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SERM. sinister respects, should embrace virtue, (when it is marvelLXVI. lous that a reasonable man should decline it;) that so many,
of themselves inclinable to goodness, should be so weak as to be deterred from it by so vain an apprehension ; and that the name of hypocrisy should drive away piety; that it should become desirable, that hypocrites might abound in the world, lest religion both in truth and shew should be discarded.
In fine, we may otherwise suppress this odious imputation than by deserting goodness; we may demonstrate ourselves serious and sincere by an inflexible adherence to it in the continual tenor of our practice; and especially in some instances of duty, which are hardly consistent with hypocrisy: for no man can hold long in a strained posture; no man will take much pains, or encounter great difficulties, or sustain grievous hardships and afflictions, cross his ap
petites, forego gains and honours, for that which he doth Matt. xxiii. not heartily like and love: he may counterfeit in ceremo 23.
nies and formalities, but he will hardly feign humility, meekness, patience, contentedness, temperance, at least uniformly and constantly. Even the patient enduring this censure will confute it, and wipe off the aspersion of hypocrisy.
PROVIDE THINGS HONEST IN THE SIGHT OF
2 Cor. viii. 21.
Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the
Lord, but also in the sight of men. 6. Another great impediment of good conversation before SERM. men is a desire of seeming courteous and civil. Men usual- LXVII, ly conform to sinful practices, because they would not be held clowns, rude and distasteful in conversation ; they would not give offence to their company, by clashing with their humour ; by preferring their own judgment, and seeming to be in their own conceit wiser and better than those with whom they converse ; by provoking them to think they are held fools or worse, by such non-compliance.
This is an ordinary snare to easy and ingenuous natures; but the ground of it is very unreasonable : for although in matters of indifference, where duty and sin do not fall into consideration, to be limber and ductile as can be, (which is the temper of the best metal,) to have no humour of our own, or to resign up all our humour to the will of our company, to condescend unto, and comport with any thing; to raise no faction or debate, but presently to yield to the swaying vote; to become all things to all men in a ready complaisance, be wisdom and good manners, doth argue good nature, good understanding, good breeding ; is a rightly gentle and obliging quality:
SERM. Yet where duty is concerned, where sinning or not sinLXVII.
ning is the case, there courtesy hath no room ; there it is vain to pretend any engagement to complaisance.
For surely it is better to be held uncivil, than to be ungodly; it is far better manners to offend any number of men, than to be rude with God, to clash with his pleasure, to offer indignity and injury to him: there can be no competition in the case ; no shadow of reason, why we should displease God to please men.
As it were more civil to offend ten thousand boors (peasants) than to affront our king ; so to offend ten thousand kings than to affront our God were in policy more advisable,
and in equity more justifiable: so the royal Psalmist did Psal. cxix. judge ; for, Princes, said he, did sit and speak against me,
but thy servant did meditate in thy statutes : so Moses, so Samuel, so Elias, so Jeremy, so Daniel, so the three noble children, so the holy Apostles did conceive; who being persons otherwise very courteous and gentle, yet had not that consideration of mighty princes, as not rather to approve their consciences to God, than to comply with their pleasure; how much less should we, upon pretence of courtesy toward inferior persons in ordinary conversation, transgress our duty ?
Our own interest in such cases is too considerable to be sacrificed to the conceit or pleasure of any men: our salvation is no matter, wherein formality of respect should intervene, or have any weight; to gain or forfeit our eternal happiness is no business of compliment or ceremony: it were a silly courtesy for a man to wait on his company to hell, a wild point of gallantry to be damned in complaisance.
Who would take himself to be obliged in good manners to hold on the round in a cup of poison ; to leap down after those, who, from blind inadvertency, or wilful perverseness, tumble into a gulf, to gash or stab himself in conformity to some desperate folk ? Much less can a man be engaged out of any such regard (in compliance with the mistake, weakness, or pravity of others) to incur guilt, to provoke divine wrath, to expose his soul to utter ruin, to undergo a damage, for which all the world cannot make SERM. any reparation or amends ?
LXVU. Is it not far better to disgust than to gratify those, who have so little consideration of our welfare ; who indeed are very discourteous and heinously rude in offering to tempt us unto sin, to desire a compliance therein with them; to expect from us, that we should adventure so much for their vain satisfaction ?
Indeed to gratify such persons were great and noble cour. tesy : but really to do it, we should not go this way; for this is a spurious courtesy, rather conspiracy and treachery, than courtesy,
It is in truth, at the bottom, great discourtesy involving much unkindness, real abuse, unmerciful inhumanity and cruelty) to second, to countenance, to support or encourage any man in doing that which manifestly tendeth unto his great prejudice, to his utter bane.
It is the truest civility implying real humanity, genuine charity, faithful kindness, and tender pity) to stand off in such cases, and, by refusing (in a modest, gentle, discreet manner refusing) to concur in sin with our friends and companions, to check them, to warn them, to endeavour their amendment and retreat from pernicious courses ; to exercise that compassion toward them, which St. Jude calleth Jud. 22,28. pulling them out of the fire.
In such cases to repel them, yea to reprove them, is the greatest favour we can shew them ; it is not only safe for ourselves, but kind to them to observe St. Paul's precept, Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, Eph. v. 11. but rather reprove them ; for which deportment, whenever they come to themselves, and soberly reflect on things, they will thank and bless us ; and it will happen as the Wise Man saith, He that rebuketh a man, afterwards shall find Prov. xxviii, more favour than he that flattereth with his tongue.
In fine, if we throughly scan the business, we shall find that commonly it is not abundance of courtesy, but a defect of charity, or of conscience, or of courage, which dis.
SERM. poseth us to reservedness, or to concurrence upon such ocLXVII. casions, in regard to unallowable practices.
7. Another snare which catcheth and holdeth us in open practice of sin, or neglect of duty, is deference to the opinion, authority, custom, or example of others; to the common opinion, to the authority of great and leading personis, to the fashion of the world, and prevalent humour of the age.
A man (not consulting or not confiding in his own reason) is apt to credit the vogue, to defer a kind of veneration to the general sentiments of men, (especially of men qualified,) apprehending that allowable or tolerable, which men com-. monly by their practice seem to approve. He is prone to suspect his own judgment of mistake, when it doth thwart the opinion of so many; and hardly can have the heart to:
oppose his single apprehension against so common notions. illos De. The commonness of sin, and multitude of offenders, doth fendit nu
in a manner authorize and warrant it, doth at least seem to excuse and extenuate it.
A man easily conceiteth himself safe enough, while he is Ecclus. xvi. in the herd, while he walketh in the road, when he hath the
broad coverlet of general usage to shroud him from blame : he doth at least fancy consolation in undergoing a doom
merusJuv, Sat. ii. 45.
with so many:
Ant. ix. 18. xi. 3, 4.
turba. Sen, de l'it. b. 2.
But upon many accounts, this is a very fallacious and dangerous ground of practice.
For multitudes are no good authors of opinion, or guides
of practice. Argumen
Wise men have ever been apt to suspect that to be bad, tum pessimi which is most commonly admired and affected.
Nothing is more vulgarly noted, than the injudiciousness, the blindness, the levity, temerity, and giddiness of the vulgar; temper, inclination, appetite, interest, and the like perverting biases, have most sway on them; any specious appearance, any slight motive, any light rumour doth serve to persuade them any thing, to drive them any whither.
All ages have deplored the paucity of wise and good men; the genuine disciples of our Lord, and sons of wisdom have ever been pusillues grex, a small flock ; our Lord