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just authority or character : but when there is pride among persons of fashion and figure, it is seen chiefly in their not condescending to hear the just complaints of the humble and afflicted, poor and miserable; or, which is still worse, in their taking advantage of their superior station, to insult and tyrannize over others, and to oppress their inferiors. This is not supporting dignity, but lessening it ; and is disparaging and disgracing both themselves and their station. The true character of greatness is, to afford protection and relief to the innocent, humble, and distressed ; and to exert all the strength and force of their authority in crushing the sturdy and insolent, and all such as endeavour to make a prey of the weak, or a spoil of the honest and well deserving.
I have now done with the objection proposed; and I have been the larger in answering it, that the true notion of humility or of pride may be the more clearly understood. This indeed is the most material point. All mankind condemn pride, but they do not always know distinctly what it means. I have endeavoured to describe it in as plain characters as I could, for our information: not to teach any one to find it in his neighbour, (for that is no token of humility; the proudest men generally complaining most of pride in others, because their own can least bear it,) but to examine the more carefully into our own selves ; and that, in order to discover whether any thing of this poisonous vice be yet lurking in us; and if we find it so, to use all proper means to purge it out. May we all seriously endeavour to do thus, for the satisfying our own consciences, and the saving our souls.
The Wisdom of true Simplicity of Mind and Integrity of
John i. 47
Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an
Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! 'HE Apostle Bartholomew is, by good interpreters, supposed
to have been this very Nathanael, of whom our Lord here speaks in such high terms of commendation. Nathanael might be the name which he commonly went under before his conversion to Christ, and Bartholomew might be the Christian title which he assumed afterwards.
The memorable character here given of him is, that he was “an Israelite indeed,” or true Israelite,“ in whom was no guile :" he was a person of great simplicity and integrity ; remarkable for his honest and upright heart, his frank and open conversation, and for his plainness and sincerity in all his dealings: he had no sinister or selfish views, no deceit nor craftiness in him ; his designs were all just, fair, and honourable ; his conduct equal, clear, and uniform : in a word, his tongue, his hand, and his heart, all went together.
Such was his general character; and, by the particular notice which our blessed Lord was pleased to take of it, we may perceive that he looked upon it as somewhat rare and uncommon, above the ordinary pitch of human virtue. In discoursing further, my design is, I. To inquire how it comes to pass, that guile and insincerity are so apt to prevail amongst men.
II. To set forth the wisdom of true simplicity of mind and in
tegrity of manners, both with respect to the world that now is, and that which is to come.
I. As to the first particular; if we look back to the original of guile, and search to the bottom of it, we shall find it chiefly owing to that natural selfishness which is, in a manner, born in us, and bred up with us; and which nothing can ever thoroughly correct or cure, but a deep and due sense of God and religion. Men naturally feel their own cravings and uneasinesses; but they feel not, in like manner, the cravings and uneasinesses of other persons: and therefore they are naturally prompted to indulge themselves as far as they can, though it be at the expense of their neighbours, who have the like inclinations and aversions with them. A little time and experience sufficiently convinces every man, that there is no forcing all around him to yield to his single will or humour ; but he is certain to meet with strong resistance and opposition on every side, as often as he directly attempts any thing of that sort. Hence arises a kind of moral necessity of making use of management and address, in order to compass that by wile and artifice, which cannot be obtained by
Here lies the foundation of guile, treachery, and deceit. They are the natural result of an overweening self-love, meeting with opposition from without, and not yet restrained by true and right principles from within.
It is one chief aim of the laws of every well-governed society, or community, to bridle, in some measure, the exorbitances of selfishness ; that it may not break out to that degree, as totally to destroy or disturb the public harmony: but, notwithstanding all the outward legal restraints that can be enacted, there is still room enough left for guile and treachery to range in. Human laws may be eluded or perverted; and the men of guile may often manage so artfully, as to turn the very laws themselves, which were made for the protection of innocency, to the oppression or destruction of it: so that the laws of any state are by no means an effectual remedy against guile.
Besides the laws of the land, there is a kind of law of reputation, which generally is a much stricter and closer restraint upon deceitful practices than the other. Many are afraid of being detected and exposed, if they should deal unhandsomely by their neighbours : and so the tender regard which they bear towards
their own reputation restrains them from several iniquitous practices, which they might otherwise safely venture upon, within the laws of the land. In such cases, where the common courts of judicature can take no cognizance, the tribunal of fame, however, often strikes men with awe; for reputation is a tender point, and a man's livelihood often depends upon his fair and good character : but, though this may be an additional restraint upon guile, and of considerable force; yet it goes not deep enough to effect any change of heart ; neither does it sufficiently obviate the more refined and exquisite contrivances of human subtilty. Some will lay their insidious schemes with such closeness and secrecy, that it may be next to impossible to detect them; or however to convict them by any clear and certain evidences. Others, taking advantage of their superiority of fortune or station, will boldly carry on their deceitful practices; while those who see them, and suffer by them, are afraid to complain, or so much as to appear sensible of the hardships they lie under, for fear of suffering worse. Others, lastly, who, through the strength of habit and long custom in the arts of guile, are once got beyond the sense of shame, may securely go on in the same track, and even boast of fraud and circumvention when discovered; nay, and perhaps may find means to turn the ridicule or disgrace upon the unhappy sufferers. From hence therefore me may perceive, that the law of reputation is no certain, no universal security against the practice of guile.
Neither indeed can any thing be justly looked upon as a sovereign preservative, which shall effectually answer in every respect, excepting only an awful fear and dread of the Divine Majesty, a lively and vigorous expectation of a judgment to come. This religious principle is the only certain and constant security against guile ; and this will prevail to all intents and purposes, wheresoever it fixes firm root. A man, truly pious and conscientious, will consider that guile is not more odious in the esteem of men, than it is abominable in the sight of God, and must be one day accounted for before the high and awful tribunal. While he reflects hereupon, and at the same time loves his own soul, he will be sensible that it is not only his duty, but his real and lasting interest, to act always a just, and equal, and generous part with all mankind. He will see good reason for loving his neighbour in like manner as he loves himself; and so of course will be inclined to deal with others, as he desires to be
dealt with. He will be true and faithful in all measures, whether transacted in secret or in the face of the sun. He will take no unfair advantages of the weakness of one, or of the ignorance of another, or of the necessities of a third, or of
other unhappy circumstances or contingencies. He will be equal and impartial in all his dealings, though it were towards an idiot or an infant, or other thoughtless, helpless persons; as well as towards the sharpest, and shrewdest, and greatest, whose capacities or resentments he may stand in awe of : and that, because he considers Almighty God as infinitely more discerning and more powerful than all; and that it is to him we must give account of our dealings with our fellow creatures. No artifices, no colourings can be of any avail in God's sight; for God is not mocked : he sees into the inmost recesses of the mind, and searches even the reins and the heart. This consideration strikes at the very root of all guile and treachery, when nothing else will.
However, from hence may be perceived how it comes to pass, that guile prevails so widely amongst men : it is, because this world is present, and sensible ; while the other is distant, and mostly out of sight. There are few, in comparison, who retain a lively, constant, prevailing sense of God and a world to come; and therefore there are but few such Israelites as Nathanael
a man in whom was no guile.” Good nature and common humanity will sometimes go a great way: and if to both be added a certain frankness and nobleness of temper, together with a sense of honour and a quick perception of shame; all these in conjunction will almost be sufficient to make up a man withont guile. But yet, unless a deep and due sense of religion be superadded to all, the character will not be complete ; neither will the man's other principles be effectual to restrain him from the more refined sort of guile, whenever he has any great advantages to make by it. Trust not too far to any man's natural honesty or probity, if he appears not, in his general conduct, to have the fear of God before his eyes : for he that is false to his God will be false to all the world, as often as any present engaging interest persuades to it, or any strong temptation comes in his way.
I take leave to add, that guile may be often found even under great appearances of religion ; either because men may be hypo. crites, or because their very religion may be of the corrupt kind,