« AnteriorContinuar »
a man sooner to his journey's end, than by ways in which men often lose themselves. In a word, whatever con- venience may be thought to be in falsehood and dissimulation, it is soon nver; but the inconvenience of it is perpetual, because it brings a man under an everlasting jealousy and suspicion, so that he is not believed when he speaks the truth, nor trusted when perhaps he means honestly. When a man hath once forfeited the reputation of his integrity, nothing will then serve his turn, neither truth or falsehood.
Indeed, if a man were only to deal in the world for a day, and should never have occasion to converse more with mankind, never more to need their good opinion or good word, it were then no great matter (as far as respects the affairs of this world) if he spent his reputation all at once, and ventured it at one throw. But, if he be to continue in the world, and would bave the advantage of reputation while he is in it, let him make use of sincerity in all his words and actions ; for nothing but this will hold out to the end. All other arts will fail; but truth and integrity will carry a man through and bear him out to the last.
II.-On doing as you would be done unto.
ATTERBURY. UMAN laws are often so numerous as to escape our
memories ; so darkly, sometimes, and inconsistent. ly worded, as to puzzle our understandings; and they are not unfrequently rendered still more obscure by the nice distinctions and subtle reasonings of those who profess to clear them : so that under these several disadvantages, they lose much of their force and influence; and in some cases raise more disputes than, perhaps, they determine. But here is a law, attended with none of these inconveniencies, the grossest minds can scarce misapprehend it; the weakest memories are capable of retaining it; no perplexing comment can easily cloud it; the authority of no man's gloss upon earth can (if we are but sincere) sway us to make a wrong construction of it. What is said of all the gospel precepts by the evangelical prophet, is more eminently true of this : “it is an highway; and the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein."
It is not enough that a rule, which is to be of general use, is suited to all capacities, so that wherever it is represented to the mind, it is presently agreed to; it must also be apt to offer itself to our thoughts, and lie ready for the present use, upon all exigencies and occasions. And such, remarkably such, is that which our Lord here recommends to us. We can scarce be so far surprised by any immediate necessity of acting, as not to have time for a short recourse to it, room for a sudden glance as it were upon it, in our minds; where it rests and sparkles always, like the Urim and Thummin, on the breast of Aaron. There is no occasion for us to go in search of it to the oracles of the law, dead or living; to the code or pandects; to the volumes of divines or moralists. We need look no farther than ourselves for it: for (to use the apposite expression of Moses) “This commandment which I command thee this day is not hidden from thee, peither is it far off. It is not in heaver, that thou shouldst say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldst say, Who shall go over the for
us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it."
It is, moreover, a precept particularly fitted for practice, as it involves in the very notion of it a motive stirring us up to what it enjoins. Other moral maxims propose naked truths to the understandings, which operate often but faintly and slowly, on the will and passions, the two active principles of the mind of man; but it is the peculiar character of this, that it addresseth itself equally to all these powers; imparts both light and heat to us; and at the same time that it informs us certainly and clearly what we are to do, excites us also, in the most tender and moving manner, to the performance of it. We can often see our neighbor's misfortune without a sensible degree of concern; which we cannot forbear expressing, when we have once made his condition our cwn, and determined the measure of our obligation towards him, by what we ourselves should, in such a case, expect from him ;'our duty grows immediately our interest and pleasure, by means of this powerful principle;
the seat of which is, in truth, not more in the brain than in the heart of man; it appeals to our very senses ; and exerts its secret force in so prevailing a way, that it is even felt, as well as understood by us.
The last recommendation of this rule I shall mention is its vast and comprehensive influence; for it extends to all ranks and conditions of men, and to all kinds of action and intercourse between them; to matters of charity, generosity and civility, as well as justice; to negative no less than positive duties. The ruler and the ruled are alike subject to it: public communities can po more exempt themselves from its obligation than private persons :
“ All persons must fall down before it, all Rations must do it service." And, with respect to this extent of it, it is that our blessed Lord' pronounces it in the text, to be," the law and the prophets." His meaning is, that whatever rules of the second table are delivered in the law of Moses, or in the larger, comments and explanations of that law made by the other writers of the Old Testament (here and elsewhere styled the Prophets) they are all virtually comprised in this one skort significant saying, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them."
III. -On Benevolence and Charity.---SEED VORM as amiable sentiments as you can, of nations,
communities of men, and individuals. If they are true, you do them only justice ; if false, though your opinion does not alter their nature and make them lovely, you yourself are more lovely for entertaining such sentiments. When
fecl the bright warnth of a temper thoroughly good in your own breast, you will see something good in every one about you. It is a mark of littieness of spirit to confine yourself .o some minute part of a man's character ; a man of generous, open, ex. tended views, will grasp the whole of it; without which he cannot pass a right judgment on any part. He will not arraign a man's general conduct for two or three particular actions; as knowing that man is a changeable creature, and will not cease to be so, till he is united to that Being, who is the same yesterday, to day and forever." He strives to qutdo his friends in good offi
ces, and overco:nes bis enemies by them. He thinks he then receives the greatest injury, when he returns and revenges one ; for then he is “overcome of evil.” ls the person young who has injured him! He will reflect, that inexperience of the world, and a warmth of constitution, may betray his unpractised years into several inadvertencies, which a more advanced age, bis own good sense, and the advice of a judicious friend, will correct and rectify. Is he old ? The infirmities of age and want of health may have set an edge upon his spirits, and made him • speak unadvisedly with his lips.” Is he weak and ignorant ? He considers that it is a duty incumbent upon the wise to bear with those that are not so : " You suffer fools gladly,” says St. Paul, “ seeing you yourselves are wise." In short, he judges of himself, as far as he can, with the strict rigor of justice; but of others with the softenings of humanity.
From charitable and benevolent thoughts, the transition is unavoidable to charitable actions. For wherever there is an inexhaustible fund of goodness at the heart, it will, under all the disadvantages of circumstances, exert itself in acts of substantial kindness. He that is substantially good, will be doing good. The man that has a hearty, determinate will to be charitable, will seldom put men off with the mere will for the deed. For a sincere desire to do good, implies some uneasiness till the thing be done ; and uneasiness sets the mind at work, and puts it upon the stretch to find out a thousand ways and means of obliging, which will ever escape the unconcerned, the indifferent, and the unfeeling...
The most proper objects of your bounty are the necessitous. Give the same sum of money, which you
bes. tow on a person in tolerable circumstances, to one in exireme poverty; and observe what a wide disproportion of happiness is produced. In the latter case, it is like giving a cordial to a fainting person ; in the former, it is like giving wine to him who has already quenched his thirst. “Mercy is seasonable in time of aßiction, like clouds of rain in time of drought."
And among the variety of necessitous objects, none have a better title to 8:2 compassion, than those, who, after having lasted the veets of plenty, are by some undeserved calamity, obliged, without some charitable relief, to drag out the remainder of life in misery and woe; who little thought they should ask their daily bread of
any but of God; who, after a life led in affluence, “cannot dig, and are ashamed to beg."
And they are to be relieved in such an endearing manner, with such a beauty of holiness, that at the same time that their wants are supplied, their confusion of face may be prevented.
There is not an instance of this kind in history, so affecting as that beautiful one of Boaz to Ruth. He knew her family, and how she was reduced to the lowest ebb: when, therefore, she begged leave to glean in his fields, he ordered his reapers to let fall several håndfuls, with a seeming carelessness, but really with a set design, that she might gather them up without being ashamed. Thus did he form an artful scheme, that he might give, without the vanity and ostentation of giving; and she receive, without the shame and contusion of making acknowledgements. Take the history in the words of scripture, as it is recorded in the book of Rutb. "And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, let her glean even among the sheayes, and rebuke her not; and let fall also some of the handfuls on purpose, and leave them that she may glean them, and reproach her not.” This was not only doing a good action; it was doing it likewise with a good grace.
It is not enough we do not harm, that we be negatively good; we must do good, positive good, if we would weoter into life.” When it would have been as good for the world if such a man had never lived; it would, perhaps, have been better for him, if she had never been born." A scanty fortune may limit your beneficence, and confine it chiefly to the circles of your domestics, relations and neighbors; but let your benevolence extend as far as thought can travel, to the utmost bounds of the world; just as it may be only in your power to beautify the spot of ground that lies near and close to you; but you could wish, that, as far as your eye can reach, the whole prospect before you were cheerful, every thing disagreeable were removed, and every thing beautiful made more so..