this obligation, will confcientiously abftain, not only from all evil, but all appearance of it too (1). Such a one, for inftance, far from ever offending against temperance, will be noted for it: and think the imputation of being mighty to drink wine (m) almoft as infamous, as that of being overcome by it. Far from being guilty of indecency in his behaviour or difcourfe, he will keep at a diftance from every thing liable to the conftruction of it. Far from being remarkable for luxury and delicacy in his manner of living or appearing, he will be fure to preferve himself, on all occafions, at leaft as remote from indulgence, as he is from aufterity. And though he will never difguft the perfons, with whom he converfes, by a gravity affected or ill timed yet he will be equally careful, never to expofe himself, by
() Heb. x. 29. Rom. ii. 21, 23.
(¡d 1 Theff. v. 22.
by a lightness of carriage unbecoming his function; nor let any thing be a part of his character, much less a diftinguishing part, that can only tend to lower it. For we can never, be useful, if we are despised: and we shall be defpifed, if we will give opportunities for it. Even they, who seem well pleased with us, will think meanly of us inwardly; and perhaps of the whole order, for our fakes.
Yet at the fame time, we shall be greatly mistaken, if we aim to avoid contempt by haughtinefs: which will only add hatred to it. Our rule therefore must be, to exprefs, in every thing, condefcenfion to the lower part of the world, without being improperly familiar; and respect to the upper, without being fervile: recommending ourselves at once to the love and efteem of both, by a mild kind of dignity and ingenuous fimplicity, kept up through our whole behaviour. Mildness of temper is the duty of every man: but especially required of us (n); and abfolutely neceffary, both to our preferving regard, and doing fervice in the world. Therefore, whatever provocations we meet with from those, amongst whom we live, as indeed we often meet with great ones, it neither belongs to our character, nor will be for our intereft, to take offence and exprefs refentment; but by prudence and patience to overcome evil with good (0) For we fhall often do it this way, and never any other. Inftead of being engaged in enmities of our own, it should be our endeavour to compofe the differences of other perfons: not by intermeddling in their affairs, when we are not called to it; but by laying hold on every fit opportunity given us, for difpofing them to a mutual good opinion, where there is room for it; or at leaft, to mutual good-will. Too many occafions indeed for friendly interpofition, our unhappy party-disputes furnish us with, had we no other. Entring into thefe with vehemence, and that injuftice which never fails to accompany vehemence, is what all men fhould avoid but we, who must caution them against it, should avoid it with uncommon care: fhould religiously pay that refpect to every one, which is their due, efpecially to our fuperiors; think well of mens actions and designs, unless we have evident caufe to think otherwife; judge with modelty, where perhaps we are not qualified to judge; and whatever our opinion be, preferve our behaviour inoffenfive: give the leaft provocation, that may be, to bad men of any fide; and act in such manner, as may gain us, if poffible, the united esteem of good men of all fides. For theirs is the friendship, of which we ought to be ambitious. Familiarities with profane and vicious perfons, beyond what neceffary civility, or a real profpect of reforming them requires, will, whatever we may promife ourselves from their favour or intereft, always difcredit and weaken us in gencral; and much oftner, prove hurtful, than advantageous, to any of us in particular. But to cultivate the good opinion of the wife and virtuous, to recommend ourfelves to their protection, and, whatever else they may differ about, engage their common zeal in the common cause of religion; this will procure us both fecurity and honour, and every way promote the great defign of our profeffion.
Another point, on which our character will not a little depend, is our
(n) Matth. x. 16. Tim. iii. 3. 2 Tim, ii. 24. (0) Rom. xii. 21.
being, in a reasonable degree, difinterested. A very large proportion indeed of the clergy have too much cause to endeavour at bettering their circumftances and it is barbarous treatment, to accuse them for it, inftead of pitying them. But over-great folicitude and contrivance for advancing ourselves will always make impreffions to our prejudice, let our condition be ever fo low though defervedly much ftronger impreffions, in proportion as it is higher. We fhall be thought to have no attention, but that, of which we discover too much and the truth is we cannot ferve two mafters (p). Nor will it be fufficient, that we avoid the charge of immoderately defiring more; unless we avoid alfo that of felfishness, in the management of what we have already: a matter, in which it is very difficult, and yet very important, to give no offence. We are bound, both to thofe who belong to us, and those who fhall come after us, to take a proper care of our legal dues and preserve them faithfully from the encroachments of fuch, as tell us very truly, that we ought not to be worldly-minded; but forget what is equally true, that they themselves ought not to be fo. But then the ftrongeft reasons of all kinds oblige us, never to make unjuft or litigious claims; never to do any thing, either hard or rigorous, or mean and fordid to fhew, that we defire always the most easy and amicable me. thod of ending disputes; and whatever method we may be forced to take, never to let any thing force us into the leaft degree of unfairness, paffion or ill-will; but endeavour, by all inftances of friendly behaviour, to win, if poffible, upon the perfon we have to do with; at least to convince every body else, how very far we are from intending wrong to him, or
And nothing will contribute more, to acquit us from the fufpicion of being fetfish in our dealings with other perfons; than approving ourselves charitable to the poor: a virtue which becomes us fo extremely, and is fo peculiarly expected from us, and will give us fo valuable an influence; that we should willingly ftraiten ourselves in almost any thing befides, that, to the full proportion of our abilities, we may abound in giving alms. And together with this, would we but, each in his ftation, take the best care we can to fee juftice done them in that provifion, which the law hath intended for them, it would generally prove a much more confiderable benefaction, than all that we are able to bestow on them of our
To the above-mentioned inftances of right conduct we must always add, what will render them very engaging, the occafional kind offices of good neighbourhood; with a decent hofpitality alfo, if our circumstances will permit it and then, notwithstanding the cenfures of those, who complain that we are of little ufe, and endeavour to make us of none, we may furely well hope to do service to God, and be esteemed of men: especially if, together with fo exemplary a behaviour towards others, we are friendly and compaffionate, candid and equitable amongst our
Great injuftice, I am fatisfied, is done us on this head and many groundlefs accufations brought confidently against us, by perfons, who neither enquire into facts, nor confider circumftances. But there are
(p) Matt. vi. 24.
few things, in which it concerns us more, to clear ourselves where we are innocent, and to amend ourselves where we are faulty. For fo long as we are thought in the world, either infolent to our inferiour brethren in general, or void of generofity and pity to fuch of them as we employ; we must not expect to receive better treatment, than we are understood to give. And if we are believed to be chargeable, beyond other men, with mutual bitterness and vehemence, when any kind of controverfy rifes amongst us; this too is a character, so very different from that which ought to be ours, that the utmost care fhould be taken to guard. against it. Not that we are obliged, either to speak of or behave to men of bad lives, or bad principles, as if they were good ones, because unhappily they belong to our order. Making no diftinction would be on all accounts wrong and making a proper diftinction will be very useful. But then we fhould never think worfe of our brethren, than evidence forces us; never publish our ill opinion, without fufficient reason; nor exceed, when we do publish it, the bounds of moderation: we should be ready to fhew them all fitting kindness, even whilft they continue blameable; and receive them back with the most charitable tenderness, when they return to their duty. For there is no manner of need, that we fhould give either fo much advantage or fo much pleasure to the adverfaries of religion, as to let them fee thofe, who fhould be the joint-defenders of it, engaged in domeftic wars: and bringing fuch charges, and raifing fuch prejudices, one against another, that it is hard to fay, whether believing or difbelieving our mutual accufations will make the world think worse of us. Our bleffed Lord therefore, after reminding his Difciples, that they were the falt of the earth; were defigned, by the purity of their doctrine and example, to keep others from corruption; and after giving them that prophetic warning, which we shall find men zealous to fulfil, that if the falt have loft its favour, it shall be caft out and trodden under foot (q); refuming the fame figure at another time, concludes his exhortation thus, Have falt in yourselves, and have peace one with another (r).
To these things, Brethren, if we have any concern for the interests of religion or our own, we must always induftriously attend; but efpecially in fuch times, as by no means admit of negligence or mifmanagement. Yet vain will our beft endeavours be, unless we conftantly add to them our fervent prayers, that God would enable and ftrengthen, both us, and all that ferve him in the Gofpel of his Son, to perform our duty with faithfulness and fuccefs. For we are not fufficient to think any thing of ourselves: our fufficiency is of God (s). What therefore we ought, every one of us, to beg of him at all times, let us all at prefent jointly addrefs to him for, in the comprehenfive and expreffive words of our public fervice.
Almighty and everlasting God, by whofe Spirit the whole body of the church is governed and fanctified; receive our fupplications and prayers, which we offer before thee for all eflates of men in thy hely church; that every member of the fame, in his vocation and miniftry, may truly and godly ferve thee, through our Lord and Saviour Jefus Chrift. Amen (†). (r) Mark ix. 50.
(t) Second Collect for Good Friday. A CHARGE
(9) Matth. v. 13.