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toriously better and more useful, we may love him chiefly for ourselves, and ourselves above him. But still we must love God and the public good, above both ourselves and him, and must love both ourselves and him in order to God, who is the beginning and end of all.
Quest. vI. Is it contrary to the nature of true friendship to keep any secret from such a bosom friend, or to retain any suspicion of him, or to suppose that he may possibly prove unfaithful to us and forsake us?'
Answ. Cicero and the old doctors say of friendship, that all this is inconsistent with true friendship: and it is true that it is contrary to perfect friendship: but it is as true, that perfect friendship cannot be, and must not be among imperfect men: and that the nature of mankind is so much depraved, that the best are unmeet for perfect friendship : and certainly few men, if any in the world, are fit for every secret of our hearts. Besides that we are so bad, that if all our secret thoughts were known to one another, it might do much to abate our friendship and love to each other. And it is certain that man is so corrupt a creature, and good men so imperfectly cured of their corruption, that there is selfishness, uncertainty and mutability in the best. And therefore it is not a duty to judge falsely of men, but contrarily to judge of them as they are. And therefore to suppose that it is possible the closest friend may reveal our secrets, one time or other, and that the most stedfast friend may possibly become our enemy. To think that possible, which is possible (and more), is injurious to none.
Quest. VII. Is it lawful to change a bosom friend, and to prefer a new one whom we perceive to be more worthy before an old one?'
Answ. An old friend 'cæteris paribus' is to be preferred before a new one, and is not to be cast off without desert and necessity. But for all that, 1. If an old friend prove false, or notably unfit. 2. Or if we meet with another that is far more able, fit and worthy, no doubt but we may prefer the latter; and may value, love, and use men as they are for goodness, worth and usefulness.
Quest. VIII. What love is due to a minister that hath been the means of our conversion? And can such an one be loved too much?"
Answ. 1. There is a special love due to such an one, as the hand by which God did reach out to us his invaluable mercies and ingratitude, and sectarian, proud contempt of such as have been our fathers in Christ, is no small sin.
2. But yet another that never did us good, who is much wiser, and better, and more serviceable to the church, must be better loved, than he by whom we were converted. Because we are to love men more for the sake of God and his image and service, than for ourselves.
3. And it is a very common thing, for passionate women and young people, when they are newly converted, to think that they can never too much value, and honour, and love those that converted them; and to think that all such love is holy and from God; whereas the same love may be of God as to the principle, motives and ends, in the main, and yet may have great mixtures of passionate weakness, and sinful excess, which may tend to their great affliction in the end. Some that have been converted by the writings of a minister a hundred or a thousand miles off, must needs go see the author: some must needs remove from their lawful dwellings and callings, to live under the ministry of such an one; yea, if it may be, in the house with him: some have affections so violent, as proveth a torment to them when they cannot live with those whom they so affect: some by that affection are ready to follow those that they so value, into any error. And all this is a sinful love by this mixture of passionate weakness, though pious in the main.
Quest. Ix. Why should we restrain our love to a bosom friend (contrary to Cicero's doctrine)? And what sin or danger is in loving him too much?'
Answ. All these following: 1. It is an error of judgment and of will, to suppose any one better than he is, (yea, perhaps than any creature on earth is,) and so to love him.
2. It is an irrational act, and therefore not fit for a rational creature, to love any one farther than reason will allow us, and beyond the true causes of regular love.
3. It is usually a fruit of sinful selfishness: for this excess of love doth come from a selfish cause, either some strong conceit that the person greatly loveth us, or for some great kindness which he hath shewed us, or for some need we have of him, and fitness appearing in him to be useful to us,
&c. Otherwise it would be purely for amiable worth, and then it would be proportioned to the nature and measure of that worth.
4. It very often taketh up men's minds, so as to hinder their love to God, and their desires and delights in holy things while satan (perhaps upon religious pretences) turneth our affections too violently to some person, it diverteth them from higher and better things: for the weak mind of man can hardly think earnestly of one thing, without being alienated in his thoughts from others; nor can hardly love two things or persons fervently at once, that stand not in pure subordination one to the other: and we seldom love any fervently in a pure subordination to God; for then we should love God still more fervently.
5. It oft maketh men ill members of the church and commonwealth. For it contracteth that love to our overvalued person, which should be diffused abroad among many; and the common good which should be loved above any single person is by this means neglected (as God himself) which maketh wives, and children, and bosom friends become those gulfs that swallow up the estates of most rich men; so that they do little good with them to the public state, which should be preferred.
6. Overmuch friendship engageth us in more duty than we are well able to perform, without neglecting our duty to God, the commonwealth and our own souls. There is some special duty followeth all special acquaintance; but a bosom friend will expect a great deal. You must allow him much of your time in conference, upon all occasions; and he looketh that you should be many ways friendly and useful to him, as he is or would be to you. When, alas, frail man can do but little: our time is short; our strength is small; our estates and faculties are narrow and low. And that time which you must spend with your bosom friend, where friendship is not moderated and wisely managed, is perhaps taken from God and the public good, to which you first owed it. Especially if you are magistrates, ministers, physicians, schoolmasters, or such other as are of public usefulness. Indeed if you have a sober, prudent friend, that will look but for your vacant hours, and rather help you in
your public service, you are happy in such a friend. But that is not the excess of love that I am reprehending.
7. This inordinate friendship prepareth for disappointments, yea, and for excess of sorrows. Usually experience will tell you that your best friends are but uncertain, and imperfect men, and will not answer your expectation: and perhaps some of them may so grossly fail you, as to set light by you, and prove your adversaries. I have seen the bonds of extraordinary dearness many ways dissolved: one hath been overcome by the flesh, and turned drunkard and sensual, and so proved unfit for intimate friendship (who yet sometime seemed of extraordinary uprightness and zeal). Another hath taken up some singular conceits in religio and joined to some sect where his bosom friend could not follow him. And so it hath seemed his duty to look with strangeness, contempt or pity on his ancient friend, as one that is dark and low, if not supposed an adversary to the truth, because he espouseth not all his misconceits. Another is suddenly lifted up with some preferment, dignity and success, and so is taken with higher things and higher converse, and thinks it is very fair, to give an embrace to his ancient friend, for what he once was to him, instead of continuing such endearedness. Another hath changed his place and company, and so by degrees grown very indifferent to his ancient friend, when he is out of sight, and converse ceaseth. Another hath himself chosen his friend amiss, in his unexperienced youth, or in a penury of wise and good men, supposing him much better than he was: and afterwards hath had experience of many peroons of far greater wisdom, piety and fidelity, whom therefore reason commanded him to prefer. All these are ordinary dissolvers of these bonds of intimate and special friendship.
And if your love continue as hot as ever, its excess is like to be your excessive sorrow. For, 1. You will be the more grieved at every suffering of your friend, as sicknesses, losses, crosses, &c. whereof so many attend mankind, as is like to make your burden great. 2. Upon every removal, his absence will be the more troublesome to you. 3. All incongruities and fallings out will be the more painful to you, especially his jealousies, discontents and passions, which you cannot command. 4. His death, if he die before
you, will be the more grievous, and your own the more unwelcome, because you must part with him. These and abundance of sore afflictions are the ordinary fruits of too strong affections: and it is no rare thing for the best of God's servants to profess, that their sufferings from their friends who have overloved them, have been ten times greater than from all the enemies that ever they had in the world.
And to those that are wavering about this case, 'Whether only a common friendship with all men according to their various worth, or a bosom intimacy with some one man, be more desirable,' I shall premise a free confession of my own case, whatever censures for it I incur. When I was first awakened to the regard of things spiritual and eternal, I was exceedingly inclined to a vehement love to those that I thought the most serious saints, and especially to that intimacy with some one, which is called friendship. By which I found extraordinary benefit, and it became a special mercy to my soul. But it was by more than one or two of the aforementioned ways, that the strict bond of extraordinary friendship hath been relaxed, and my own excessive esteem" of my most intimate friends confuted. And since then I' have learned, to love all men according to their real worth, and to let out my love more extensively and without respect of persons, acknowledging all that is good in all; but with a double love and honour to the excellently wise and good; and to value men more for their public usefulness, than for their private suitableness to me; and yet to value the ordinary converse of one or a few sureable friends, before a more public and tumultuary life, except when God is publicly worshipped, or when public service inviteth me to deny the quiet of a private life: and though I more difference bétween man and man than ever, I do it not upon so slight and insufficient grounds as in the time of my unexperienced credulity: nor do I expect to find any without the defects, and blots, and failings of infirm, imperfect, mutable man. Quest. x. What qualifications should direct us in the choice of a special bosom friend?'
Answ. 1. He must be one that is sincere and singlehearted, and not given to affectation, or any thing that is much forced in his deportment; plain, and open-hearted to