Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

men's provinces, or without leave and commission intermeddling with their affairs, prying into their designs, and subjecting their proceedings to our censure. 12. Farther, it behoves us not to engage ourselves so deeply in any singular friendship, or in devotion to any one party of men, as to be intirely partial to their interests and prejudiced in their behalf, without distinct consideration of the truth and equity of their pretences in the particular matters of difference, &c. 13. If we would live peaceably ourselves, we should endeavor to preserve peace, prevent differences, and reconcile dissensions among others, by doing good offices and making fair representations between them, by concealing causes of future disgust, removing present misunderstandings, and excusing past mistakes; by allaying their passions, &c. : for the fire that devoures our neighbor's house, threatens and endangers our own ; and it is hard to be near contention without engaging therein. Lastly, if we would effectually observe this precept, we must readily comply with the innocent customs, and obey the established laws of the places where we live. There is no preserving of peace, nor preventing of broils, but by punctually observing that ordinary rule of equity, that in cases of doubtful debate and points of controverted practice, the least should yield to the greatest number, the weakest bend to the strongest, and this the best and wisest of men have done, as far as their duty to God and their conscience would permit: instances given. Nor can a compliance with religious customs, used in divine worship, be excepted from this rule: since a willing discrepancy from them greatly destroys peace, and kindles the flame of contention ; and it cannot be imagined that the God of love and peace should approve a course so directly contrary to it.

But yet much more is peaceable conversation impeached by disobedience to established laws, those great bulwarks of society, fences of order, and supports of peace; which he who refuses to obey may reasonably be supposed unwilling to have peace with

any man, since he in a manner defies all mankind, vilifies their most solemn judgments, and subverts the only foundation of public tranquillity: this point enlarged on. Conclusion.

SERMON XXIX.

OF A PEACEABLE TEMPER AND CARRIAGE.

ROMANS, CHAP. XII.- VERSE 18.

If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with

all men.

This chapter containeth many excellent precepts and wholesome advices, (scarce any portion of holy Scripture so many in so little compass.) From among them I have selected one, alas, but too seasonable and pertinent to the unhappy condition of our distracted age, wherein to observe this and such like injunctions, is by many esteemed an impossibility, by others a wonder, by some a crime. It hath an apt coherence with, yet no necessary dependence on, the parts adjoining; whence I may presume to treat on it distinctly by itself : and without farther preface or circumstance we may consider several particulars therein.

I. And, first, concerning the advice itself, or the substance of the duty charged on us, eip veveiv, (' to be in peace,' or · live peaceably,') we may take notice, that whether, according to the more usual acception, it be applied to the public estate of things, or, as here, doth relate only to private conversation, it doth import,

1. Not barely a negation of doing or suffering harm, or an abstinence from strife and violence, (for a mere strangeness this may be, a want of occasion, or a truce, rather than a peace,) but a positive amity, and disposition to perform such kind offices,

a

without which good correspondence among men cannot subsist. For they who by reason of distance of place, non-acquaintance, or defect of opportunity, maintain no intercourse, cannot properly be said to be in peace with one another: but those who have frequent occasion of commerce, whose conditions require interchanges of courtesy and relief, who are some way obliged and disposed to afford needful succor and safe retreat to each other ; these may be said to live in peace together, and these only, it being in a manner impossible that they who are not disposed to do good to others (if they have power and opportunity) should long abstain from doing harm.

2. Living peaceably implies not some few transitory performances, proceeding from casual humor or the like; but a constant, stable, and well-settled condition of being; a continual cessation from injury, and promptitude to do good offices. For as one blow doth not make a battle, nor one skirmish a war; so cannot single forbearances from doing mischief, or some few particular acts of kindness, (such as mere strangers may afford each other,) be worthily styled a being in peace: but an habitual inclination to these, a firm and durable estate of innocence and beneficence.

3. Living in peace supposes a reciprocal condition of being; not only a performing good, and forbearing to do bad offices, but a receiving the like treatment from others. For he that being assaulted is constrained to stand on his defence, may not be said to be in peace, though his not being so (involuntarily) is not to be imputed to him.

4. Being in peace imports not only an outward cessation of violence and seeming demonstration of amity, but an inward will and resolution to continue therein. For he that intends, when occasion is presented, to do mischief to another, is nevertheless an enemy, because more secret and dangerous: an ambuscado is no less a piece of war than confronting the enemy in open field. Proclaiming and denouncing signify, but good and ill intention constitute, and are the souls of

and

war. From these considerations we may infer a description of being in peace, viz. that it is, to bear mutual good-will, to continue in amity, to maintain good correspondence, to be on terms of mutual courtesy and benevolence; to be disposed to perform re

peace

6

ciprocally all offices of humanity; assistance in need, comfort in sorrow, relief in distress; to please and satisfy one another, by advancing the innocent delight, and promoting the just advantage of each other; to converse with confidence and security, without suspicion, on either hand, of any fraudulent, malicious, or hurtful practices against either: or, negatively, not to be in a state of enmity, personal hatred, pertinacious anger, jealousy, envy, or ill-will; not to be apt to provoke, to reproach, to harm or hinder another, nor to have reasonable grounds of expecting the same bad usage from others; to be removed from danger of vexatious quarrels, intercourse of odious language, offending others, or being disquieted one's self. This I take to be the meaning of living or being in peace, differing only in degree of obligation and latitude of object, from the state of friendship properly so called, and opposed to a condition of enmity, defiance, contention, hatred, suspicion, animosity.

II. In the next place we may consider the object of this duty, signified in those words, with all men.' We often meet in Scripture with exhortations directed peculiarly to Christians, to be at peace among themselves; as Mark ix. 5. our Saviour lays this injunction on his disciples, eip vevete év állýdous, . Have peace one with another ;' inculcated by St. Paul on the Thessalonians in the same words: and the like we have in the second Epistle to Timothy, chap. ii. ver. 22. · Follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart:' and to the Romans, (xiv. 19.) • Let us therefore follow after the things that make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. But here the duty hath a more large and comprehensive object ; πάντες άνθρωποι, 'all men :' as likewise it hath in the Epistle to the Hebrews, xii. 14. •Pursue peace with all men :' with all men, without any exception, with men of all nations, Jews and Gentiles, Greeks and Barbarians; of all sects and religions; persecuting Jews and idolatrous Heathens ; (for of such consisted the generality of men at that time ;) and so St. Paul expressly in a like advice, (1 Cor. x. 32. 33. · Give no offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God; even as I please all men.') And I may add, by evident parity of

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »