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wise than with reservation and diffidence : it is, we may say, the most probable course I know, but I question whether it will succeed; I hope well of it, but do not thoroughly confide therein. This modest and discreet way, whatever the event shall be, will shelter thee from blame ; yea, will advance the reputation of thy sagacity : for if it fail, thy reason to suspect will be approved ; if it prosper, the goodness of thy judgment will be applauded : whereas the confident director, if success crosseth his advice, is exclaimed on for his rashness; if success favoreth, he is not yet admired for his wisdom, because he seemed to be sure; it being more admirable to guess the best among doubtful things, than to determine that which is certain. So much for meddling about advice.
II. For reproof, (which is necessary, and a duty on some occasions,) we may do well to follow these directions.
1. Reprove not a superior ; for it is exercising a power over him, and a punishing him; we thereby therefore do soar above our pitch, we confound ranks, and pervert the order settled among men; the practice containeth irreverence and presumption, it seemeth injurious, and is ever odious. What the ministers of God, or spiritual pastors, do in this kind, they do it by special commission, or instinct, (as the prophets in reprehending princes and priests, as St. John Baptist in reproving Herod ;) or as ordinary superiors in the case of spiritual guidance, being set over us for that purpose, and watching for our souls,' for which they must render an account:' yet they must do it with great moderation and discretion : Mpeoßurépu Miércolhens, 'Rebuke not an elder,' (or one more aged than thyself,) but intreat him as a father,' (that is, advise him in the most respectful and gentle manner,) is the charge of St. Paul to B. Timothy. In case of grievance or scandal, it becometh inferiors not proudly or peremptorily to criminate and tax, but humbly to remonstrate and supplicate for redress.
2. Reprove not rashly, and without certain cognisance of the fact; for to reprove for things not done, or, which in moral reckoning is the same, for things not apparent, is both unjust, and argueth a malignant disposition : it is unjust to punish so much as the modesty of any man, without clear evidence and proof; it is malignity to suspect a man of ill, it is calumny to
charge blame on him on slender pretences, or doubtful surmises.
3. Reprove not also rashly as to the point of right, or without being able to convince the matter to be assuredly culpable : to reprove for things not bad, or not unquestionably such, (for things that are, or perhaps may be indifferent and innocent,) is also unjust, and signifieth a tyrannical disposition: it is unjust anywise to punish a man without clear warrant of law; it is tyrannical to impose on men our conceit, or to persecute them for using their liberty, following their judgment, or enjoying their humor; which in effect we do when we reprove them for that which we cannot prove blameable: it is, St. James saith, • a judging the law,' or charging it with defect, when we condemn persons for things not prohibited by it: 'He,' saith the Apostle, that speaketh against his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh against the law, and judgeth the law.'
Both these kinds of rash reproof are very inconvenient, as breeding needless offence and endless contention ; for whoever is thus taxed will certainly take it ill, and will contend in his own defence: no man patiently, for no sufficient cause or sure ground, will lie under the stroke of reproof, which always smarteth, but then enrageth when it is supposed to be inflicted unjustly or maliciously: even those who contentedly will bear friendly reproof, can worse brook to be causelessly taxed.
4. Reprove not for slight matters; for such faults or defects as proceed from natural frailty, from inadvertency, from mistake in matters of small consequence; for it is hard to be just in such reproof; or so to temper it as not to exceed the measure of blame due to such faults: they occur so often, that we should never cease to be carping, if we do it on such occasions ; it is not worth the while, it is not handsome to seem displeased with such little things; it is spending our artillery on a game not worth the killing. Reproof is too grave and stately a thing to be prostituted on so mean things; to use it on small cause derogateth from its weight, when there is considerable reason for it; friendship, charity, and humanity should cover such offences. In fine, it is unseemly to reprove men for such things as all men, as themselves, are so continually subject unto: it is
therefore better to let such things pass without any mark of displeasure or dislike.
5. Reprove not unseasonably; not when a person is indisposed to bear reproof, or unfit to profit thereby; not when there is likely to be no good effect come from it; when thou shalt only thereby conjure up an evil spirit of displeasure and enmity against thyself. Reproof is a thing of itself not good or pleasant, but sometimes needful, because wholesome and good in order to the end; it should therefore be administered as physic, then only when the patient is fit to receive it, and it may serve to correct his distemper; otherwise you will only make him more sick, and very angry.
It is ever almost unseasonable to reprove some persons, as scorners, impudent, incorrigibly profligate persons, who will hate the reprover without regarding the reproof: “He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame; and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot.' • Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee.' To be maligned, to be derided, to be aspersed with reproach and slander, is all one shall get by reproving such persons; it is both prostituting good advice, and exposing oneself to mischief, as our Saviour intimateth in that prohibition : Give not that which is holy unto dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.' : As such men ever, so most men in some seasons are uncapable of reproof; so are men in calamity, who are discomposed by grief, the which is rather to be mitigated by comfort than increased and exasperated by blame; so are men in a passion, who have no ears to hear, no reason to judge, no will to comply with advice: reproof is apt to produce rather anger and ill-blood, than any contrition or kindly remorse in persons so affected.
It is also usually not seasonable to reprove men publicly, when their modesty is highly put to it, and their reputation grievously suffereth ; for this is an extreme sort of punishment, and is taken for needless; it is extreme, because men had rather suffer any way than in their honor; it is deemed needless, because it may be ministered privately.
6. Reprove mildly and sweetly, in the calmest manner, in the gentlest terms; not in a haughty or imperious way, not hastily or fiercely; not with sour looks, or in bitter language; for these ways do beget all the evil, and hinder the best effects of reproof: they do certainly inflame and disturb the person reproved; they breed wrath, disdain, and hatred against the reprover; but do not so well enlighten the man to see his error, or affect him with kindly sense of his miscarriage, or dispose him to correct his fault: such reproofs look rather like the wounds and persecutions of enmity, than as remedies ministered by a friendly hand; they harden men with stomach and scorn to mend on such occasion. If reproof doth not savor of humanity, it signifieth nothing; it must be like a bitter pill wrapped in gold, and tempered with sugar, otherwise it will not go down, or work effectually.
7. Affect not to be reprehensive ; seem not willingly to undertake the place of a reprover; appear to be merely drawn thereto by sense of duty, or exigency of friendship, or constraint of charity and good-will. For to affect reproving is a sign of ill-nature and arrogance, that we delight to observe the faults, that we love to insult on the infirmities and infelicities of other men ; which is the part of a domineering and cruel humor. A truly good man indeed would be glad to be excused from the office; it is the most unpleasant thing he can do to be raking in men's sores, and causing smart to his neighbors; far more gladly would he be commending their good deeds, and cherishing their virtue. Nothing therefore but conscience and charity can put him on this employment. But so much for meddling in reproof.
III. Another kind of meddling is, interposing in the contests and contentions of others. As to this, we may, briefly, do well to observe these directions.
1. We should never meddle, so as to raise dissensions, to do such things as breed them : we should by no means create misunderstandings, or distates, between our neighbors : we should not instil jealousies, or surmises; we should not misconstrue words or actions, to an offensive sense or consequence : we should not convey spiteful tales: we should not disclose the secrets of one to another. These practices engender enmity
and strife among men, and are therefore inhuman, or rather diabolical; for the Devil is the great makebate in the world.
2. We should not foment dissensions already commenced, blowing up the coals that are kindled, by abetting the strife, or aggravating the causes thereof; it is not good to strengthen the quarrel, by siding with one part, except that part be notoriously oppressed or abused : in such a case indeed, when justice calleth for them, we may lend our advice and assistance; and may bear the inconvenience of being engaged, as Moses honestly and generously did, when he succored his brother that suffered wrong; otherwise it is advisable to keep ourselves out of the fray, that we do not encourage it by our taking part, and involve ourselves in the mischiefs of it.
3. Especially we should not make ourselves parties in any faction, where both sides are eager and passionate; for then even they who have the juster cause are wont to do unjust things, in which it is hard for any man engaged not to have share, at least not to undergo the imputation of them : it is wisdom therefore in such cases to hold off, and to retain a kind of indifferency; to meddle with them is, as the wise man saith, to take a dog by the ears ;' which he that doth, can hardly take care enough of his fingers.
4. We should not interpose ourselves (without invitation) to be arbitrators in points of difference; we may cautiously mediate, perhaps, or advise to agreement; but not pretend as judges with authority to decide the controversy: this savoreth of arrogance, this will work trouble to us, and bring the displeasure of both sides on us; it is hard, in doing so, to avoid becoming parties, and offending one side. Our Lord therefore did, we see, wave this office, and put off the invitation with a · Who made me a divider, or a judge between you ?'
5. If we would at all meddle in these cases, it should be only in endeavoring, by the most fair and prudent means, to renew peace, and reconcile the dissenters; if we can by exhortation and persuasion to peace, by removing misprisions, by representing things handsomely, by mitigating their passions, bring them to good terms, this is a laudable meddling, this is a blessed practice.
So I leave this particular, and finish the directive part of my discourse.