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fort, refolves in effect never to be contented at all, and demands a perfection from others, to which he cannot pretend himself. But then further, as there will be always fomething amifs in political conduct, so there will always, either through ill defign or ignorance or inconfiderateness, be fault found with actions that deserve it not; or the blame laid where it should not. And though mismanagements ought certainly to be rectified, when they can by lawful and prudent methods; and they who attempt this are intitled both to candid interpretation, and in cases of moment, to affistance, from others: yet they fhould examine themfelves very ftrictly, and all who are concerned fhould examine with care, not only whether they defign well, bnt whether they confider impartially, and judge rightly; whether they ufe allowable means to attain their imagined good ends; and whether, on the whole, they are not more likely to do harm, than fervice.
But fuppofing oppofition made with all these precautions, which it feldom is; and yet made ineffectually; if the point be of any great confequence, without question it is very unhappy. Yet ftill, having recourfe to violent measures would bring on fo many obvious mifchiefs, and for the most part fuch multitudes of unforeseen ones too, with fo much uncertainty of making things better, and fo dreadful a chance of making them one way or another worfe, that every wife as well as good man, if the cafe be in any degree tolerable, will much rather chufe, to wait for a remedy from the providence of God, than think of applying defperate ones of his
There is indeed a poffibility, which, but for a peculiar cafe which was our own, it would fearce be proper to mention, that governnient may be fo entirely perverted from its original defign, by fome who share in it; fuch exorbitant powers nfurped, and fo deftructive an ufe made of them, that the duty of obedience muft give way to that of felf-preservation, But this can be only when the neceffity is extreme, and the evil infupportable; the danger of it imminent, and by every other way unavoidable; the relief confeffedly real, and vifibly within reach. Such were the circumftances of our fathers at the Revolution. But perfons are not to imagine, that fuch frequently happen; or that any thing like them. happens, as often as they fancy, or eyen feel, a fèw inconveniencies;
conveniences; but to bear them, were they many and heavy, with a virtuous patience and facred regard to the public tranquillity. For certainly the government of the cruel and vicious emperor Nero was extremely bad, when St Paul, notwithstanding, enjoined fo ftrongly dutiful obedience to it, as you may read in the thirteenth chapter of his epiftle to the Romans. How religiously then, and how cheerfully, ought we to obey thofe, who have the rule over us; fince undeniably the truth is, and long experience ought to extinguish all fufpicion to the contrary, that they have not the least design of hurting us in any one respect, but a fincere defire of fecuring and promoting all our interefts, domeftic and foreign; that almost all the inconveniences, which we have fuffered, and the burdens, that we undergo, have arifen from the wickednefs or folly of the nations round us, or from our own; that our established religion is purer, our liberty greater, our property safer, than that of any other people upon earth; that whatever in our condition may want to be rectified and improved, we may do it by peaceful methods, whenever we agree upon it; that we have no one good effect to promise our felves from difloyal attempts; but a fure profpect, were they to fucceed, of every evil of every kind, to ourselves and our pofterity.
In the second part of the text, the apoftle proceeds from obedience, the primary duty of subjects, as fuch, to the other, and confequential parts of their behaviour under government. And here his first rule is a very comprehenfive one, that they be ready to every good work: in general, to fulfil all the obligations of life; in particular, thofe of their own ftation. An universal regard to religion and piety, justice and benevolence, fobriety and temperance, is the very groundwork of focial happiness. It gives courage and spirit, health and plenty ; truft and union at home, refpect and honour abroad: it keeps profperity from being dangerous, and fills adverfity with comfort and hope. But then, befides the common ties, which bind all men, the apostle includes in this precept, what he could not fo well mention fingly, the particular ties of each man, belonging to his respective fituation and employment. It requires therefore, that perfons in authority be faithful to their truft, watchful and diligent, upright and difinterested; or to speak in the language of fcripture, Men of truth, fearing
God, hating covetousness*: that perfons of quality and fortune acknowledge their fubjection to the fame laws, human and divine, with their inferiors; and be careful to use the advantageous ground, upon which they stand, chiefly to pour down benefits, and shed abroad good influences, on all beneath them; and lastly, that thofe, who are of lower estate be content with their condition, yet industrious by honest means to better it; pay respect to their fuperiors in word and deed, proportionably to their degree, and render to all their dues; fear, to whom fear is due, honour, to whom honour t. Thus, by a regular fubordination and mutual ferviceablenefs, every one will concur to make the weight of government easy to those, who sustain it; and the benefits great to all, that are placed under it. And the bleffing of Heaven will not fail to crown the virtuous endeavours of fuch a people with fuccefs.
But though every good work is beneficial to fociety, and every finful one detrimental: yet some fins are more directly pernicious, than others: and require a more especial caution to be given against them. Such are the two, which usually go together, calumny and faction. These therefore the apoftle prohibits especially, in the following part of the text: To fpeak evil of no man, to be no brawlers.
The original word, in the former of these rules, being that, from which the name of blasphemy is derived, commonly denotes in scripture, ufing reproachful language of those, who are peculiarly intitled to respect and reverence; as, in the first place, the great God; and, in a lower sense, perfons who bear his authority on earth. Confidering therefore, to what point the paffage before us relates, we must apprehend this injunction to be directed principally against the wickedness of fuch, as St Peter faith, are not afraid, or, tranflating literally, do not tremble, to speak evil of dignities : where again the word is, to blafpheme. Here then St Paul must be understood to command, that we neither allow ourselves, nor encourage others, in difrespectful and injurious expreffions concerning our rulers, whether fupreme or fubordinate; but preferve in our minds, and those of all men, fo far as we can, that honour and regard for them, which is the ftrongest bond of government, of peace and order. In charity it must be fuppofed, that few of the many,
who violate this precept, do it with ill defign. But at best, for perfons to entertain and spread notions to the disadvantage of their fuperiors, which, in the cafe of an equal to whom they wished well, they would immediately fee were groundless, and, it may be, abfurd, is a very criminal thoughtlessness; and often produces moft unhappy effects. Therefore, when we hear fuch things faid, we fhould always reflect, how many there are, whom prepoffeffion, or intereft, or resentment, may.. induce to report untruths or uncertainties; how many others do the fame thing from mere wantonnefs of invention, or defire to appear knowing; and indeed, how eafily facts, or material circumstances, are, without intention, mifrelated or mifunderstood. We fhould call to mind, whether we have not, perhaps more than once before now, been led into a firm belief of many a story, for which we have afterwards been convinced there was never the leaft foundation; and learn from thence a prudent distrust for the future. Nay further still, before we pass our judgment fo freely on the characters of public perfons, and the adminiftration of public affairs, we should spend a little time in judging ourselves; and confidering well, not only whether we are fo impartial and candid as we ought, but whether we have indeed a fufficient capacity, and fufficient information, to determine at all about fuch matters. Unless we can be fure of this, about which multitudes, we find, are daily mistaken; we should be very fearful of venturing beyond our depth; or, in fcripture language, exercifing curfelves in great matters, which are too high for us, and ought in many cafes to go but little further, than our good wishes and prayers; leaving the reft to those that are intrusted with it, and ftudying to be quiet, and do our own business †.
But reproachful difcourfe, though our fuperiors be spared in it, is fully mischievous enough, to deferve being included, as doubtlefs the apoftle defigned it fhould, in his general prohibition of evil-fpeaking. Private quarrels, arifing from this fource, have often produced very fatal public diffentions. And were it never to have that ill effect, it would still have many others of the worst kind. The good opinion of those, amongst whom we live, is by nature, and with great reafon, extremely dear to us: and robbing us of it is taking from us
one of the chief things, that make life agreeable. Every one
feels this in his own cafe. No injury occafions bitterer uneafinefs, or keener refentments; yet none is more frequently done not only in anger, which however, were it the best grounded in the world, is by no means an excufe for saying juft what one will; but in perfect good humour, heedlessly and gaily, and for mere want of fomething else to say. An offence, committed with fo little feruple, is ufually retaliated with just as little. And thus the cruelleft and most barbarous imputations, fometimes obliquely hinted at, others directly fpoken out, make up a great part of the entertainment of converfation. They, who pretend to condemn them, hearken to them, and repeat them notwithstanding: and almoft every body goes on, more or lefs, contributing their fhare to what they complain of, all the while, moft heavily. Now though all the ill things, that we tell of others, were true; yet both Christian charity, and common humanity, would forbid the needlefs publication of them. And one should think private interest too might incline us to fet the example of such forbearance as we ourselves either have, or may have, occafion for gentle treatment in return, and a friendly veil to be drawn over our failings. But if a report of this kind be false; then the raising it, and in proportion the carrying it on, is doing a moft heinous injury to an innocent perfon; which may spread we know not how far, and last we know not how long, and do him we know not what harm; without our being able, were we willing afterwards, to restore to him, at all completely, the good name that we have taken from him: which yet we muft heartily endeavour to do, whatever shame we may bring upon ourselves by it, before we can hope for our Maker's for giveness.
The second prohibition of the apoftle is levelled against the vehement spirit of party and faction: To be no brawlers, not contentious. Doubtlefs there may be differences of opinion and conduct, about national concerns, of such importance, that every one ought to interest himself in them, and even zealously. But then it should be done upon reasonable grounds; and without paffion or bitterness. We fhould imagine nothing to be of greater moment, than it really is. We fhould neither fpeak nor think worse of the oppofite fide, than we find, on a cool inquiry, they deferve: we should judge of no man's character,