BY ISAAC BARROW, D. D. late Master of Trinity Colledge in Cambridge, and one of His MAJESTIE's Chaplains in Ordinary.

LONDON, Printed for Brabazon Aylmer, at the Three Pigeons over against the Royal Ex­change in Cornhill. 1678.

TO THE Right Honourable HENEAGE Lord FINCH, Baron of DAVENTRY, Lord High CHANCELLOUR OF ENGLAND, AND One of His MAJESTIE'S most Honourable Privy Council; THOMAS BARROW humbly dedicateth these SERMONS.

The Publisher to the Reader.

THese SERMONS are thought fit to be put together in one Volume, because of their affini­ty to one another, all of them relating to the same Argument, and tending to reform the several Vices of the Tongue. The Two last indeed, against Pragmati­calnesse and meddling in the affairs of others, do not so properly belong to this Subject; but considering that this Vice is chiefly managed by the Tongue, and is almost ever attended with some irre­gularity and indiscretion of Speech, they are not altogether so forreign and unsutable to it.

Never were Discourses of this kind more necessary then in this wicked and perverse Generation; wherein the Vi­ces here reprehended are so very rife, and out of the abundant impiety of men's hearts there proceeds so much Evil-speaking of all kinds, in Atheistical Discourses, and blasphemous Raillery, and prophane Swearing; and when Censoriousness, Detraction, and Slander [Page] are scarce accounted faults, even with those who would seem to be most strict in other parts and duties of Religion.

The Authour of these SERMONS as he was exemplary in all manner of conversation, so especially in this part of it; being of all men I ever had the hap­piness to know the clearest of this com­mon guilt, and most free from Offending in Word; coming as near, as is possible for humane frailty to doe, to the per­fect Idea of S. James his perfect man. So that in these excellent Discourses of his he hath onely transcribed his own prac­tice. All the Rules which he hath gi­ven he most religiously observ'd himself, and was very uneasie when at at any time he saw them transgress'd by others in his company.

There is one thing needs excuse, namely, That several things which are more briefly and summarily said in the First Sermon, are repeated in some of the following Discourses: which be­cause it could not well be avoided, but either by wholly leaving out the First Sermon, or very much mangling some of the rest, will, it is hoped, for that reason be easily pardoned.


  • SERMON I. S. James 3. 2. ‘If any man offend not in word, he is a perfect man.’
  • SERMON II. Ephes. 5. 4. ‘—Nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient.’
  • SERMON III. S. James 5. 12. ‘But above all things, my Brethren, Swear not.’
  • SERMON IV. Titus 3. 2. ‘—To speak evil of no man.’
  • SERM. V. and VI. Prov. 10. 18. ‘He that uttereth Slander is a Fool.’
  • [Page] SERMON VII.
    S. James 4. 11.
    ‘Speak not evil of one another, Brethren.’
  • SERMON VIII. S. Matthew 7. 1. ‘Judge not.’
  • SERM. IX. and X. 1 Thes. 4. 11. ‘And that ye study to be quiet, and to doe your own business.’

IMPRIMATUR Hic Liber cut Titulus, (Ten Sermons, &c.)

Geor. Thorp, Rmo in Christo Patri, & Dno Dno Gulielmo, Archiep. Cant. à Sacris Domesticis.

The First Sermon.

S. JAMES. 3. 2.‘If any man offend not in word, he is a perfect man.’

THis Sentence stands in the head of a discourse concerning the Tongue, (that doubtfull en­gine of good and evil,) wherein how excellent benefits, and how grievous mischiefs, it, as rightly or perversly wielded, is apt to produce, how it is both a sweet instrument of all goodness, and a sharp weapon of all iniquity, is positively laid down, and by fit com­parisons illustrated. But secluding all relation to the Context, the words may well be considered singly by themselves: and as such they instruct us, asserting a certain Truth; they direct us, implying a good Duty. They assert that man to be perfect, who offends not in Speech; [Page 2] and they consequently imply, that we should strive to avoid offending there­in:Deut. 18. 13. for to be perfect, and to go on to per­fection, Luk. 6. 40. are precepts,Matt. 5. 48. & 19. 21. the observance whereof is incumbent on us. We shall first briefly explain the Assertion,2 Cor. 13. 11. and then declare its truth;Heb. 6. 1. afterwards we shall press somewhat couched in the Duty.

To OFFEND originally signi­fies to impinge, [...]. that is, to stumble, or hit dangerously upon somewhat lying cross our way, so as thereby to be cast down, or at least to be disordered in our posture, and stopt in our progress: whence it is well transferr'd to denote our being through any incident tempta­tion brought into sin, whereby a man is thrown down, or bowed from his upright state, and interrupted from pro­secuting a steddy course of Piety and Vertue. By an usual and apposite man­ner of speaking, our tenour of life is called a Way, Psal. 37. 23, 24. our conversation Walking, our actions Steps, our observing good laws Vprightness, our transgression of them Tripping, Faultring, Falling.

By NOT OFFENDING INWORD, we may easily then conceive to be [Page 3] understood such a constant restraint, and such a carefull guidance of our Tongue, that it doth not transgress the rules prescribed unto it by Divine Law, or by good Reason; that it thwarteth not the natural ends and proper uses for which it was framed, to which it is fitted; such as chiefly are promoting God's glory, our Neighbour's benefit, and our own true welfare.

By A PERFECT MAN is meant a person accomplished and complete in goodness, one of singular worth and integrity,Jam. 1. 4. a brave and excellent man, who, as to the continual tenour of his life, is free from all notorious defects, and hainous faults;Act. 13. 22. like David, fulfil­ling all God's will, Psal. 119. 6. and having respect to all Gods commandments; like Zachary and Elizabeth, Luk. 1. 6. walking in all the com­mandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. Gen. 6. 9. & 17. 1. Thus was Noah, thus was Abraham, Job 1. 1. thus was Job perfect. This is the notion of Perfection in Holy Scri­pture: Not an absolute exemption from all blemish of Soul, or blame in life; for such a Perfection is inconsistent with the nature and state of Man here, where none with modesty or with truth can say,Prov. 20. 9. I have made my heart clean, I am [Page 4] pure from my sin; where every man must confess with Job, Job 9. 20. If I justify my self, mine own mouth shall condemn me; if I say, I am perfect, it shall prove me perverse. Eccles 7. 20. For, There is not (as the Preacher assures) a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not; and, In many things we offend all, is our Apo­stle's assertion, immediately preceding my Text; which words may serve to ex­pound these. In many things, saith he, we offend all; that is, there is no man absolutely perfect: but if any man of­fend not in word, (that is, if a man con­stantly govern his Tongue well,) that man is perfect; perfect in such a kind and degree as humane frailty doth ad­mit; he is eminently good; he may be reasonably presumed upright and blame­less in all the course of his practice; able (as it follows) to bridle the whole body, that is, qualified to order all his actions justly and wisely. So that in effect the words import this, That a constant governance of our Speech ac­cording to duty and reason is a high instance, and a special argument of a throughly-sincere and solid good­ness.

[Page 5] The truth of which Aphorism may from several Considerations appear.

1. A good Governance of Speech is a strong evidence of a good Mind; of a mind pure from vicious desires, calm from disorderly passions, void of dis­honest intentions. For since Speech is a child of Thought, which the mind al­waies travaileth and teemeth with,Ecclus 19. 11. A fool travai­leth with a word, as a woman in la­bour of a child. and which after its birth is wont in features to resemble its parent; since every man naturally is ambitious to propagate his conceits, and without a painfull force cannot smother his resentments; since especially bad affections (like stumme or poison) are impetuous and turgid, so agitating all the spirits, and so swelling the heart, that it cannot ea­sily compose, or contain them; since a distempered constitution of mind, as of body, is wont to weaken the retentive faculty, and to force an evacuation of bad humours; since he that wanteth the principal wisedom of well ordering his Thoughts, and mastering his Passions, can hardly be conceived so prudent, as long to refrain, or to regulate their de­pendence, Speech; considering these things, I say, it is scarce possible, that [Page 6] he which commonly thinks ill, should constantly either be well silent, or speak well. To conceal fire, to check light­ning, to confine a whirlwind, may perhaps be no less fecible, then to keep within due compass the exorbitant mo­tions of a Soul, wherein Reason hath lost its command, so that quà data por­ta, where the next passage occurrs, they should not rush forth, and vent them­selves. A vain Mind naturally will bubble forth or fly out in frothy expres­sions; Wrath burning in the breast will flame out, or at least smoak through the mouth; rancorous impostumes of Spite and Malice will at length discharge purulent matter; Lust boiling within will soon foam out in lewd discourse. If the fountain it self is polluted, or in­fected, how can the streams be clear, or wholsome?Matt. 12. 34. How can ye, being evil, speak good things? (saith our Lord) for from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man (addeth he) out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things: [...], he casteth forth ill things, as a fountain doth its waters by a natural and necessary ebullition. [Page 7] It is true, that in some particular ca­ses, or at some times, a foul heart may be disguised by fair words, or covered by demure reservedness: Shame, or Fear, or crafty Design, may often re­press the declaration of ill thoughts and purposes. But such fits of dissimulati­on cannot hold; men cannot abide quiet under so violent constraints; the intestine jars, or unkindly truces, be­tween Heart and Tongue (those natu­ral friends) cannot be perpetual, or very durable: No man can hold his breath long, or live without evapora­ting through his mouth those steams of passion which arise from flesh and bloud.Psal. 39. 3. My heart was hot within me, while I was musing, the fire burned; then spake I with my tongue, saith David, ex­pressing the difficulty of obstructing the eruption of our Affections into Lan­guage. [...]. Hence it is, that Speech is com­monly judged the truest character of the mind, and the surest test of inward worth; as that which discloseth the hidden man of the heart, 1 Pet. 3. 4. which unloc­keth the closets of the breast, which draws the Soul out of her dark recesses into open light and view, which ren­dreth our thoughts visible, and our in­tentions [Page 8] palpable. Hence, Loquere, ut te videam, Speak, that I may see you, or know what kind of man you are, is a saying which all men, at first meeting, do in their hearts direct one to another: neither commonly doth any man re­quire more to ground a judgment upon concerning the worth or ability of ano­ther, then opportunity of hearing him to discourse for a competent time: yea often, before a man hath spoken ten words, his mind is caught, and a for­mal sentence is passed upon it. Such a strict affinity and connexion do all men suppose between Thoughts and Words.

2. From hence, that the use of Speech is it self a great ingredient into our Practice, and hath a very general influ­ence upon whatever we doe, may be inferred, that whoever governeth it well, cannot also but well order his whole life. The extent of Speech must needs be vast, since it is nearly com­mensurate to Thought it self, which it ever closely traceth, widely ranging through all the immense variety of ob­jects; so that men almost as often speak incogitantly, as they think silently. Speech is indeed the Rudder that stee­reth [Page 9] humane affairs, the Spring that set­teth the wheels of action on going; the Hands work, the Feet walk, all the Members and all the Senses act by its di­rection and impulse; yea, most Thoughts are begotten, and most Affections stir­red up thereby: it is it self most of our employment, and what we doe beside it, is however guided and moved by it. It is the profession and trade of many, it is the practice of all men, to be in a manner continually talking. The chief and most considerable sort of men ma­nage all their concernments meerly by Words; by them Princes rule their Sub­jects, Generals command their Armies, Senatours deliberate and debate about the great matters of State: by them Ad­vocates plead causes, and Judges de­cide them; Divines perform their offi­ces, and minister their instructions; Merchants strike up their bargains, and drive on all their traffick. Whatever almost great or small is done in the Court or in the Hall, in the Church or at the Exchange, in the School or in the Shop, it is the Tongue alone that doeth it: 'tis the force of this little ma­chine, that turneth all the humane world about. It is indeed the use of [Page 10] this strange organ which rendreth hu­mane life, beyond the simple life of o­ther creatures, so exceedingly various and compounded; which creates such a multiplicity of business, and which transacts it; while by it we communi­cate our secret conceptions, transfusing them into others; while therewith we instruct and advise one another; while we consult about what is to be done, contest about right, dispute about truth; while the whole business of conversati­on, of commerce, of government, and administration of justice, of learning, and of Religion, is managed thereby; yea, while it stoppeth the gaps of time, and filleth up the wide intervalls of bu­siness, our recreations and divertise­ments (the which do constitute a great portion of our life) mainly consisting therein: so that, in comparison thereof, the execution of what we determine and all other action do take up small room; and even all that usually depen­deth upon foregoing Speech, which persuadeth, or counselleth, or com­mandeth it. Whence the Province of Speech being so very large, it being so universally concerned, either immedi­ately as the matter, or by consequence [Page 11] as the source of our actions, he that con­stantly governeth it well, may justly be esteemed to live very excellently.

3. To govern the Tongue well is a matter of exceeding difficulty, requi­ring not onely hearty goodness, but great judgment and art, together with much vigilance and circumspection; whence the doing it argues a high pitch of Vertue. For since the Tongue is a very loose and versatile engine, which the least breath of thought doth stir, and set on going any way, it cannot but need much attention to keep it ei­ther in a steddy rest, or in a right mo­tion. Since numberless swarms of things roving in the fancy do thence incessantly obtrude themselves upon the Tongue, very much application of mind and great judgment are requisite to select out of them those few which are good and fit, rejecting all that is bad, and improper to be spoken. Since conti­nually temptations occurr provoking or alluring to miscarriage in this kind, (for beside internal propensions and com­motions of Soul, every object we be­hold, every company we are engaged in, every accident befalling us doth sug­gest somewhat inviting thereto; the [Page 12] condition of our neighbour moving us, if high, to flatter, if low, to insult; our own fortune prompting, if prospe­rous, to boast, if cross, to murmur; any action drawing from us, if it pleaseth us, fond admiration, if it disliketh, harsh censure: since, I say, we are thus at every turn obnoxious to speak amiss,) it must be a matter of huge skill and caution, of mighty industry and resolu­tion, to decline it. We for that purpose need to imitate that earnest and watch­full care of the Holy Psalmist, which he thus expresseth;Psal. 17. 3. I have (saith he) purposed that my mouth shall not offend: and,Psal. 39. 1. I said, (saith he again) I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue; I will keep my mouth with a bri­dle, while the wicked is before me. And thus to maintain a constant guard over his heart and ways, thus in consequence thereof to curb and rule his Speech well, must assuredly be the mark of a very good person. Especially conside­ring, that,

4. Irregular Speech hath commonly divers more advantages for it, and fewer checks upon it, then other bad Practice hath. A man is apt (I mean) to speak ill with less dissatisfaction and regret [Page 13] from within; he may doe it with less controll and less hazard from without, then he can act ill. Bad Actions are gross and bulky, taking up much time, and having much force spent on them, whence men easily observe and consi­der them in themselves and others: but ill Words are subtile and transient, soon born, and as soon deceased; whence men rashly utter them without much heed before them, or much reflexion af­ter them. Bad actions have also usual­ly visible effects, immediately conse­quent on them: but Words operate in­sensibly and at distance; so that men hardly discern what will follow them, or what they have effected. There are also frequent occasions of speaking ill upon presumption of secrecy, and thence of indisturbance and impunity; yea, doing so is often entertained with com­placence, and encouraged with applause: the vilest abuses of speech (even Blas­phemy, Treason and Slander them­selves) may be safely whispered into ears, which will receive them with pleasure and commendation. Bad Lan­guage also in most cases is neither strictly prohibited, nor severely chastised by humane Laws, as bad Action is. Whence [Page 14] ordinarily the guilt of this misbehavi­our seems little or none; and persons much practising it, both in their own conceit, and in the opinion of others, do often pass for innocent. Men in­deed here will hardly discern any rule, or acknowledge any obligation: the Tongue they deem is free, and any words may be dispensed with: it is sufficient if they abstain from doing gross wrong or mischief, they have a right and liberty to say any thing.Psal. 12. 4. Our lips are our own; who is Lord over us? so are men commonly prone to say, with those in the Psalm. Hence whosoever, notwithstanding such encouragements to offend herein, and so few restraints from it, doth yet carefully forbear it, governing his Tongue according to rules of duty and reason, may justly be reputed a very good man. Fur­thermore,

5. Whereas most of the enormities, the mischiefs and the troubles whereby the Souls of men are defiled, their minds discomposed, and their lives dis­quieted, are the fruits of ill-governed Speech; it being that chiefly which perverteth justice, which soweth dissen­sions, which raiseth all bad passions and [Page 15] animosities, which embroileth the world in seditions and factions, by which men wrong and abuse, deceive and seduce, defame and disgrace one another, whereby consequently innumerable vexations and disturbances are created among men; he that by well governing his Speech preserveth himself from the guilt, disengageth his mind and life from the inconveniences of all such e­vils, (from the discreet and honest ma­nagement thereof enjoying both inno­cence and peace,) must necessarily be as a very wise and happy, so a very good and worthy person.

6. His Tongue also so ruled cannot but produce very good fruits of honour to God, of benefit to his Neighbour, of comfort to himself: it will be sweet and pleasant, it will be wholsome and usefull; endearing conversation, ce­menting peacefull society, breeding and nourishing love, instructing and edi­fying, or chearing and comforting the hearers.Prov. 12. 18. His tongue is health; His mouth is a well and tree of life; Prov. 10. 11. & 15. 4. Prov. 15. 7. Prov. 12. 14. & 13. 2, 3. & 15. 23. His lips disperse knowledge; He shall be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth; E­very man shall kiss his lips: Prov. 24. 26. Such (as the Wise-man telleth us) are the effects of [Page 16] innocent, sober and well-ordered dis­course; the which do much commend their authour, and declare the excellent virtue of that tree from which such fruits do grow.

7. Lastly, The observation how un­usual this practice is, (in any good de­gree) may strongly assure the excellen­cy thereof. For the rarer (especially in morals) any good thing is, the more noble and worthy it is; that rarity ar­guing somewhat of peculiar difficulty in the attainment or the atchievement thereof. Nothing is more obvious to common experience, then that persons, who in the rest of their demeanour and dealings appear blameless, yea who in regard to other points of duty would seem nice and precise, are extremely peccant in this kind. We may see di­vers, otherwise much restraining and much denying themselves, who yet in­dulge themselves a strange licenciousness in speaking whatever their humour or their passion dictates. Many, in other respects harmless, (who would not for any thing smite or slay folks,) we may observe with their Tongue to commit horrible outrages upon any man that comes in their way. Frequently persons [Page 17] very punctual in their dealings, are ve­ry unjust in their language, cheating and robbing their neighbour of his re­putation by envious detraction and hard censure. They who abhor shed­ding a man's bloud, will yet without any scruple or remorse, by calumnious tales and virulent reproaches, assassinate his credit, and murther his good name, although to him perhaps far more dear and precious then his life. Commonly such as are greatly staunch in other en­joyments of pleasure, are enormously intemperate in speaking, and very in­continent of their Tongue: men in all other parts of morality rigorously sober, are often in this very wild and disso­lute. Yea, not seldome we may ob­serve, that even mighty pretenders to godliness, and zealous practisers of de­votion, cannot forbear speaking things plainly repugnant to God's Law, and very prejudicial to his honour. Thus it is observable to be now; and thus we may suppose that it always hath been. So of his time S. Hierome (or rather S. Paulinus, in his excellent Epistle to Celantia) testifies:Tanta hújus mali libido mentes homi­num invasit, ut etiam qui procul ab ali­is vitiis re­cesserunt, in istud tamen, quasi in ex­tremum Dia­boli laqueum, incidant. Ad Celant. Such a lust (saith he, concerning the ill-governance of Speech) of this evil hath invaded the [Page 18] minds of men, that even those who have far receded from other vices, do yet fall in­to this, as into the last snare of the Devil. So it appears, that among all sorts of good Practice, the strict Governance of the Tongue is least ordinary, and con­sequently, that it is most admirable, and excellent. And this is all I shall say for Confirmation of the Point asserted.

NOW then, as it is our duty to aim at perfection, or to endeavour the attainment of integrity in Heart and Life, so we should especially labour to govern our Tongue, and guard it from offence. To which purpose it is re­quisite, that we should well understand and consider the nature of those several Offences to which Speech is liable, to­gether with the special pravity, defor­mity and inconvenience of each: for did we know and weigh them, we should not surely either like, or dare to incurr them.

The Offences of Speech are many and various in kind; so many as there be of Thought and of Action, unto which they do run parallel: according­ly they well may be distinguished from the difference of objects which they do [Page 19] specially respect. Whence 1. some of them are committed against God, and con­front Piety; 2. others against our Neigh­bour, and violate Justice, or Charity, or Peace; 3. others against our Selves, infringing Sobriety, Discretion, or Mode­sty; or, 4. some are of a more general and abstracted nature, rambling through all matters, and crossing all the heads of Duty. It is true, that in most, or in all offences of Speech, there is a com­plication of Impiety, Iniquity, and Im­prudence; for that by all sorts of ill Speaking we sin against God, and break his Commandment; we injure our Neighbour, at least by contagion and bad example; we abuse our Selves, con­tracting guilt, and exposing our selves to punishment: also the general vices of Speech (unadvisedness and vanity) do constantly adhere to every bad word: Yet commonly each evil Speech hath a more direct and immediate aspect upon some one of those objects, (God, our Neighbour, or our Selves,) and is peculiarly repugnant to one of those ca­pital Vertues (Piety, Charity, and So­briety) unto which all our Duty is reduced. Now according to this di­stinction, I should, if time would give [Page 20] leave, describe, and dissuade particu­larly all these sorts of Offence: but (since I must be respectfull to patience, and carefull my self not to offend in Speech) I shall confine the rest of my present Discourse to the first sort, the Offences against Piety; and even of them I shall (waving the rest) onely touch two or three, insinuating some reasons why we should eschew them. These are,

I. Speaking blasphemously against God,(Psal. 78. 19. Num. 21. 5. Job 34. 37.) or reproachfully concerning Re­ligion, or to the disgrace of Piety, with intent to subvert mens faith in God, or to impair their reverence of him. There hath been a race of men (and would to God that race were not even till now continued) concerning whom the Psal­mist said,Psal. 73. 8, 9. They speak loftily, they set their mouth against the heavens; who, like the proud Senacherib, Isa. 37. 23. 2 Chron. 32. 19. lift up their eyes, and exalt their voice against the Holy One of Israel; who, with the pro­fane Antiochus, Dan. 11. 36. speak marvellous things against the God of Gods. This of all impieties is the most prodigiously Gi­gantick, the most signal practice of en­mity towards God, and downright wa­ging of war against Heaven. Of all [Page 21] weapons formed against God, Isa. 54. 17. the Tongue most notoriously doth impugn him: for we cannot reach Heaven with our hands, or immediately assault God by our actions: other ill practice indeed obliquely, or by consequence disho­noureth God, and defameth goodness; but profane Discourse is directly level­led at them, and doth immediately touch them, as its formal objects. Now doing thus argueth an extremity both of folly and naughtiness: for he that doeth it, either believeth the existence of God, and the truth of Religion; or he distrusts them. If he doth believe them, what a desperate madness is it in him, advisedly to invite certain mis­chief to his home, and pull down hea­viest vengeance on his head, by oppo­sing the irresistible power, and provo­king the inflexible justice of God? What an abominable villany and base­ness is it, thus to abuse God's im­mense goodness and mercy, offering such despight to the Authour of his be­ing, and free donour of all the good he enjoys? What a monstrous conspiracy is it of stupidity and perverseness in him, thus wilfully to defy his own welfare, to forfeit all capacity of happiness; to [Page 22] precipitate and plunge himself into a double Hell, that of bitter remorse here, that of endless pain hereafter? But if he that reproacheth God and Religion be supposed distrustfull of their being and reality, neither so is he excusable from like degrees of folly and pravity: for, beside the wild extravagance of such disbelief, against legions of cogent arguments and pregnant testimonies, a­gainst all the voice of nature and faith of history, against the settled judgment of wise and sober persons, who have studied and considered the point, against the current tradition of all Ages, and general consent of mankind; all which to with­stand, no less demonstrateth high in­discretion then arrogance; beside also the palpable silliness which he displays, in causelesly (or for no other cause then soothing a phantastick humour) draw­ing upon himself the anger and hatred of all men, who are concerned for the interests of their Religion, thrusting himself into great dangers and mischiefs thence imminent to him both from pri­vate zeal, and publick law; beside (I say) these evident follies, there is an unsufferable insolence and horrible ma­lice apparent in this practice: for 'tis no [Page 23] less then the height of insolence, thus to affront mankind in matters of highest consideration, and deepest resentment with it; not onely thwarting its com­mon notions, but vilifying the chief objects of its highest respect and affecti­on, of its main care and concernment; so making the fiercest invasion that can be on its credit, and charging it with greatest fondness. Who can endure, that He, whom he apprehends to be his grand Parent, his best Friend and Benefactour, his great Patron and So­vereign, should in down-right terms be defamed or disparaged? Who can pa­tiently bear, that wherein he placeth his utmost hopes, and supreme felicity, to be expressly slighted or scorned? Who can take the offering to doe this, otherwise then for a most injurious re­flexion upon his judgment and his prac­tice? If he cannot believe in God, he may let them alone who do: if he will not practise Religion, he may forbear to persecute it. He cannot pretend any zeal; 'tis therefore onely pride that moves him to disturb us. So may eve­ry man with all the reason in the world complain against the profane Talker. Seeing also it is most evident, that hear­ty [Page 24] reverence of God, and a conscienci­ous regard to Religion, do produce great benefits to mankind, being indeed the main supports of common honesty and sobriety, the sole curbs, effectually restraining men from unjust fraud and violence, from brutish lusts and passi­ons; since apparently Religion prescri­beth the best rules, and imposeth the strongest engagements to the perfor­mance of those actions, whereby not onely mens private welfare is promoted, and ordinary conversation is sweetned, and common life is adorned, but also whereby publick order and peace are maintained;Haud scio an, pietate ad­versus Deos sublatâ, fides etiam, & so­cietas humani generis, & u­nd excellen­tissima virtus justitia tolla­tur. Cic. since (as Cicero with good reason judged) Piety being removed, 'tis probable that Justice it self (of all Ver­tues the best guarded and fortified by hu­mane power) could not subsist, no faith could be secured, no society could be pre­served among men; it being manifestly vain to fansy, that assuredly without Religious conscience any one will be a good Subject, a true Friend, or an Ho­nest man; or that any other considera­tion can induce men to prefer duty to their Prince, the prosperity of their Country, fidelity toward their Friends or Neighbours, before their own pre­sent [Page 25] interests and pleasure: Since, I say, the credit of Religion is so very beneficial and usefull to mankind, 'tis plain, that he must be exceedingly spite­full and malicious, who shall by pro­fane Discourse endeavour to supplant or shake it. He that speaketh against God or Providence, hath assuredly a pique at Goodness, and would not have it predominant in the hearts of men. He that disparages Religion, doth certainly take his aim against Vertue, and would not have it practised in the world: his meaning plainly is, to effect, if he can, that Men should live like Beasts in foul impurities, or like Fiends in mischie­vous iniquities. Such an one therefore is not to be taken as a simple embracer of Errour, but as a spitefull designer a­gainst common Good. For indeed, were any man assured (as none can up­on so much as probable grounds think it) that Religion had been onely devi­sed by men, as a supplemental aid to Reason and Force,Vt quos ra­tio non posset, eos ad offici­um religio duceret. Cic. (drawing them, whom the one could not persuade, nor the o­ther compell, to the practice of things conducible to the publick weal;) that it were meerly an implement of policy, or a knack to make people loyal to [Page 26] their Prince, upright in their dealings, sober in their conversations, moderate in their passions, vertuous in all their doings; it were yet a most barbarous naughtiness and inhumanity in him to assay the overthrow thereof, with the defeating so excellent purposes: he that should attempt it, justly would deserve to be reputed an enemy to the welfare of mankind, to be treated as a pestilent disturber of the world.

II. Another like Offence against Pi­ety is, to speak loosely and wantonly about Holy things, (things nearly rela­ted to God or to Religion,) to make such things the matter of sport and mockery, to play and trifle with them. But of this I shall have occasion to speak in another Discourse.

III. Another grand Offence against Piety is rash and vain Swearing in com­mon discourse; an Offence which now strangely reigns and rages in the world, passing about in a specious garb, and under glorious titles, as a gentile and gracefull quality, a mark of fine bree­ding, and a point of high gallantry. Who, forsooth, now is the brave Spark, and complete Gentleman, but he that hath the skil and confidence (O Hea­vens! [Page 27] how mean a skill how mad a con­fidence!) to lard every sentence with an Oath or a Curse; making bold at every turn to salute God, fetching him down from Heaven to avouch any idle prattle, to second any giddy passion, to concern himself in any trivial affair of his; yea, calling and challenging the Almighty to damn and destroy him? But somewhat to repress these fond con­ceits and vile practices, let us, I pray, consider,

1. That Swearing thus is most ex­pressly and strictly prohibited to us.Matth. 5. 34, 37. I say unto you, Swear not at all: But let your conversation be Yea, yea, Nay, nay; for whatsoever is more then these, cometh from evil: Jam. 5. 12. so our Lord forbids it. But above all things, my brethren, swear not— lest you enter into condemnation: so doth Saint James warn against it. And is it not then prodigious, that in Christen­dome any man should affect to break laws so plain, and so severe; that it should pass here not onely for a tolera­ble, but even for a commendable prac­tice, to violate so manifest and so im­portant a Duty; that so directly to thwart our Lord himself should be a thing not in use onely, but in credit [Page 28] and request among Christians? What more palpable affront could be of­fered to our Religion, and to all that is Sacred among us? For, what respect or force can we imagine reserved to Religion, while a practice so indispu­tably opposite thereto, in a high degree, is so current and prevalent?

2. Again, according to the very na­ture and reason of things, it is evident­ly an intolerable Profaneness, thus un­advisedly to make addresses and appeals to God, invoking his testimony, and demanding his judgment about trifles; far more such, then it were a high pre­sumption and encroachment upon the Majesty of a Prince, on every petty oc­casion to break into his presence, and to assail his ears, dragging him to hear and determin concerning it. Whence the very light of Nature condemns this practice, and even Heathens have loud­ly declared against it, as derogatory to the reverence of the Deity, and unsu­table to the gravity of a worthy man.

3. Swearing indeed is by our Holy Oracles worthily represented to us, as an especial piece of Worship and Devo­tion toward God; wherein, duely per­formed, we piously acknowledge his [Page 29] chief Attributes, and singular Preroga­tives: (his being every-where present, and conscious of all we say or doe; his Goodness, and Fidelity, in favouring truth, and protecting right; his Justice, in rewarding veracity and equity, in avenging falshood and iniquity; his being the Supreme Lord of all persons, and last Judge in all causes: to signify and avow these things to God's glory, Swearing was instituted, and naturally serveth:) wherefore as all other acts of Devotion, so this grand one especially should never be performed without all serious consideration and humble reve­rence; the cause should be certainly just and true, the matter worthy and weighty, the manner grave and solemn, the mind framed to earnest attention, and furnished with devout affections. Those conditions are always carefully to be observed, which the Prophet in­timates, when he chargeth thus;Jer. 4. 2. Thou shalt swear, That Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness. It is therefore horrible mockery, and profa­nation of a most sacred ordinance, when men presume to use it without any care or consideration, without any respect or awe, upon any slight or vain occasion.

[Page 30] 4. The doing so is also very prejudi­cial to humane Society; for the decision of Right, the security of Government, and the preservation of Peace, do much depend upon an awfull regard to Oaths; and therefore upon their being onely used in due manner, and season: the same do greatly suffer by the contempt or disregard of them, and consequently by their common and careless use. They are the surest bonds by which the Con­sciences of men are tied to the attestati­on of truth, and observance of faith; the which as by rare and reverent use they are kept firm and fast, so by fre­quent and negligent application of them (by their prostitution to every light and toyish matter,) they are quite dissolved, or much slackned. Whence the publick seems much concerned, that this enormity should be retrenched. For if Oaths generally become cheap and vile, what will that of Allegeance signify? if men are wont to dally with Swearing every-where, can they be expected to be strict and serious therein at the Bar, or in the Church? Will they regard the testimony of God, or dread his judgment, in one place, or at one time, whenas every-where con­tinually [Page 31] (upon any, upon no occasion) they dare to confront and contemn them?

5. This way of Swearing is also a very uncivil and unmannerly practice. It is not onely a gross rudeness toward the main body of men, who justly re­verence the Name of God, and loath such abuses thereof; not onely an in­solent defiance to the common Professi­on and Law of our Country, which disallows and condemns it; but it is very odious and offensive to any parti­cular Society, if at least there be one sober person therein: for to any such person (who retains a sense of good­ness, or is any-wise concerned for God's honour) no language or behaviour can be more disgustfull; nothing can more grate the ears or fret the heart of such an one, then this kind of talk: to give him the Lie were a complement, to spit in his face were an obligation, in com­parison thereto. Wherefore 'tis a won­der, that any person, having in him a spark of ingenuity, or at all pretending to good manners, should find in his heart or deign to use it.

6. This practice also much derogateth from the credit of him that useth it, [Page 32] rendring the truth of what-ever he says in reason and justice suspected. For he that is so void of Conscience, as to swear vainly, what can engage him to speak truly? He that is so loose in one such point of obedience to God and Reason, why should we conceive him strict in regard to another?

7. It can be surely no wrong to dis­trust him, since he implies himself not to be, even in his own opinion, a cre­dible person; since he judges not his own bare affirmation to deserve belief. For why,Tantus in te sit veri amor, ut quicquid dixeris, ju­ratum putes. Hier. if he takes his word to be competently good, doth he back it with such Asseverations? why unpro­voked calls he God to witness, if he thinks his own honesty sufficient to as­sure the truth of what he says? An honest man, methinks, should scorn thus to invalidate his own credit, or to detract from the authority of his word, which should stand firm upon it self, and not want an Oath to support it.

8. To excuse this, the Swearer must be forced to confess another ugly fault in speaking, that is, impertinence, or using of wast and insignificant words; to be charged wherewith he is indeed however unavoidably liable. For Oaths, [Page 33] as they pass commonly, are meer excre­scencies of Speech, which do nothing else but encumber and deform it: they embellish discourse, just as a wen or a scab does beautifie a face; as a spot or a patch does adorn a garment. For to what purpose (I pray) is God's Name haled into our idle talk? why should we so often mention him, when we ne­ver mean any thing about him? Into every sentence to foist a dog, or a horse, would altogether be as proper and per­tinent. [...]. Hier. These superfluous words signify nothing, but that the speaker little skil­leth the use of speech, or the rule of con­versation, but meaneth to parte any thing without wit or judgment; that his fancy is very beggarly, and craves the aid of any impertinency to relieve it. One would think, that a man of sense should grutch to lend his ears, or incline his attention to such putid stuff; that without nauseating he should not endure to see men lavish time, and squander breath so frivolously.

9. In fine, this Offence is particular­ly most inexcusable, in that it scarce hath any temptation to it, or bringeth with it any advantage; so that it is un­accountable what (beside meer vanity [Page 34] or perverseness) should dispose men thereto. It gratifieth no sense, it yiel­deth no profit, it procureth no honour: for the sound of it is not very melodi­ous, nor surely was any man ever pre­ferred for it, or got an estate thereby; it rather to any good ear maketh a hor­rid and jarring noise, it rather produ­ceth displeasure, dammage, and disgrace. Wherefore of all dealers in sin the Swea­rer is apparently the silliest, and maketh the worst bargains for himself: for he sinneth gratis, and (like those in the Prophet) selleth his soul for nothing. Isa. 52. 3. An Epicure hath some reason, and an Ex­tortioner is a man of wisedom, if com­pared to him; for they enjoy some pleasure, or acquire some gain here, in lieu of their Salvation hereafter. But he offends Heaven, and abandons hap­piness, he knows not why, nor for what; a fond humour possesses him, he inconsiderately follows a herd of fopps, he affects to play the Ape; that is all he can say for himself. Let me be pardoned, if just indignation against a wickedness so contemptible, so hainous, and so senseless, and withall so notorious, and so rife among us, doth extort from me language somewhat tart and vehement.

[Page 35] If men would then but a little consider things, surely this scurvy fashion would be soon discarded, much fitter for the scumme of the people, then for the flower of the Gentry; yea rather, much below any man endued with a scrap of Reason, not to say with a grain of Religi­on. Could we bethink our selves, certainly modest, sober and pertinent Discourse would appear far more ge­nerous and manly, then such wild Hectoring God Almighty, such rude insulting over the received Laws, such ruffianly swaggering against so­briety and goodness. If Gentlemen would regard the Vertues of their ancestours, (that gallant Courage, that solid Wisedom, that noble Cour­tesy, which first advanced their Fa­milies, and severed them from the vulgar,) this degenerate wantonness and dirtiness of Speech would return to the dunghill, or rather (which God grant) would be quite banished from the world.

Finally, as to this whole Point, about not offending in our Speech against Pi­ety, we should consider, that as we our selves, with all our members and [Page 36] powers, were chiefly designed and framed to serve and glorify our Ma­ker; (it being withall the greatest perfection of our nature, and the no­blest privilege thereof so to doe;) so especially our Tongue and Spea­king faculty were given us to de­clare our admiration and reverence of him, to express our love and gra­titude toward him, to celebrate his praises, to acknowledge his benefits, to promote his honour and service. This consequently is the most pro­per and worthy use thereof; from this it becomes in effect what the Psalmist so often terms it,Psal. 16. 9. & 30. 12. & 57. 8. & 108. 1. our glo­ry, and the best member we have; as that whereby we far excell all creatures here below; that whereby we consort with the blessed Angels above, in distinct utterance of praise to our Creatour. Wherefore apply­ing it to any impious discourse, (ten­ding any-wise to the dishonour of God, or disparagement of Religion,) is a most unnatural abuse thereof, and a vile ingratitude toward him that gave it to us. From which, and from all other offences, God in his mercy preserve us all, through Je­sus [Page 37] Christ our Lord, unto whom for ever with heart and tongue let us strive to render all glory and praise.


The Second Sermon.

EPHES. 5. 4.‘—Nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient.’

MOral and political Aphorisms are seldome couched in such terms, that they should be ta­ken as they sound precisely, or accor­ding to the widest extent of significati­on; but do commonly need exposition, and admit exception: otherwise fre­quently they would not onely clash with reason and experience, but inter­fere, thwart and supplant one another. The best Masters of such wisedom are wont to interdict things, apt by unsea­sonable or excessive use to be perverted, in general forms of speech, leaving the restrictions, which the case may require or bear, to be made by the hearers or interpreters discretion: whence many [Page 40] seemingly-formal prohibitions are to be received onely as sober cautions. This observation may be particularly suppo­sed applicable to this precept of S. Paul, which seemeth universally to forbid a practice, commended (in some cases and degrees) by Philosophers as ver­tuous, not disallowed by Reason, com­monly affected by men, often used by wise and good persons; from which consequently if our Religion did whol­ly debar us, it would seem chargeable with somewhat too uncouth austerity and sourness: [...]. Arist. Eth. 4. 8. from imputations of which kind as in its temper and frame it is really most free, (it never quenching natural light, or cancelling the dictates of sound Reason, but confirming and improving them;) so it carefully de­clineth them,Phil. 4. 8. injoyning us, that if there be any things [...], (lovely, or grate­full to men,) any things [...], (of good report and repute,) if there be any vertue and any praise, (any thing in the common apprehensions of men held worthy and laudable,) we should mind those things, that is, should yield them a regard answerable to the esteem they carry among rational and sober per­sons.

[Page 41] Whence it may seem requisite so to interpret and determine S. Paul's mea­ning here concerning Eutrapelia, (that is, facetious speech, or raillery, by our Translatours rendred Jesting,) that he may consist with himself, and be recon­ciled to Aristotle, who placeth this prac­tice in the rank of Vertues; or that Religion and Reason may well accord in the case; supposing, that if there be any kind of Facetiousness innocent and reasonable, conformable to good manners, (regulated by common sense, and consistent with the tenour of Chri­stian Duty, that is, not transgressing the bounds of Piety, Charity, and So­briety,) Saint Paul did not intend to discountenance or prohibit that kind.

For thus expounding and limiting his intent, we have some warrant from him­self, some fair intimations in the words here. For first, what sort of facetious speech he aimeth at, he doth imply by the fellow he coupleth therewith; [...], (saith he) [...], foolish talking, or facetiousness: such Facetiousness therefore he toucheth as doth include Folly, in the matter or manner thereof. Then he farther de­termineth it, by adjoyning a peculiar [Page 42] quality thereof, unprofitableness, or impertinency; [...], which are not pertinent, or conducible to any good purpose: whence may be collec­ted, that it is a frivolous and idle sort of Facetiousness which he condem­neth.

But however manifest it is, that some kind thereof he doth earnestly forbid: whence, in order to the guidance of our practice, it is needfull to distinguish the kinds, severing that which is al­lowable from that which is unlawfull; that so we may be satisfied in the case, and not on the one hand ignorantly transgress our duty, nor on the other trouble our selves with scruples, others with censures, upon the use of warran­table liberty therein.

And such a resolution seemeth in­deed especially needfull in this our Age, (this pleasant and jocular Age,) which is so infinitely addicted to this sort of speaking, that it scarce doth affect or prize any thing near so much; all re­putation appearing now to vail and stoop to that of being a Wit: to be learned, to be wise, to be good, are nothing in comparison thereto; even to be noble and rich are inferiour things, [Page 43] and afford no such glory. Many at least, to purchase this glory, (to be deemed considerable in this faculty, and enrol­led among the Wits,) do not onely make shipwreck of conscience, abandon Vertue, and forfeit all pretences to wisedom; but neglect their estates, and prostitute their honour: so to the pri­vate dammage of many particular per­sons, and with no small prejudice to the publick, are our Times possessed and transported with this humour. To repress the excess and extravagance whereof, nothing in way of discourse can serve better, then a plain declarati­on when and how such a practice is al­lowable or tolerable; when it is wicked and vain, unworthy of a man endued with Reason, and pretending to ho­nesty or honour.

This I shall in some measure endea­vour to perform.

But first it may be demanded what the thing we speak of is, or what this Facetiousness doth import. To which question I might reply as Democritus did to him that asked the definition of a Man, 'Tis that which we all see and know: any one better apprehends what it is by acquaintance, then I can inform [Page 44] him by description. It is indeed a thing so versatil and multiform, appearing in so many shapes, so many postures, so many garbs, so variously apprehended by several eyes and judgments, that it seemeth no less hard to settle a clear and certain notion thereof, then to make a pourtraict of Proteus, or to define the figure of the fleeting Air. Sometimes it lieth in pat allusion to a known story, or in seasonable application of a trivial saying, or in forging an apposite tale: sometimes it playeth in words and phra­ses, taking advantage from the ambigu­ity of their sense, or the affinity of their sound: sometimes it is wrapped in a dress of humourous expression;Eadem quae, si imprudenti­bus excidunt, stulta sunt, si simulamus, venusta cre­duntur. some­times it lurketh under an odd simili­tude; sometimes it is lodged in a sly question, in a smart answer, in a quir­kish reason, in a shrewd intimation, in cunningly diverting,Quint. 6. 3. or cleverly retor­ting an objection: sometimes it is cou­ched in a bold scheme of speech, in a tart Irony, in a lusty Hyperbole, in a startling Metaphor, in a plausible re­conciling of contradictions, or in acute Nonsense: sometimes a scenical repre­sentation of persons or things, a coun­terfeit speech, a mimical look or gesture [Page 45] passeth for it: sometimes an affected simplicity, sometimes a presumptuous bluntness giveth it being: sometimes it riseth onely from a lucky hitting upon what is strange, sometimes from a craf­ty wresting obvious matter to the pur­pose: often it consisteth in one knows not what, and springeth up one can hardly tell how. Its ways are unac­countable and inexplicable, being an­swerable to the numberless rovings of fancy, and windings of language. It is, in short, a manner of speaking out of the simple and plain way,Et hercle om­nis salsè di­cendi ratio in eo est, ut ali­ter quàm est rectum ve­rúmque dica­tur. Quint. (such as Reason teacheth and proveth things by,) which by a pretty surprizing un­couthness in conceit or expression doth affect and amuse the fancy, stirring in it some wonder, and breeding some de­light thereto. It raiseth Admiration, as signifying a nimble sagacity of appre­hension, a special felicity of invention, a vivacity of spirit, and reach of wit more then vulgar: it seeming to argue a rare quickness of parts, that one can fetch in remote conceits applicable; a notable skill, that he can dexterously accommodate them to the purpose be­fore him; together with a lively brisk­ness of humour, not apt to damp those [Page 46] sportful flashes of imagination. (Whence in Aristotle such persons are termed [...],Eth. 4. 8. dexterous men; and [...], men of facil or versatil manners, [...]. Chrys. in Eph. Or. 17. who can easily turn themselves to all things, or turn all things to themselves.) It also procureth Delight, by gratifying curiosity with its rareness, or semblance of difficulty; (as monsters, not for their beauty, but their rarity; as jug­gling tricks, not for their use, but their abstruseness, are beheld with pleasure;) by diverting the mind from its road of serious thoughts; by instilling gayety and airiness of spirit; by provoking to such dispositions of spirit in way of emu­lation or complaisance; and by seaso­ning matters, otherwise distastfull or insipid, with an unusual, and thence gratefull tang.

But saying no more concerning what it is, and leaving it to your imaginati­on and experience to supply the defect of such explication, I shall address my self to shew, first, when and how such a manner of speaking may be allowed; then, in what matters and ways it should be condemned.

[Page 47] I. Such Facetiousness is not absolute­ly unreasonable or unlawfull, which ministreth harmless divertisement, [...]. Arist. Eth. 4. 8. and delight to conversation: (harmless, I say, that is, not intrenching upon Pie­ty, not infringing Charity or Justice, not disturbing Peace.) For Christianity is not so tetrical, so harsh, so envious, as to bar us continually from innocent, much less from wholsome and usefull pleasure, such as humane life doth need or require. And if jocular discourse may serve to good purposes of this kind; if it may be apt to raise our drooping spi­rits,Danda est re­missio animis; meliores acri­orésque requi­eti surgent, &c. Sen. de Tranq. 15. to allay our irksome cares, to whet our blunted industry, to recreate our minds being tired or cloyed with gra­ver occupations; if it may breed ala­crity, or maintain good humour among us; if it may conduce to sweeten con­versation, and endear society; then is it not inconvenient, or unprofitable. If for those ends we may use other re­creations, employing on them our ears and eyes, our hands and feet, our o­ther instruments of sense and motion; why may we not as well to them ac­commodate our organs of speech, and interiour sense? Why should those [Page 48] games which excite our wits and fancies be less reasonable, then those whereby our grosser parts and faculties are exer­cised? Yea, why are not those more reasonable, since they are performed in a manly way, and have in them a smack of Reason; seeing also they may be so managed, as not onely to divert and please,—riden­tem dicere verum Quid vetat? but to improve and profit the mind, rouzing and quickning it, yea sometimes enlightning and instructing it, by good sense conveyed in jocular expression?

It would surely be hard, that we should be tied ever to knit the brow, and squeeze the brain, (to be always sadly dumpish, or seriously pensive,) that all divertisement of mirth and plea­santness should be shut out of conversa­tion: and how can we better relieve our minds, or relax our thoughts, how can we be more ingenuously chearfull, in what more kindly way can we exhi­larate our selves and others, then by thus sacrificing to the Graces, [...] it à Pla­to Xenocra­tem morosio­rem monuit. as the An­cients call'd it? Are not some persons always, and all persons sometimes, un­capable otherwise to divert themselves, then by such discourse? Shall we, I say, have no recreation? or must our [Page 49] recreations be ever clownish, or chil­dish, consisting meerly in rustical ef­forts, or in petty sleights of bodily strength and activity? Were we in fine obliged ever to talk like Philoso­phers, assigning dry reasons for every thing, and dropping grave sentences upon all occasions, would it not much deaden humane life, and make ordinary conversation exceedingly to languish? Facetiousnesse therefore in such cases, and to such purposes, may be allow­able.

2. Facetiousnesse is allowable, when it is the most proper instrument of ex­posing things apparently base and vile to due contempt. It is many times ex­pedient, that things really ridiculous should appear such, that they may be sufficiently loathed and shunned; and to render them such is the part of a faceti­ous wit, and usually can onely be com­passed thereby. When to impugn them with down-right reason, or to check them by serious discourse, would signi­fy nothing; then representing them in a shape strangely-ugly to the fancy, and thereby raising derision at them, may effectually discountenance them. Thus did the Prophet Elias expose the wicked [Page 50] superstition of those who worshipped Baal: 1 Kings 18. 27. Elias (saith the Text) mocked them, and said, Cry aloud; for he is a God, either he is talking, or he is pursu­ing, or he is in a journey, or peradven­ture he sleeps, and must be awaked. By which one pregnant instance it appea­reth, that reasoning pleasantly-abusive in some cases may be usefull. The Ho­ly Scripture doth not indeed use it fre­quently; (it not suting the Divine simplicity and stately gravity thereof to doe so;) yet its condescension thereto at any time sufficiently doth authorize a cautious use thereof. When sarcastical twitches are needfull to pierce the thick skins of men, to correct their lethargick stupidity, to rouze them out of their drouzy negligence; then may they well be applied: when plain declarati­ons will not enlighten people, to dis­cern the truth and weight of things, and blunt arguments will not penetrate, to convince or persuade them to their duty; then doth Reason freely resign its place to Wit, allowing it to under­take its work of instruction and re­proof.

3. Facetious discourse particularly may be commodious for reproving some [Page 51] vices, and reclaiming some persons; (as Salt for cleansing and curing some sores.) It commonly procureth a more easie accesse to the ears of men, and worketh a stronger impression on their hearts, then other discourse could do. Many who will not stand a direct re­proof, and cannot abide to be plainly admonished of their fault, will yet en­dure to be pleasantly rubb'd, and will patiently bear a jocund wipe; though they abominate all language purely bit­ter or sour, yet they can relish discourse having in it a pleasant tartnesse: you must not chide them as their master, but you may gibe with them as their compa­nion: if you doe that, they will take you for pragmatical and haughty; this they may interpret friendship and freedome. Most men are of that temper; and par­ticularly the Genius of divers persons, whose opinions and practices we should strive to correct, doth require not a grave and severe, but a free and merry way of treating them. For what can be more unsutable and unpromising, then to seem serious with those who are not so themselves, or demure with the scornfull? If we design either to please or vex them into better manners, [Page 52] we must be as sportfull in a manner, or as contemptuous as themselves. If we mean to be heard by them, we must talk in their own fashion, with humour and jollity: if we will instruct them, we must withall somewhat divert them: we must seem to play with them, if we think to convey any sober thoughts in­to them. They scorn to be formally advised or taught; but they may per­haps be slily laughed and lured into a better mind. If by such complaisance we can inveagle those Dottrels to hear­ken to us, we may induce them to con­sider farther, and give Reason some competent scope, some fair play with them. Good Reason may be apparelled in the garb of Wit, and therein will se­curely passe, whither in its native home­linesse it could never arrive: and being come thither, it with especial advantage may impresse good advice; making an offender more clearly to see, and more deeply to feel his miscarriage; being represented to his fancy in a strain somewhat rare and remarkable, yet not so fierce and frightfull. The severity of reproof is tempered, and the repro­ver's anger disguised thereby. The guilty person cannot but observe, that [Page 53] he who thus reprehends him is not dis­turb'd or out of humour, and that he rather pitieth then hateth him; which breedeth a veneration to him, and im­parteth no small efficacy to his whol­some suggestions. Such a Reprehension, while it forceth a smile without, doth work remorse within; while it seemeth to tickle the ear, doth sting the heart. In fine, many whose foreheads are brazed and hearts steeled against all blame, are yet not of proof against derision; di­vers, who never will be reasoned, may be raillied into better order: in which cases Raillery, as an instrument of so important good, as a servant of the best Charity, may be allowed.

4. Some Errours likewise in this way may be most properly and most succes­fully confuted; such as deserve not, and hardly can bear a serious and solid confutation. He that will contest things apparently decided by sense and expe­rience, or who disavows clear Princi­ples of reason, approved by generall consent, and the common sense of men, what other hopefull way is there of proceeding with him, then pleasantly to explode his conceits? To dispute seriously with him, were trifling; to [Page 54] trifle with him is the proper course: since he rejecteth the grounds of Rea­soning, 'tis vain to be in earnest; what then remains but to jest with him? To deal seriously, were to yield too much respect to such a baffler, and too much weight to his fancies; to raise the man too high in his courage and conceit; to make his pretences seem worthy the considering and canvasing. Briefly, per­verse obstinacy is more easily quelled, petulant impudence is sooner dashed, Sophistical captiousnesse is more safely eluded, Sceptical wantonnesse is more surely confounded in this, then in the simple way of discourse.

5. This way is also commonly the best way of defence against unjust re­proach and obloquy. To yield to a slanderous reviler a serious reply, or to make a formal plea against his charge, doth seem to imply, that we much con­sider, or deeply resent it; whereas by pleasant reflexion on it we signify, the matter onely deserves contempt, and that we take our selves unconcerned therein. So easily without care or trou­ble may the brunts of malice be decli­ned, or repelled.

[Page 55] 6. This way may be allowed in way of counterbalancing, and in compliance to the fashion of others. It would be a disadvantage unto Truth and Ver­tue, if their defenders were barred from the use of this weapon; since it is that especially whereby the patrons of Errour and Vice do maintain and propagate them. They being destitute of good reason, do usually recommend their absurd and pestilent notions by a pleasantnesse of conceit and expression, bewitching the fancies of shallow hea­rers, and inveagling heedlesse persons to a liking of them: and if, for reclai­ming such people, the folly of those Seducers may in the like manner be dis­played as ridiculous and odious, why should that advantage be refused? It is Wit that wageth the war against Rea­son, against Vertue, against Religion; Wit alone it is that perverteth so many, and so greatly corrupteth the world: It may therefore be needfull, in our warfare for those dearest concerns, to sort the manner of our fighting with that of our adversaries, and with the same kind of arms to protect Goodnesse, whereby they do assail it. If Wit may happily serve under the banner of Truth [Page 56] and Vertue, we may imprest it for that service; and good it were to rescue so worthy a faculty from so vile abuse. It is the right of Reason and Piety, to command that and all other endow­ments; Folly and Impiety do onely u­surp them: just and fit therefore it is, to wrest them out of so bad hands, to revoke them to their right use and duty.

It doth especially seem requisite to doe it in this Age, wherein plain Reason is deemed a dull and heavy thing. When the mental appetite of men is become like the corporeal, and cannot relish any food without some piquant sawce, so that people will rather starve, then live on solid fare; when substantial and sound discourse findeth small attention, or acceptance; in such a time, he that can may in complaisance, and for fashi­on's sake, vouchsafe to be facetious; an ingenious vein coupled with an ho­nest mind may be a good talent; he shall employ Wit commendably, who by it can further the interests of Good­nesse, alluring men first to listen, then inducing them to consent unto its whol­some dictates and precepts.

[Page 57] Since men are so irreclaimably dispo­sed to mirth and laughter, it may be well to set them in the right pin, to divert their humour into the proper chanel, that they may please them­selves in deriding things which deserve it, ceasing to laugh at that which re­quireth reverence or horrour.

It may also be expedient to put the world out of conceit, that all sober and good men are a sort of such lumpish or sour people, that they can utter no­thing but flat and drowzy stuff; by shewing them, that such persons, when they see cause, in condescension, can be as brisk and smart as themselves; when they please, can speak pleasantly and wittily as well as gravely and ju­diciously. This way at least, in respect to the various palates of men, may for variety sake be sometimes attempted, when other means do fail: when many strict and subtle arguings, many zealous declamations, many wholsome serious discourses have been spent, without ef­fecting the extirpation of bad principles, or conversion of those who abett them; this course may be tried, and some per­haps may be reclaimed thereby.

[Page 58] 7. Furthermore, the warrantableness of this practice in some cases may be in­ferr'd from a parity of reason, in this manner: If it be lawfull, (as by the best authorities it plainly doth appear to be,) in using Rhetorical schemes, Poetical strains, involutions of sense in Allegories, Fables, Parables, and Rid­dles, to discoast from the plain and simple way of speech; why may not Facetiousness, issuing from the same principles, directed to the same ends, serving to like purposes, be likewise used blamelesly? If those exorbitancies of speech may be accommodated to in­still good Doctrine into the head, to excite good Passions in the heart, to illustrate and adorn the Truth, in a delightfull and taking way; and face­tious discourse be sometime notoriously conducible to the same ends; why, they being retained, should it be re­jected? especially considering how dif­ficult often it may be, to distinguish those forms of discourse from this, or exactly to define the limits which sever Rhetorick and Raillery. Some elegant figures and tropes of Rhetorick (bi­ting Sarcasms, sly Ironies, strong Me­taphors, lofty Hyperbole's, Paronoma­sies, [Page 59] Oxymorons, and the like, fre­quently used by the best speakers, and not seldome even by Sacred Writers) do lie very near upon the confines of Jocularity, and are not easily differen­ced from those sallies of wit, wherein the lepid way doth consist: so that were this wholly culpable, it would be matter of scruple, whether one hath committed a fault or no, when he meant onely to play the Oratour, or the Poet; and hard surely it would be to find a judge, who could precise­ly set out the difference between a Jest and a Flourish.

8. I shall onely adde, that of old e­ven the sagest and gravest persons (per­sons of most rigid and severe Vertue) did much affect this kind of discourse, and did apply it to noble purposes. The great introducer of moral wisedom among the Pagans did practise it so much, (by it repressing the windy pride and fallacious vanity of Sophisters in his time,) that he thereby got the name of [...], the Droll: and the rest of those who pursued his design, do by numberless stories and Apophthegms re­corded of them appear well skilled, and much delighted in this way. Many [Page 60] great Princes, (as Augustus Caesar for one, many of whose Jests are extant in Macrobius,) many grave Statesmen, (as Cicero particularly, who composed se­veral books of Jests,) many famous Cap­tains,Cic. de (as Fabius M. Cato the Censor, Scipio Africanus, Orat. 2. Epaminondas, Themi­stocles, Phocion, and many others, whose witty Sayings together with their Mar­tial exploits are reported by Historians,) have pleased themselves herein, and made it a condiment of their weighty businesses.The two greatest men and gravest Divines of their time, S. Greg. Naz. and S. Basil) could entertain one another with facetious Epistles. (Greg. Naz. Ep. 7. ad Basil. [...], &c. Et Ep. 8.) So that practising thus (within certain rule and compasse) we cannot erre without great patterns, and mighty patrons.

9. In fine, since it cannot be shewn, that such a sportfulness of wit and fan­cy doth contain an intrinsick and inse­parable turpitude; since it may be so cleanly, handsomely and innocently used, as not to defile or discompose the mind of the speaker, not to wrong or harm the hearer, not to derogate from any worthy subject of discourse, [...]: Chrys. [...]. not to infringe decency, to disturb peace, to violate any of the grand duties in­cumbent [Page 61] on us, (Piety, Charity, Justice, Sobriety,) but rather sometimes may yield advantage in those respects; it cannot well absolutely and universally be condemned: and when not used up­on improper matter, in an unfit man­ner, with excessive measure, at undue season, to evil purpose, it may be al­lowed. It is bad objects, or bad ad­juncts, which do spoil its indifference and innocence: [...]: Chrys. it is the abuse thereof, to which (as all pleasant things are dangerous, and apt to degenerate into baits of intemperance and excesse) it is very liable, that corrupteth it; and seemeth to be the ground, why in so general terms it is prohibited by the Apostle. Which prohibition to what cases, or what sorts of Jesting it exten­deth, we come now to declare.

II. 1. All profane Jesting, all spea­king loosely and wantonly about Ho­ly things, (things nearly related to God and Religion,) making such things the matters of sport and mockery, playing and trifling with them, is certainly pro­hibited, as an intolerably-vain and wicked practice. It is an infallible sign of a vain and light spirit, which consi­dereth [Page 62] little, and cannot distinguish things, to talk slightly concerning per­sons of high dignity, to whom especial respect is due; or about matters of great importance, which deserve very serious consideration. No man spea­keth, or should speak, of his Prince that which he hath not weighed, whe­ther it will consist with that veneration which should be preserved inviolate to him: And is not the same, is not much greater care to be used in regard to the incomparably-great and glorious Ma­jesty of Heaven? Yes surely: as we should not without great awe think of him; so we should not presume to mention his Name, his Word, his Insti­tutions, any thing immediately belon­ging to him, without profoundest re­verence and dread. It is the most enor­mous sauciness that can be imagined, to speak petulantly or pertly concer­ning Him; especially considering, that whatever we do say about him, we do utter it in his presence, and to his ve­ry face.Psal. 139. 4. For there is not (as the Holy Psalmist considered) a word in my tongue, but lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. No man also hath the heart to droll, or thinks raillery convenient [Page 63] in cases nearly touching his life, his health, his estate, or his fame: and are the true life and health of our Soul, are interest in God's favour and mercy, are everlasting glory and blisse affairs of less moment? are the treasures and joys of Paradise, are the dammages and torments in Hell more jesting matters? No certainly, no: in all reason there­fore it becometh us, and it infinitely concerneth us, when-ever we think of these things, to be in best earnest, al­ways to speak of them in most sober sadness.

The proper objects of common mirth and sportfull divertisement are mean and petty matters; any thing at least is by playing therewith made such: great things are thereby diminished and debased; especially Sacred things do grievously suffer thence, being with extreme indecency and indignity de­pressed beneath themselves, when they become the subjects of flashy wit, or the entertainments of frothy merriment: to saorifice their honour to our vain pleasure, being like the ridiculous fond­ness of that people, which (as Aelian reporteth) worshipping a Fly, did of­fer up an Oxe thereto. These things [Page 64] were by God instituted, and proposed to us for purposes quite different; to compose our hearts, and settle our fan­cies in a most serious frame; to breed inward satisfaction, and joy purely spi­ritual; to exercise our most solemn thoughts, and employ our gravest dis­courses: All our speech therefore about them should be wholsome, Fir. 2. 8. apt to afford good instruction, or to excite good af­fections;Eph. 4. 29. good, (as S. Paul speaketh) for the use of edifying; that it may mini­ster grace unto the hearers.

If we must be facetious and merry, the field is wide and spacious; there are matters enough in the world beside these most august and dreadfull things, to try our faculties, and please our hu­mour with; every-where light and lu­dicrous things occurr: it therefore doth argue a marvellous poverty of wit, and barrenness of invention, (no less then a strange defect of goodness, and want of discretion,) in those who can devise no other subjects to frollick upon be­side these, of all most improper and perillous; who cannot seem ingenious under the charge of so highly trespas­sing upon decency, disclaiming wise­dom, wounding the ears of others, and [Page 65] their own consciences. Seem ingenious, I say; for seldome those persons really are such, or are capable to discover any wit in a wise and manly way. 'Tis not the excellency of their fancies, which in themselves usually are sorry and in­sipid enough, but the uncouthness of their presumption; not their extraor­dinary wit, but their prodigious rash­ness, which is to be admired. They are gazed on, as the doers of bold tricks, who dare perform that which no sober man will attempt: they do indeed rather deserve themselves to be laughed at, then their con­ceits. For what can be more ridicu­lous, then we do make our selves, when we thus fiddle and fool with our own Souls; when, to make vain people merry, we incense God's earnest dis­pleasure; when, to raise a fit of pre­sent laughter, we expose our selves to endless wailing and woe; when, to be reckoned Wits, we prove our selves stark wild? Surely to this case we may accommodate that of a truly-great Wit, King Solomon; Eccles 2. 2. I said of laughter, It is mad; and of mirth, What doeth it?

2. All injurious, abusive, scurrilous Jesting, which causelesly or needlesly [Page 66] tendeth to the disgrace, dammage, vexa­tion, or prejudice in any kind of our Neighbour, (provoking his displeasure, grating on his modesty, stirring passion in him,)—solutos Qui captat risus homi­num, famám­que dicacis, Hic niger est. Hor. S. 1. 4. is also prohibited. When men, to raise an admiration of their wit, to please themselves, or gratifie the humour of other men, do expose their Neighbour to scorn and contempt, making ignominious reflexions upon his person or his actions, [...]. Arist. Eth. 4. 8. taunting his real imperfections, or fastning imaginary ones upon him, they transgress their duty, and abuse their wits; 'tis not ur­banity, or genuine facetiousnesse, but uncivil rudenesse, or vile malignity. To doe thus, as it is the office of mean and base spirits, (unfit for any worthy or weighty employments,) so it is full of inhumanity, of iniquity, of indecen­cy, and folly. For the weaknesses of men, of what kind soever, (natural, or moral, in quality, or in act,) conside­ring whence they spring, and how much we are all subject to them, and do need excuse for them, do in equity challenge compassion to be had of them; not complacency to be taken in them, or mirth drawn from them: they, in respect to common humanity, [Page 67] should rather be studiously connived at and concealed, or mildly excused, then wilfully laid open, and wantonly descanted upon; they rather are to be deplored secretly, then openly deri­ded.

The Reputation of men is too noble a sacrifice to be offered up to vain-glo­ry, fond pleasure, or ill humour; it is a good far more dear and precious, then to be prostituted for idle sport and di­vertisement. It becometh us not to trifle with that, which in common esti­mation is of so great moment; to play rudely with a thing so very brittle,Vitrea fama. Hor. yet of so vast price; which being once broken or crackt, it is very hard, and scarce possible, to repair. A small tran­sient pleasure, a tickling the ears, wag­ging the lungs, forming the face into a smile, a giggle or a humme, are not to be purchased with the grievous distast and smart, perhaps with the real dam­mage and mischief, of our Neighbour, which attend upon con­tempt.Prov. 26. 18, 19. As a mad man who casteth fire­brands, arrows, and death; so is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am I not in sport? This is not Jesting surely, but bad earnest: 'tis wild mirth, which is the mo­ther of grief to those whom we should tenderly love; [...]—LXX. [Page 68] 'tis unnatural sport, which breedeth displeasure in them whose delight it should promote, whose liking it should procure: it crosseth the nature and design of this way of speaking; which is, to cement and ingratiate society, to render conversation pleasant and sprightly, for mutual satisfaction and comfort.

True Festivity is called Salt, and such it should be, giving a smart, but savoury relish to discourse; exciting an appetite, not irritating disgust; clean­sing sometime, but never creating a sore:Matt. 5. 13. and, [...], if it become thus insipid, Nimium risûs pretium est, si probitatis impendio con­stat. Quintil. or unsavoury, it is thence­forth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be troden under foot of men. Such Jesting which doth not season wholsome or harmlesse discourse, but giveth a haut-goust to putid and poiso­nous stuff, gratifying distempered pa­lates and corrupt stomachs, is indeed odious and despicable folly, [...]; Chrys. to be cast out with loathing, to be troden under foot with contempt. If a man offends in this sort to please himself, 'tis scurvy malignity; if to delight others, 'tis base servility and flattery: upon the first score he is a buffoon to himself; upon [Page 69] the last, a fool to others. And well in common speech are such practisers so termed, the grounds of that practice being so vain, and the effects so unhap­py.Eccles 7. 4. The heart of fools (saith the Wise­man) is in the house of mirth; meaning, it seems, especially such hurtfully-wan­ton mirth: for it is (as he farther tel­leth us) the property of fools, to delight in doing harm; (It is a sport to a fool to doe mis­chief.) Prov 10. 23. Is it not in earnest most palpable folly,Fools make a mock of sin. Prov. 14. 9. for so mean ends to doe so great harm;Potiùs amicum quàm dic­tum perdidi. to disoblige men in sport; to lose friends, and get enemies, for a conceit; out of a light humour to provoke fierce wrath,—dummodo risum Excutiat sibi, non hic cui­quam parcet amico. and breed tough hatred;Hor. S. 1. 4. to engage one's self consequently very far in strife, danger, and trouble? No way certainly is more apt to produce such effects then this;—dicax idem, & Ti­be [...]ium acer­bis facetiis irridere soli­tus, quarum apud praepo­tentes in lon­gum memoria est. Tac. V. Ann. p. 184. nothing more speedily enflameth, or more thoroughly enrageth men, or sticketh longer in mens hearts and memories, then bitter taunts and scoffs: whence this hony soon turns into gall; these jolly Comedies do com­monly terminate in wofull Tragedies.

[Page 70] Especially this scurrilous and scoffing way is then most detestable, when it not onely exposeth the blemishes and infirmities of men, but abuseth Piety and Vertue themselves; flouting per­sons for their constancy in Devotion, or their strict adherence to a conscien­cious practice of Duty; aiming to ef­fect that which Job complaineth of, The just upright man is laughed to scorn; Job 12. 4. resembling those whom the Psalmist thus describeth,Psal. 64. 3, 4. Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their arrows, e­ven bitter words, That they may shoot in secret at the perfect; serving good men as Jeremy was served,Jer. 20. 8. The word of the Lord (saith he) was made a reproach unto me, and a derision daily.

This practice doth evidently in the highest degree tend to the disparagement and discouragement of Goodness; (aiming to expose it, and to render men ashamed thereof;) and it manifestly proceedeth from a desperate corruption of mind, (from a mind hardned and emboldned, sold & enslaved to wickedness:) whence they who deal therein are in Holy Scri­pture represented as egregious sinners, or persons superlatively wicked, under the name of Scorners; ( [...], Pests, or [Page 71] pestilent men, the Greek Translatours call them, properly enough in regard to the effects of their practice;) con­cerning whom the Wise-man (signify­ing how God will meet with them in their own way) saith,Prov. 3. 34. Surely the Lord scorneth the scorners. 2 Pet. 3. 3. [...], Scof­fers, (or Mockers,) Saint Peter termeth them, who walk according to their own lusts; who not being willing to prac­tise, are ready to deride Vertue; there­by striving to seduce others into their pernicious courses.

This offence also proportionably groweth more criminal, as it presumeth to reach persons eminent in dignity or worth, unto whom special veneration is appropriate. This adjoyneth sau­cinesse to scurrility, and advanceth the wrong thereof into a kind of sacrilege. 'Tis not onely injustice, but profane­nesse,Exod. 22. 28. to abuse the Gods. Their station is a sanctuary from all irreverence and reproach; they are seated on high, that we may onely look up to them with respect; their defects are not to be seen, or not to be touched by malicious or wanton wits, by spitefull or scornfull tongues: the diminution of their credit is a publick mischief, and the State it [Page 72] self doth suffer in their becoming ob­jects of scorn; not onely themselves are vilified and degraded, but the great affairs they manage are obstructed, the justice they administer is disparaged thereby.

In fine, [...]. Chrys. in Eph. Or. 17. [...]. Idem. no Jesting is allowable, which is not throughly innocent: it is an un­worthy perverting of wit, to employ it in biting and scratching; in working prejudice to any man's reputation, or in­terest; in needlesly incensing any man's anger, or sorrow; in raising animosities, dissensions, and feuds among any.

Whence it is somewhat strange, that any men from so mean and silly a prac­tice should expect commendation, or that any should afford regard thereto; the which it is so far from meriting, that indeed contempt and abhorrence are due to it. Men do truly more render themselves despicable then others, when, without just ground, or reasonable oc­casion, they do attaque others in this way. That such a practice doth ever find any encouragement or acceptance, whence can it proceed, but from the bad nature and small judgement of some persons? For to any man who is en­dued with any sense of goodnesse, and [Page 73] hath a competence of true wit, or a right knowledge of good manners, (who knows—inurbanum lepido seponere dicto,) Hor. it cannot but be unsavoury and loathsome. The repute it obtaineth is in all respects unjust. So would it appear, not onely were the cause to be decided in the court of morality, be­cause it consists not with Vertue and Wisedom; but even before any com­petent judges of wit it self. For he overthrows his own pretence, and can­not reasonably claim any interest in wit, who doth thus behave himself: he prejudgeth himself to want wit, who cannot descry fit matter to divert him­self or others: he discovereth a great streightnesse and sterility of good in­vention, who cannot in all the wide field of things find better subjects of discourse; who knows not how to be ingenious within reasonable compasse, but to pick up a sorry conceit is forced to make excursions beyond the bounds of honesty and decency.

Neither is it any argument of consi­derable ability in him that haps to please this way: a slender faculty will serve the turn. The sharpnesse of his speech cometh not from wit so much as from [Page 74] choler, which furnisheth the lowest in­ventions with a kind of pungent expres­sion, and giveth an edge to every spite­full word: so that any dull wretch doth seem to scold eloquently and ingeni­ously. Commonly also Satyrical taunts do owe their seeming piquancy, not to the speaker,Obtrectatio & livor pro­nis auribus accipiuntur: quippe adula­tioni foedum crimen servi­tutis, malig­nitati falsa speeies liber­tatis inest. Tac. Hist. 1. init. or his words, but to the subject, and the hearers; the matter conspiring with the bad nature, or the vanity of men, who love to laugh at any rate, and to be pleased at the ex­pence of other mens repute; conceiting themselves extolled by the depression of their neighbour, and hoping to gain by his losse. Such customers they are that maintain the bitter Wits, who o­therwise would want trade, and might go a begging. For commonly they who seem to excell this way, are mise­rably flat in other discourse, and most dully serious: they have a particular unaptnesse to describe any good thing, or commend any worthy person; being destitute of right Idea's, and proper terms answerable to such purposes: their representations of that kind are absurd and unhandsome; their Elogies (to use their own way of speaking) are in effect Satyrs, and they can hardly [Page 75] more abuse a man then by attempting to commend him; like those in the Pro­phet,Jer. 4. 22. who were wise to doe ill, but to doe well had no knowledge.

3. I passe by, that it is very culpa­ble to be facetious in obscene and smut­ty matters. Such things are not to be discoursed on either in jest, or in ear­nest; they must not, as S. Paul saith, be so much as named among Christians:Eph. 5. 3. to meddle with them is not to disport, but to defile one's self, and others. There is indeed no more certain sign of a mind utterly debauched from Piety and Vertue, then affecting such talk. But farther,

4. All unseasonable Jesting is blame­able. As there are some proper seasons of relaxation,Vitandum nè petulans, nè superbum, nè loco, nè tem­pori alienum, nè praepara­tum & do [...] allatum vide­atur. Quint. when we may desipere in loco; so are there some times, and cir­cumstances of things, wherein it con­cerneth and becometh men to be serious in mind, grave in demeanour, and plain in discourse; when to sport in this way is to doe indecently, or uncivilly, to be impertinent, or troublesome.

It comporteth not well with the pre­sence of Superiours, before whom it becometh us to be composed and mo­dest: much lesse with the performance [Page 76] of Sacred offices, which require an ear­nest attention, and most serious frame of mind.

In deliberations and debates about affairs of great importance, [...]. Eurip. Arist. Pol. 2. 4. the simple manner of speaking to the point is the proper, easie, clear and compendious way: facetious speech there serves one­ly to obstruct and entangle businesse, to lose time, and protract the result. The Shop and Exchange will scarce endure Jesting in their lower transactions: the Senate, the Court of justice, the Church do much more exclude it from their more weighty consultations. When­ever it justleth out, or hindereth the dispatch of other serious business, ta­king up the room, or swallowing the time due to it, or indisposing the minds of the audience to attend it, then it is unseasonable and pestilent. [...],Arist. Eth. 10. 6. To play, that we may be seriously busy, is the good rule (of Ana­charsis,) implying the subordination of sport to businesse, as a condiment, and furtherance, not an impediment or clog thereto. He that for his sport neglects his businesse, deserves indeed to be reckoned among children; and chil­drens fortune will attend him, to be [Page 77] pleased with toys, and to fail of sub­stantial profit.

'Tis, again, improper (because in­deed uncivil, and inhumane) to jest with persons that are in a sad or afflicted condition;Adversus mi­seros inhuma­nus est jocus. Quint. as arguing want of due con­sidering, or due commiserating their case: it appears a kind of insulting up­on their misfortune, and is apt to fo­ment their grief. Even in our own case (upon any disastrous occurrence to our selves) it would not be seemly to frollick it thus; it would signify want of due regard to the frowns of God, and the strokes of his hand; it would crosse the Wise-man's advice, In the day of prosperity be joyfull, Eccles 7. 14. but in the day of adversity consider.

It is also not seasonable, or civil, to be jocund in this way with those who desire to be serious, and like not the humour. Jocularity should not be forcibly obtruded, but by a kindly con­spiracy (or tacit compact) slip into conversation: consent and complai­sance give all the life thereto. Its de­sign is to sweeten and ease society: when to the contrary it breedeth offence or encumbrance, it is worse then vain and unprofitable. From these instances we [Page 78] may collect when in other like cases it is unseasonable, and therefore culpable. Farther,

5. To affect, admire, or highly to value this way of speaking, (either ab­solutely in it self, or in comparison to the serious and plain way of speech,) and thence to be drawn into an immo­derate use thereof, is blameable. A man of ripe age, and sound judgment, for refreshment to himself, or in com­plaisance to others, may sometimes con­descend to play in this, or any other harmlesse way: but to be fond of it, to prosecute it with a carefull or painfull eagernesse, to dote and dwell upon it, to reckon it a brave or fine thing, a sin­gular matter of commendation, a tran­scendent accomplishment, any-wise pre­ferrable to rational endowments, or comparable to the moral excellencies of our mind, (to solid Knowledge, or sound Wisedom, or true Vertue and Goodnesse,) this is extremely childish, or brutish, and far below a man. What can be more absurd, then to make a businesse of play, to be studious or la­borious in toys, to make a profession or drive a trade of impertinency? what more plain non-sense can there be, [Page 79] then to be earnest in jest, to be conti­nual in divertisement, or constant in pastime; [...]. Arist. Eth. x. 6. to make extravagance all our way, and sauce all our diet? Is not this plainly the life of a child, that is ever busie, yet never hath any thing to doe? or the life of that mimical brute, which is always active in playing un­couth and unlucky tricks; which, could it speak, might surely passe well for a professed Wit?

The proper work of Man, the grand drift of humane life, is to follow Rea­son, (that noble spark kindled in us from Heaven; that Princely and power­full faculty, which is able to reach so lofty objects, and to atchieve so mighty works;) not to sooth fancy, that brutish, shallow, and giddy power, a­ble to perform nothing worthy much regard.Neque enim it à generati à natura su­mus, ut ad ludum jocúm­que facti vi­deamur; sed ad severita­tem potiùs, & ad quaedam studia gravi­ora, atque majora. Cic. Off. 1. We are not (even Cicero could tell us) born for play and jesting; but for severity, and the study of graver and greater affairs. Yes, we were purpose­ly designed, and fitly framed, to under­stand and contemplate, to affect and delight in, to undertake and pursue most noble and worthy things; to be employed in businesse considerably pro­fitable to our selves, and beneficial to [Page 80] others: We do therefore strangely de­base our selves, when we do strongly bend our minds to, or set our affections upon such toys.

Especially to doe so is unworthy of a Christian; that is of a person who is advanced to so high a rank, and so glo­rious relations; who hath so excellent objects of his mind and affections pre­sented before him, and so excellent re­wards for his care and pains proposed to him; who is engaged in affairs of so worthy nature, and so immense conse­quence: for him to be zealous about quibbles, for him to be ravished with puny conceits and expressions, 'tis a wondrous oversight, and an enormous indecency.

He indeed that prefers any faculty to Reason, disclaims the privilege of be­ing a Man, and understands not the worth of his own Nature: he that pri­zes any quality beyond Vertue and Goodnesse, renounces the title of a Christian, and knows not how to value the dignity of his profession. It is these two (Reason and Vertue) in conjunc­tion, which produce all that is conside­rably good and great in the world. Fancy can doe little; doeth never any [Page 81] thing well, except as directed and wiel­ded by them. Do pretty conceits or humourous talk carry on any businesse, or perform any work? No; they are ineffectual and fruitlesse: often they disturb, but they never dispatch any thing with good successe. [...]. Bas. Const. Mon. 12. It is simple Reason (as dull and dry as it seemeth) which expediteth all the grand affairs, which accomplisheth all the mighty works that we see done in the world. In truth therefore, as one Diamond is worth numberlesse bits of Glasse; so one solid Reason is worth innumerable Fancies: [...]. Ibid. Iocorum frequens usus omne animis pondus, omnémque vim erip [...]et. Sen. de Tranq. c. 15. [...]. Chrys. in Eph. 17. one grain of true Science and sound Wisedom in real worth and use doth outweigh loads (if any loads can be) of freakish Wit. To rate things o­therwise, doth argue great weaknesse of judgment, and fondnesse of mind. So to conceit of this way, signifieth a weak mind; and much to delight there­in, rendreth it so: nothing more deba­seth the spirit of a man, or more ren­dreth it light and trifling.

[Page 82] Hence if we must be venting pleasant conceits, we should doe it as if we did it not, carelesly and unconcernedly; not standing upon it, or valuing our selves for it: we should doe it with measure and moderation; not giving up our selves thereto, so as to mind it, or delight in it more then in any other thing: we should not be so intent up­on it, as to become remisse in affairs more proper or needfull for us; so as to nauseate serious businesse, or disre­lish the more worthy entertainments of our minds. This is the great dan­ger of it, which we daily see men to incurr; they are so bewitched with a humour of being witty themselves, or of hearkning to the fancies of other▪ that it is this onely which they can like or savour, which they can endure to think or talk of. 'Tis a great pity, that men who would seem to have so much wit, should so little understand them­selves. But farther,

6. Vainglorious ostentation this way is very blameable. All ambition, all vanity, all conceitednesse, upon what­ever ground they are founded, are ab­solutely unreasonable and silly: but yet those, being grounded on some real [Page 83] ability, or some usefull skill, are wise and manly in comparison to this, which standeth on a foundation so manifestly slight and weak. The old Philosophers by a severe Father were called animalia gloriae, Tertull. animals of glory; and by a Sa­tyrical Poet they were termed bladders of vanity: [...] Ti­mon. but they at least did catch at praise from praise-worthy knowledge; they were puff'd up with a wind which blowed some good to mankind; they sought glory from that which deserved glory if they had not sought it; it was a substantial and solid credit which they did affect, resulting from successfull en­terprises of strong reason, and stout in­dustry:Risus—te­nuissimus in­genii fructus. Cic. de O­rat. 2. but these animalcula gloriae, these flies, these insects of glory, these, not bladders, but bubbles of vanity, would be admired and praised for that which is no-wise admirable or lau­dable; for the casual hits and emergen­cies of roving fancy; for stumbling on an odd conceit or phrase, which sig­nifieth nothing, and is as superficiall as the smile, as hollow as the noise it causeth. Nothing certainly in nature is more ridiculous then a self-conceited Wit, who deemeth himself some-body, and greatly pretendeth to commendati­on [Page 84] on from so pitifull and worthlesse a thing as a knack of trifling.

7. Lastly, It is our duty never so far to engage our selves in this way, as thereby to lose or to impair that habi­tual seriousnesse, modesty, and sobrie­ty of mind, that steddy composednesse, gravity, and constancy of demeanour, which become Christians. We should continually keep our minds intent upon our high calling, and grand interests; ever well tuned, and ready for the performance of holy Devotions, and the practice of most serious duties with ear­nest attention and fervent affection: Wherefore we should never suffer them to be dissolved into levity, or disorde­red into a wanton frame, indisposing us for religious thoughts and actions. We ought always in our behaviour to maintain, not onely [...], a fitting decency, Phil. 4. 8. but also [...],1 Tim. 3. 8. a stately gra­vity, a kind of venerable majesty, su­table to that high rank which we bear of God's Friends, and Children;Tit. 2. 10. Dictum poti­ùs aliquando perdet, quàm minuet auto­ritatem. ador­ning our holy profession, and guarding us from all impressions of sinfull vanity. Wherefore we should not let our selves be transported into any excessive pitch of lightnesse,Quint. 6. 3. inconsistent with or [Page 85] prejudicial to our Christian state and businesse. Gravity and Modesty are the fences of Piety, which being once slighted, sin will easily attempt and en­croach upon us. So the old Spanish Gentleman may be interpreted to have been wise, who, when his Son upon a voiage to the Indies took his leave of him,Strad. Infam. Famiani. gave him this odd advice; My son, in the first place keep thy Gravity, in the next place fear God: intimating, that a man must first be serious, before he can be pious.

To conclude, as we need not be de­mure, so must we not be impudent; as we should not be sour, so ought we not to be fond; as we may be free, so we should not be vain; as we may well stoop to friendly complaisance, so we should take heed of falling into con­temptible levity. If without wronging others, or derogating from our selves, we can be facetious; if we can use our wits in jesting innocently, and conve­niently; we may sometimes do it: but let us, in compliance with S. Paul's di­rection, beware of foolish talking and jesting, which are not convenient.

[Page 86] Now the God of grace and peace— make us perfect in every good work to doe his will,Heb. 13. 20, 91. working in us that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

The Third Sermon.

S. JAMES 5. 12.‘But above all things, my brethren, Swear not.’

AMong other Precepts of Good life (directing the practice of Vertue, and abstinence from Sin) S. James doth insert this about Swea­ring, couched in expression denoting his great earnestnesse, and apt to ex­cite our special attention. Therein he doth not mean universally to interdict the use of Oaths; (for that in some ca­ses is not onely lawfull, but very ex­pedient, yea needfull, and required from us as a Duty;) but that Swearing which our Lord had expresly prohibi­ted to his Disciples, and which thence, questionlesse, the brethren to whom S. James did write did well understand themselves obliged to forbear, having [Page 88] learnt so in the first Catechisms of Chri­stian institution; that is, needlesse and heedlesse Swearing in ordinary conver­sation: a practice then frequented in the world, both among Jews and Gen­tiles; the which also, to the shame of our Age, is now so much in fashion, and with some men in vogue; the invoking God's Name, appealing to his testimo­ny, and provoking his judgment, upon any slight occasion, in common talk, with vain incogitancy, or profane bold­nesse. From such practice the Holy A­postle dehorteth in terms importing his great concernednesse, and implying the matter to be of highest importance: for, [...], saith he, Before all things, my brethren, do not swear; as if he did apprehend this sin of all other to be one of the most hainous and per­nicious. Could he have said more? would he have said so much, if he had not conceived the matter to be of ex­ceeding weight and consequence? And that it is so, I mean now, by God's help, to shew you, by proposing some Considerations, whereby the hainous wickednesse, together with the mon­strous folly, of such rash and vain Swea­ring will appear; the which being laid [Page 89] to heart will, I hope, effectually dis­suade and deterr from it.

I. Let us consider the nature of an Oath, and what we do when we ad­venture to swear.

It is (as it is phrased in the Decalogue, and other-where in Holy Scripture) an assuming the Name of our God, Exod. 20. 7. and ap­plying it to our purpose,Prov. 30. 9. to countenance and confirm what we say.

It is an invocation of God as a most faithfull Witnesse,Gen. 31. 50. concerning the truth of our words,Jud. 11. 10. or the sincerity of our meaning.1 Sam. 12. 5. Jer. 42. 5. Job 16. 19. Mal. 3. 5. 1 Joh. 5. 9. Plurima firmantur jurejurando—diis immortalibus interpositis tum judicibus, tum testibus. Cic. de Leg. 2. p. 326.

It is an appeal to God as a most up­right Judge,Gen. 31. 53. whether we do prevari­cate in asserting what we do not believe true,1 Sam. 24. 15. or in promising what we are not firmly resolved to perform.

It is a formal engagement of God to be the Avenger of our trespassing in vi­olation of truth or faith.1 King. 8. 31, 32. & 2. 23. & 19. 2. & 20. 10. Neh. 5. 12, 13. Ruth 1. 17. 2 King. 6. 31. 2 Sam. 3. 9, 35. & 19. 13. 1 Sam. 14. 44. & 3. 17. & 20. 13.

[Page 90] It is a binding our souls with a most strict and solemn obligation,Num. 30. 2. [...]. Plut. in Ca­pit. Rom. (p. 491.) to answer before God, and to undergoe the issue of his judgment about what we affirm, or undertake.

Such an Oath is represented to us in Holy Scripture.

Whence we may collect, that Swea­ring ever doth require great modesty and composednesse of spirit, very seri­ous consideration and solicitous care, that we be not rude and saucy with God, in taking up his Name, and prostituting it to vile or mean uses; that we do not abuse or debase his Authority, by ei­ting it to averr falshoods, or imperti­nencies; that we do not slight his ve­nerable Justice, by rashly provoking it against us; that we do not precipitant­ly throw our Souls into most dange­rous snares and intricacies.

For, let us reflect and consider: What a presumption is it, without due regard and reverence to lay hold on God's Name; with unhallowed breath to vent and tosse that great and glorious, Psal. 99. 3. & 111. 9. & 148. 13. that most holy, that reverend, that fear­full and terrible Name of the Lord our God,Deut. 28. 58. the great Creatour, the mighty Sovereign, the dreadfull Judge of all [Page 91] the world; that Name which all Hea­ven with profoundest submission doth adore, which the Angelical powers, the brightest and purest Seraphim, without hiding their faces, Isa. 6. 2. and reve­rential horrour,Chrys. [...]. cannot utter or hear; the very thought whereof should strike awe through our hearts, the mention whereof would make any sober man to tremble?Chrys. [...]. p. 514. [...], For how (saith S. Chrysostome) is it not absurd, that a servant should not dare to call his Master by name, or bluntly and ordina­rily to mention him; yet that we slightly and contemptuously should in our mouth tosse about the Lord of Angels?

How is it not absurd,Id. [...]. p. 525. if we have a gar­ment better then the rest, that we forbear to use it continually; but in the most slight and common way do wear the Name of God?

How grievous indecency is it, at e­very turn to summon our Maker, and call down Almighty God from Heaven, to attend our pleasure, to vouch our idle prattle, to second our giddy passi­ons, to concern his Truth, his Ju­stice, his Power in our triviall af­fairs?

[Page 92] What a wildnesse is it, to dally with that Judgment upon which the eternal doom of all creatures dependeth, at which the pillars of heaven are astonished, Job 26. 11. which hurled down legions of Angels from the top of Heaven and happi­ness into the bottomless dungeon; the which, as grievous sinners, of all things we have most reason to dread; and a­bout which no sober man can otherwise think, then did that great King, the Holy Psalmist,Psal. 119. 120. who said, My flesh trem­bleth for thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments?

How prodigious a madnesse is it, without any constraint or needful cause to incurr so horrible danger, to rush upon a curse; to defy that vengeance, the least touch or breath whereof can dash us to nothing, or thrust us down into extreme and endlesse woe?

Who can expresse the wretchednesse of that folly, which so entangleth us with inextricable knots, and enchaineth our Souls so rashly with desperate obli­gations?

Wherefore he that would but a little mind what he doeth when he dareth to swear, what it is to meddle with the adorable Name, the venerable Testi­mony, [Page 93] the formidable Judgment, the terrible Vengeance of the Divine Ma­jesty, into what a case he putteth him­self, how extreme hazard he runneth thereby, would assuredly have little heart to swear, without greatest rea­son, and most urgent need; hardly without trembling would he undertake the most necessary and solemn Oath; much cause would he see [...], to adore, to fear an Oath: which to doe the Divine Preacher maketh the character of a Good man;Eccles 9. 26 As (saith he) is the good, so is the sinner, and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath.

In fine, even a Heathen Philosopher, considering the nature of an Oath, did conclude the unlawfulnesse thereof in such cases. [...], &c. Simpl. in Epict. cap. 44. For, Seeing (saith he) an Oath doth call God for Witnesse, and proposeth him for Umpire and Voucher of the things it saith; therefore to induce God so upon occasion of humane affairs, or, which is all one, upon small and slight ac­counts, doth imply contempt of him: where­fore we ought wholly to shun Swearing, ex­cept upon occasions of highest necessity.

[Page 94] II. We may consider, that Swearing (agreeably to its nature, or natural ap­titude and tendency) is represented in Holy Scripture as a special part of reli­gious Worship, or Devotion toward God; in the due performance whereof we do avow him for the true God, and Governour of the world; we piously do acknowledge his principal Attri­butes, and special Prerogatives; (his Omnipresence and his Omniscience, ex­tending it self to our most inward thoughts, our secretest purposes, our closest retirements; his watchfull Pro­vidence over all our actions, affairs, and concerns; his faithfull Goodnesse, in favouring truth, and protecting right; his exact Justice, in patronizing since­rity, and chastizing perfidiousnesse;) his being Supreme Lord over all per­sons, and Judge paramount in all causes; his readinesse in our need, upon our humble imploration and reference, [...]. It is a pious thing willingly to commend our case or con­troversie to God. Arist. Rhet. 1. 48. to undertake the arbitration of matters controverted, and the care of admini­string justice, for the maintenance of truth and right, of loyalty and fidelity, of order and peace among men. Swea­ring doth also intimate a pious trust and confidence in God; as Aristotle obser­veth.

[Page 95] Such things a serious Oath doth im­ply, to such purposes Swearing natu­rally serveth; and therefore to signify or effectuate them, Divine institution hath devoted it.

God in goodnesse to such ends hath pleased to lend us his great Name, al­lowing us to cite him for a Witnesse, to have recourse to his Bar, to engage his Justice and Power, when-ever the case deserveth and requireth it, or when we cannot by other means well assure the sincerity of our meaning, or secure the constancy of our resolutions.

Yea in such exigencies he doth exact this practice from us, as an instance of our religious confidence in him, and as a service conducible to his glory: For it is a Precept in his Law, of moral na­ture,Deut. 10. 20. & 6. 13.and eternal obligation, Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and shalt swear by his Name. It is the cha­racter of a religious man, to swear with due reverence and upright conscience. For, Psal. 63. 11. The King (saith the Psalmist) shall rejoyce in God; every one that swea­reth by him shall glory: but the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped. It is a distinctive mark of God's people, ac­cording [Page 96] to that of the Prophet Jere­my,Jer. 12. 16. And it shall come to passe, if they will diligently learn the ways of my peo­ple, to swear by my Name—then shall they be built in the midst of my people. It is predicted concerning the Evangelical times, Isa. 45. 23. Unto me every knee shall bow, eve­ry tongue shall swear:Isa. 65. 16. and, That he who blesseth himself in the earth, shall blesse himself by the God of truth; and he that sweareth in the earth, shall swear by the God of truth.

As therefore all other acts of Devoti­on, wherein immediate application is made to the Divine Majesty, should never be performed without most hear­ty intention, most serious consideration, most lowly reverence; so neither should this grand one, wherein God is so near­ly touched, and his chief Attributes so much concerned: the which indeed doth involve both Prayer and Praise, doth require the most devotional acts of Faith and Fear.

We therefore should so perform it, as not to incurr that reproof; Matth. 15. 8. This peo­ple draweth nigh unto me with their mouth,Isa. 29. 13. and honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

[Page 97] When we seem most formally to a­vow God, to confesse his Omniscience, to confide in his Justice; we should not really disregard him, and in effect sig­nify, that we do not think he doth know what we say, or mind what we doe.

If we do presume to offer this service, we should doe it in the manner appoin­ted by himself, according to the condi­tions prescribed in the Prophet,Jer. 4. 2. Thou shalt swear, The Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousnesse: in truth, taking heed, that our meaning be conformable to the sense of our words, and our words to the verity of things; in judgment, having with carefull de­liberation examined and weighed that which we assert or promise; in righte­ousnesse, being satisfied in conscience, that we do not therein infringe any rule of Piety toward God, of Equity toward men, of Sobriety and discretion in regard to our selves.

The cause of our Swearing must be needfull, or very expedient; the de­sign of it must be honest, and usefull to considerable purposes; (tending to God's honour, our Neighbour's bene­fit, our own welfare;) the matter of [Page 98] it should be not onely just and lawfull, but worthy and weighty; the manner ought to be grave and solemn, our mind being framed to earnest attention, and endued with pious affections sutable to the occasion.

Otherwise, if we do venture to swear, without due advice and care, without much respect and awe, upon any slight or vain (not to say, bad or unlawfull) occasion; we then desecrate Swearing, and are guilty of profaning a most sa­cred Ordinance: the doing so doth im­ply base hypocrisie,Matth. 15. 7, 8. or leud mockery, or abominable wantonnesse and folly; in boldly invading, and vainly trifling with the most august Duties of Religi­on. Such Swearing therefore is very dishonourable and injurious to God, very prejudicial to Religion, very re­pugnant to Piety.

III. We may consider that the Swea­ring prohibited is very noxious to hu­mane Society.

The great prop of Society (which upholdeth the safety, peace and wel­fare thereof, in observing laws, dispen­sing justice, discharging trusts, keeping contracts, and holding good correspon­dence mutually) is Conscience, or a [Page 99] sense of Duty toward God, obliging to perform what is right and equal; quickned by hope of rewards, and fear of punishments from him: secluding which principle, no worldly considera­tion is strong enough to hold men fast; or can farther dispose many to doe right, or observe faith, or hold peace, then appetite, or interest, or humour (things very slippery and uncertain) do sway them.

That men should live honestly, qui­etly, and comfortably together, it is needfull that they should live under a sense of God's will, and in awe of the Divine power, hoping to please God, and fearing to offend him, by their be­haviour respectively.

That Justice should be administred between men, it is necessary that testi­monies of fact be alledged; and that witnesses should apprehend themselves greatly obliged to discover the truth, according to their conscience, in dark and doubtfull cases.

That men should uprightly discharge offices serviceable to publick good, it doth behove that they be firmly enga­ged to perform the trusts reposed in them.

[Page 100] That in affairs of very considerable importance, men should deal with one another with satisfaction of mind, and mutual confidence, they must receive competent assurances concerning the integrity, fidelity, and constancy each of other.

That the safety of Governours may be preserved, and the obedience due to them maintained secure from attempts to which they are liable, (by the treachery, levity, perverseness, timorousness, ambiti­on, all such lusts and ill humours of men,) it is expedient that men should be tied with the strictest bands of allegeance.

That controversies emergent about the interests of men should be determi­ned, and an end put to strife by pe­remptory and satisfactory means, is plain­ly necessary for common quiet.

Wherefore for the publick interest, and benefit of humane Society, it is requisite, that the highest obligations possible should be laid upon the Consci­ences of men.

And such are those of Oaths, enga­ging them to fidelity and constancy in all such cases, out of regard to Al­mighty God, as the infallible Patron of truth and right, the unavoidable [Page 101] Chastiser of perfidiousnesse and impro­bity.

To such purposes therefore Oaths have ever been applied, as the most ef­fectual instruments of working them; not onely among the followers of true and perfect Religion, but even among all those who had any glimmering no­tions concerning a Divine Power and Providence; who have deemed an Oath the fastest tie of Conscience, and held the violation of it for the most de­testable impiety and iniquity. So that what Cicero saith of the Romans, that their Ancestours had no band to constrain faith more streight then an Oath, Nullum enim vinculum ad astringendam fidem jureju­rando majo­res arctius esse volue­runt. Cic. de Off. 3. Dion. Halic. Procop. Di­od. Sic. is true of all other Nations; common Reason not being able to devise any engage­ment more obliging then it; it being in the nature of things [...], and [...], the utmost assurance, the last resort of hu­mane faith, the surest pledge that any man can yield of his trustinesse. Hence ever in transactions of highest moment this hath been used to bind the faith of men.

Hereby Nations have been wont to ratifie Leagues of peace and ami­ty between each other: [...]. Polyb. (which [Page 102] therefore the Greeks called [...].)

Hereby Princes have obliged their Subjects to loyalty: and it hath ever been the strongest argument to presse that duty, which the Preacher useth; I counsel thee to keep the King's com­mandment, Eccles. 8. 2. and that in regard of the Oath of God.

Hereby Generals have engaged their Souldiers to stick close to them,Veget. 2. in bea­ring hardships, and encountring dan­gers.

Hereby the Nuptial league hath been confirmed; the solemnization whereof in temples before God is in effect a most sacred Oath.

Hereon the decision of the greatest causes concerning the lives, estates and reputations of men have depended; so that (as the Apostle saith) an Oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Heb. 6. 16.

Indeed such hath the need hereof been ever apprehended, that we may observe, in cases of great importance, no other obligation hath been admit­ted for sufficient to bind the fidelity and constancy of the most credible persons; so that even the best men hardly could trust the best men without it. For in­stance,

[Page 103] When Abimelech would assure to himself the friendship of Abraham, al­though he knew him to be a very pi­ous and righteous person, whose word might be as well taken as any man's, yet, for entire satisfaction, he thus spake to him;Gen. 21. 22, 23. God is with thee in all that thou doest: Now therefore swear un­to me here by God, that thou wilt not deal falsely with me.

Abraham, though he did much con­fide in the honesty of his servant Elie­zer,Gen. 15. 3. & 24. 2. having entrusted him with all his estate, yet in the affair concerning the marriage of his son, he could not but thus oblige him: Gen. 24. 2, 3. Put, (said he) I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that thou wilt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites.

Laban had good experience of Ja­cob's fidelity; yet that would not sa­tisfie, Gen. 31. 49, 50, 53. but, The Lord (said he) watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another. If thou shalt afflict my daughters, or if thou shalt take other wives beside my daughters; no man is with us; see, God is witnesse between thee and me. The God of Abraham, and the God of [Page 104] Nahor, the God of their father judge be­twixt us.

So did Jacob make Joseph swear,Gen. 50. 5. that he would bury him in Canaan:Gen. 50. 25. and Jo­seph caused the children of Israel to swear, that they would translate his bones. So did Jonathan cause his beloved friend David to swear,1 Sam. 20. 14, 15, 17. that he would shew kindnesse to him, and to his house for e­ver. The prudence of which course the event sheweth, the total excision of Jonathan's family being thereby pre­vented; 2 Sam. 21. 7. for, The King ('tis said) spa­red Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, be­cause of the Lord's Oath that was between them.

These instances declare, that there is no security which men can yield com­parable to that of an Oath;(1 King. 1. 51. Ezr. 10. 5. Neh. 5. 12. & 13. 25.) the obli­gation whereof no man wilfully can in­fringe, without renouncing the fear of God, and any pretence to his fa­vour.

Wherefore humane Society will be extremely wronged and damnified by the dissolving or slackning these most sacred bands of Conscience; and conse­quently by their common and carelesse use, which soon will breed a contempt of them, and render them insignificant, [Page 105] either to bind the Swearers, or to ground a trust on their Oaths.

As by the rare and reverent use of Oaths their dignity is upheld, and their obligation kept fast: so by the frequent and negligent application of them, by the prostituting them to every mean and toyish purpose, their respect will be quite lost, their strength will be loosed, they will prove unserviceable to publick use.

If Oaths generally become cheap and vile, what will that of Allegeance sig­nify? If men are wont to play with Swearing any-where, can we expect they should be serious and strict therein at the Bar, or in the Church? Will they regard God's testimony, or dread his judgment, in one place, or at one time, when every-where upon any, upon no occasion they dare to confront and contemn them? Who then will be the more trusted for Swearing? what satisfaction will any man have from it? The rifenesse of this practice, as it is the sign, so it will be the cause of a gene­ral diffidence among men.

Incredible therefore is the mischief which this vain practice will bring in to the publick; depriving Princes of [Page 106] their best security, exposing the estates of private men to uncertainty, shaking all the confidence men can have in the faith of one another.

For which detriments accruing from this abuse to the publick every vain Swearer is responsible; and he would doe well to consider, that he will ne­ver be able to make reparation for them. And the publick is much con­cerned that this enormity be retren­ched.

IV. Let us consider, that rash and vain Swearing is very apt often to bring the practiser of it into that most horrible sin of Perjury. For [...]. Philo in Decal. Nè quisquam facili juratio­ne etiam ad perjurium de­cidisset, & in Ecclesia po­pulo praedicabat, & suos in­stituerat, nè quis juraret nec ad modicum quidem. Posid. in Vit. S. Aug. c. 25. false swearing (as the He­brew Wise-man saith) natu­rally springeth out of much swearing: [...], &c. Chrys. [...]. p. 553. [...], quidam le­gunt, Jac. 5. 12. Vid. Grot. [...]. Ib. and, He (saith Saint Chry­sostome) that sweareth continually, both willingly and unwillingly, both igno­rantly and knowingly, both in earnest and in sport, being often transported by anger and many other things, will fre­quently forswear. It is confessed and ma­nifest, that it is necessary for him that sweareth much, to be perjurious. [...], For (saith he again,) [Page 107] it is impossible, [...]. Chrys. [...]. p. 559. it is impossible for a mouth addicted to swearing, not frequently to forswear. He that sweareth at random, as blind passion moveth, or wanton fancy prompteth, or the Tempter sug­gesteth, often will hit upon asserting that which is false, or promising that which is impossible: that want of Con­science and of consideration which do suffer him to violate God's Law in Swea­ring, will betray him to the venting of Lies, which backed with Oaths become Perjuries. If sometime what he swea­reth doth happen to be true and per­formable, it doth not free him of guilt; it being his fortune, rather then his care or conscience, which keepeth him from Perjury.

V. Such Swearing commonly will induce a man to bind himself by Oath to unlawfull practices; and consequent­ly will intangle him in a wofull neces­sity, either of breaking his Oath, or of doing worse, and committing wicked­ness: [...]. Chrys. ibid. p. 553. so that Swearing (as S. Chryso­stome saith) hath this misery attending it, that both transgressed and observed it plagueth those who are guilty of it.

[Page 108] Of this perplexity the Holy Scripture affordeth two notable instances: the one of Saul, (1 Sam. 25. 22. David.) [...]. Matt. 14. 9. forced to break his rash Oaths; the other of Herod, being en­gaged thereby to commit a most horrid murther.

Had Saul observed his Oaths, what injury had he done, what mischief had he produced, in slaughtering his most worthy and most innocent Son, the prop and glory of his family, the bul­wark of his country,Vid. Chrys. [...]. and the grand in­strument of salvation to it; in forcing the people to violate their crosse Oath,1 Sam. 14. 45. and for prevention of one, causing ma­ny Perjuries? He was therefore fain to desist, and lie under the guilt of breaking his Oaths.

And for Herod, the excellent Father thus presseth the consideration of his case: [...]. p. 552. Take, (saith he) I beseech you, the chopp'd-off head of S. John, and his warm bloud yet trickling down; each of you bear it home with you, and conceive that before your eyes you hear it uttering speech, and saying, Embrace the murtherer of me, an Oath. That which reproof did not, this an Oath did doe; that which the Ty­rant's wrath could not, this the necessity of keeping an Oath did effect. For when [Page 109] the Tyrant was reprehended publickly in the audience of all men, he bravely did bear the rebuke; but when he had cast himself into the necessity of Oaths, then did he cut off that blessed head.

VI. Likewise the use of rash Swea­ring will often ingage a man in under­takings very inconvenient and detri­mental to himself. A man is bound to perform his vows to the Lord, Deut. 23. 21. what-ever they be,Matt. 5. 33. what-ever dammage or trouble thence may accrue to him,Psal. 66. 13, 14. if they be not unlawfull.Deut. 23. 23. It is the Law, That which is gone out of thy lips, thou shalt keep and perform. It is the property of a Good man,Psal. 15. 4. that he sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. Wherefore 'tis the part of a sober man, to be well ad­vised what he doth swear or vow reli­giously; that he do not put himself in­to the inextricable streight of commit­ting great sin, or undergoing great in­convenience; that he do not rush into that snare of which the Wise-man spea­keth,Prov. 20. 25. [...], &c. Chrys. [...]. It is a snare to a man to devour that which is holy, (or, to swallow a sacred obligation,) and after vows to make inquiry, seeking how he may dis­engage himself: the doing which is a folly offensive to God, as the Preacher [Page 110] telleth us;Eccles 5. 4. When (saith he) thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. God will not admit our folly in vowing, as a plea or an excuse for non-performance; he will exact it from us both as a due debt; and as a proper punishment of our im­pious folly.

For instance, into what losse and mischief, what sorrow, what regret and repentance, did the unadvised vow of Jephtha throw him? the performance whereof (as S. Chrysostome remarketh) God did permit,Chrys. [...]. and order to be com­memorated with solemn lamentation, that all posterity might be admonished thereby, and deterred from such pre­cipitant Swearing.

VII. Let us consider, that Swearing is a sin of all others peculiarly clamo­rous, and provocative of Divine judg­ment. God is hardly so much concer­ned, or in a manner constrained, to punish any other sin as this. He is bound in honour and interest to vindi­cate his Name from the abuse, his Au­thority from the contempt, his holy Ordinance from the profanation, which it doth infer. He is concerned to take [Page 111] care that his providence be not questio­ned, that the dread of his Majesty be not voided, that all Religion be not overthrown by the outrageous com­mission thereof with impunity.

It immediately toucheth his Name, it expresly calleth upon him to mind it, to judge it, to shew himself in aven­ging it. He may seem deaf, or uncon­cerned, if, being so called and provo­ked, he doth not declare himself.

There is understood to be a kind of formall compact between him and man­kind, obliging him to interpose, to take the matter into his cognizance, being specially addressed to him.

The bold Swearer doth importune him to hear, doth rouze him to mark, doth brave him to judge and punish his wickednesse.

Hence no wonder that the flying roll, Zech. 5. 2, &c. a quick and inevitable curse, doth sur­prize the Swearer, Chrys. [...] ▪ 9. p. 525. 15. p. 565. 19. p. 591. and cut him off, as it is in the Prophet. No wonder that so many remarkable instances do occurr in history, of signal vengeance inflicted on persons notably guilty of this crime. No wonder that a common practice thereof doth fetch down publick judg­ments; and that, as the Prophets of [Page 112] old did proclaim,Jer. 23. 10. because of Swearing the land mourneth. Hos. 4. 3.

VIII. Farther, (passing over the spe­cial laws against it, the mischievous consequences of it, the sore punish­ments appointed to it,) we may con­sider, that to common sense vain Swea­ring is a very unreasonable and ill-fa­voured practice, greatly misbecoming any sober, worthy, or honest person; but especially most absurd and incon­gruous to a Christian.

For in ordinary conversation what needfull or reasonable occasion can in­tervene of violating this command? If there come under discourse a matter of reason, which is evidently true and certain, then what need can there be of an Oath to affirm it, it sufficing to ex­pose it to light, or to propose the evi­dences for it? If an obscure or doubt­full point come to be debated, it will not bear an Oath; it will be a strange madnesse to dare, a great folly to hope the persuading it thereby. What were more ridiculous, then to swear the truth of a demonstrable Theorem? what more vain, then so to assert a dis­putable Probleme? Oaths (like wa­gers) are in such cases no arguments, [Page 113] except of silliness in the users of them.

If a matter of history be started, then if a man be taken for honest, his word will pass for attestation, without far­ther assurance: but if his veracity or probity be doubted, his Oath will not be relied on, especially when he doth obtrude it. For it was no less truly then acutely said by the old Poet,Aeschyl. [...], The man doth not get credit from an Oath, but an Oath from the man: and a grea­ter Authour, An Oath (saith S. Chrysostome) doth not make a man credible; [...]. Chrys. [...] p. 514. but the testi­mony of his life, and the ex­actnesse of his conversation, and a good repute. Many of­ten have burst with swearing, and persuaded no man: o­thers onely nodding have de­served more belief, then those who have swore so mightily. Wherefore Oaths, as they are frivolous coming from a person of little worth or conscience, so they are superfluous in the mouth of an honest and worthy person; yea, as they do not encrease the credit of the former, so they may impair that of the latter.

[Page 114] A good man (as Socrates did say) should apparently so demean himself, [...]. Socr. a­pud Max. Serm. 85. that his word may be deemed more credible then an Oath; [...]. Philo. the constant tenour of his practice vou­ching for it,Colendo fidem jurant (Scythae; apud Curt. 7. 8.) and giving it such weight, that no asseve­ration can farther corrobo­rate it.

He should [...],Clem. Alex. Str. 7. p. 524. swear by his good deeds, and exhibit [...], a life deserving belief, (as Clemens Alex. [...]. Diog. Laert. in Xenocr. saith:) so that no man should desire more from him then his bare as­sertion; but willingly should yield him the privilege which the Athenians gran­ted to Xenocrates, that he should testi­fie without Swearing.

He should be like the Essenes, [...]. Joseph. of whom Josephus saith, that every thing spoken by them was more valid then an Oath; whence they declined Swea­ring.

He should so much confide in his own veracity and fidelity, and so much stand upon them, that he should not deign to offer any pledge for them, [Page 115] implying them to want confirmation.

He should (as S. Hierome saith) so love truth, Tantus in te sit veri amor, ut quiequid dixeris, jura­tum putes. Hier. Ep. 14. that he should suppose himself to have sworn whatsoever he hath said; and therefore should not be apt to heap another Oath on his words.

Upon such accounts common reason directed even Pagan wise-men wholly to interdict Swearing in ordinary con­versation, or about petty matters, as an irrational and immoral practice, un­worthy of sober and discreet persons. Forbear Swearing about any matter, [...]. Plato a­pud Clem. Alex. Str. 5. p. 433. (said Plato, cited by Clem. Alex.) A­void Swearing, if you can, wholly, (said Epictetus.) For mony swear by no God, though you swear truly, [...]. E­pict. Ench. cap. 44. said Isocrates. And divers the like precepts occur in other Heathens; the mention whereof may well serve to strike shame into many loose and vain people, [...]. Isocr. ad Demon. bearing the name of Christians.

Indeed, for a true and real Christian, this practice doth especially in a far higher degree misbecome him, upon considerations peculiar to his high cal­ling and holy profession.

[Page 116] Plutarch telleth us, [...]; Plut. in Qu. Rom. p. 491. that among the Romans the Flamen of Jupiter was not permitted to swear: of which Law among other reasons he assigneth this; Because it is not handsome, that he to whom divine and greatest things are in­trusted, should be distrusted about small matters. The which reason may well be applied to excuse every Christian from it, who is a Priest to the most High God, and hath the most celestial and important matters concredited to him; in comparison to which all other matters are very mean and inconside­rable. The dignity of his rank should render his word verbum honoris, pas­sable without any farther engagement. He hath opinions of things, he hath undertaken practices inconsistent with Swearing. For he that firmly doth be­lieve that God is ever present with him, an auditour and witness of all his dis­course; he that is persuaded that a severe judgement shall pass on him, wherein he must give an account for e­very idle word which slippeth from him,Matt. 12. 36. and wherein, among other offenders, assuredly Liars will be condemned to the burning lake;Revel. 21. 8. & 22. 15. he that in a great Sacrament (once most solemnly taken, [Page 117] and frequently renewed) hath engaged and sworn, together with all other Di­vine Commandments, to observe those which most expresly do charge him to be exactly just,Col. 3. 9. faithfull,Eph. 4. 25. and veracious in all his words and deeds;1 Pet. 2. 1. who there­fore should be ready to say with Da­vid, Psal. 119. 106. I have sworn, and am stedfastly pur­posed to keep thy righteous judgements; to himOmnis ser­mo fidelis pro jurejurando est. Hier. in Matt. 5. every word hath the force of an Oath; every Lie, every breach of promise, every violation of faith doth involve Perjury: for him to swear, is false heraldry, an impertinent accumu­lation of one Oath upon another: he of all men should disdain to allow that his words are not perfectly credible, that his promise is not secure, without being assured by an Oath.

IX. Indeed the practice of Swearing greatly disparageth him that useth it, and derogateth from his credit upon divers accounts.

It signifieth, (if it signifieth any thing,) that he doth not confide in his own re­putation, and judgeth his own bare word not to deserve credit: for why, if he taketh his word to be good, doth he back it with asseverations? why, if he deemeth his own honesty to bear [Page 118] proof, doth he cite Heaven to warrant it?

It is (saith S. Basil) a very foul and silly thing, [...]. Bas. in Ps. 14. for a man to accuse himself as unworthy of belief, and to profer an Oath for security.

By so doing a man doth authorize others to distrust him: for it can be no wrong to distrust him, who doth not pretend to be a credible person, or that his saying alone may safely be taken; who, by suspecting that others are not satisfied with his simple assertion, im­plieth a reason known to himself for it.

It rendreth whatever he saith to be in reason suspicious, [...]. Phi­lo. as discovering him void of conscience and discretion: for he that flatly against the rules of duty and reason will swear vainly, what can engage him to speak truly? he that is so loose in so clear and so considerable a point of obedience to God, how can he be supposed staunch in regard to any other? [...]. Arist. Rhet. ad A­lex. c. 18. It being (as Aristotle hath it) the part of the same men to doe ill things, and not to regard forswearing. It will [Page 119] at least constrain any man to suspect all his discourse of vanity and unadvised­ness, seeing he plainly hath no care to bridle his tongue from so grosse an of­fence.

It is strange therefore, that any man of honour or honesty should not scorn, by such a practice, to shake his own credit, or to detract from the validity of his word; which should stand firm on it self, and not want any attestation to support it. It is a privilege of ho­nourable persons, that they are excu­sed from Swearing, and that their ver­bum honoris passeth in lieu of an Oath: is it not then strange, that when others dispense with them, they should not dispense with themselves; but volun­tarily degrade themselves, and with sin forfeit so noble a privilege?

X. To excuse these faults, the Swea­rer will be forced to confesse, that his Oaths are no more then wast and in­significant words; deprecating being taken for serious, or to be understood that he meaneth any thing by them; but onely that he useth them as exple­tive phrases,Hierocl. Philo. [...], to plump his speech, and fill up sentences. But such pleas do no more then sug­gest [Page 120] other faults of Swearing, and good arguments against it; its impertinence, its abuse of speech, its disgracing the practiser of it in point of judgement and capacity. For so it is, Oaths as they commonly pass are meer excre­scencies of Speech, which do nothing but encumber and deform it; they so embellish discourse, as a Wen or a Scab do beautifie a face, as a Patch or a Spot do adorn a garment.

To what purpose, I pray, is God's Name hooked and haled into our idle talk? why should we so often mention him, when we do not mean any thing about him? would it not, into every sentence to foist a dog or a horse, (to intrude Turkish, or any barbarous gibbe­rish,) be altogether as proper and per­tinent?

What do these superfluities signifie, but that the venter of them doth little skill the use of speech, or the rule of conversation, but meaneth to sputter and prate any thing without judgement or wit; that his invention is very bar­ren, his fancy beggarly, craving the aid of any stuff to relieve it? One would think a man of sense should grutch to lend his ear, or incline his attention to [Page 121] such motley ragged discourse; that with­out nauseating he scarce should endure to observe men lavishing time, and squandring their breath so frivolously. 'Tis an affront to good company, to pester it with such talk.

XI. But farther, upon higher accounts this is a very uncivil and unmannerly practice.

Some vain persons take it for a gen­tile and gracefull thing, a special ac­complishment, a mark of fine breeding, a point of high gallantry: for who, forsooth, is the brave Spark, the com­pleat Gentleman, the man of conversa­tion and address, but he that hath the skill and confidence (O heavens! how mean a skill! how mad a confidence!) to lard every sentence with an Oath or a Curse; making bold at every turn to salute his Maker, or to summon him in attestation of his tattle; not to say, calling and challenging the Almighty to damn and destroy him? Such a con­ceit, I say, too many have of Swearing, because a custome thereof, together with divers other fond and base quali­ties, hath prevailed among some people, bearing the name and garb of Gentle­men.

[Page 122] But in truth there is no practice more crossing the genuine nature of Gentile­nesse, or misbecoming persons well born and well bred; who should ex­cell the rude vulgar in goodnesse, in courtesie, in noblenesse of heart, in un­willingnesse to offend, and readinesse to oblige those with whom they con­verse, in steddy composednesse of mind and manners, in disdaining to say or doe any unworthy, any unhandsome things.

For this practice is not onely a grosse rudenesse toward the main body of men, who justly reverence the Name of God, and detest such an abuse thereof; not onely (farther) an insolent defiance of the common Profession, the Religion, the Law of our Country, which disal­loweth and condemneth it; but it is ve­ry odious and offensive to any particu­lar Society or company, at least wherein there is any sober person, any who re­taineth a sense of goodnesse, or is any­wise concerned for God's honour: for to any such person no language can be more disgustfull; nothing can more grate his ears, or fret his heart, then to hear the sovereign object of his love and e­steem so mocked and slighted; to see [Page 123] the Law of his Prince so disloyally in­fringed, so contemptuously trampled on; to find his best Friend and Bene­factour so outrageously abused. To give him the lie were a complement, to spit in his face were an obligation, in comparison to this usage.

Wherefore 'tis a wonder, that any person of rank, any that hath in him a spark of ingenuity, or doth at all pretend to good manners, should find in his heart or deign to comply with so scurvy a fashion; a fashion much more befit­ting the scumme of the people, then the flower of the Gentry; yea rather much below any man endued with a scrap of reason, or a grain of goodnesse. Would we bethink our selves, modest, sober and pertinent discourse would ap­pear far more generous and masculine, then such mad Hectoring the Almighty, such boisterous insulting over the recei­ved Laws and general notions of man­kind, such ruffianly swaggering against sobriety and goodnesse. If Gentlemen would regard the Vertues of their An­cestours, the founders of their quality; that gallant courage, that solid wisedom, that noble courtesy, which advanced their families, and severed them from [Page 124] the vulgar; this degenerate wanton­nesse and sordidnesse of language would return to the dunghill, or rather (which God grant) be quite banished from the world; the vulgar following their ex­ample.

XII. Farther, the words of our Lord, when he forbad this practice, do sug­gest another consideration against it, deducible from the causes and sources of it; from whence it cometh, that men are so inclined or addicted thereto: Let (saith he) your communication be Yea, Matth. 5. 37. yea, Nay, nay; for whatsoever is more then these cometh of evil. The roots of it he assureth us are evil, and there­fore the fruit cannot be good: it is no grape which groweth from thorns, or fig from thistles. Consult experience, and observe whence it doth proceed.

Sometimes it ariseth from exorbitant heats of spirit, or transports of unbri­dled passion. When a man is keenly peevish, or fiercely angry, or eagerly contentious, then he blustereth, and dischargeth his choler in most tragical strains; then he would fright the ob­jects of his displeasure by the most vio­lent expressions thereof. This is some­time alleged in excuse of rash Swearing; [Page 125] (I was provoked, the Swearer will say, I was in passion:) but it is strange, that a bad cause should justify a bad ef­fect; that one crime should warrant another; that what would spoil a good action, should excuse a bad one.

Sometimes it proceedeth from arro­gant conceit, and a tyrannical humour; when a man fondly admireth his own opinion, and affecting to impose it on others, is thence moved to thwack it on with lusty Asseverations.

Sometimes it issueth from wanton­nesse and levity of mind, [...]. 2 Cor. 1. 17. disposing a man to sport with any thing, how seri­ous, how grave, how sacred and vene­rable soever.

Sometimes its rise is from stupid inad­vertency, or heady precipitancy; when the man doth not heed what he saith, or consider the nature and consequence of his words, but snatcheth any expres­sion which cometh next, or which his roving fancy doth offer; for want of that caution of the Psalmist,Psal. 39. 1. & 141. 3. I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is be­fore me.

[Page 126] Sometimes (alas! how often in this miserable Age?) it doth spring from pro­fane boldnesse; when men design to put affronts on Religion, and to display their scorn and spight against Consci­ence; affecting the reputation of stout Blades, of gallant Hectors, of resolute Giants, who dare doe any thing, who are not afraid to defy Heaven, and brave God Almighty himself.

Sometimes it is derived from apish imitation,(Psal. 26. 4.) or a humour to comply with a fashion current among vain and disso­lute persons.

It always doth come from a great de­fect of Conscience, of reverence to God, of love to goodnesse, of discretion and sober regard to the welfare of a man's Soul.

From such evidently-vicious and un­worthy sources it proceedeth, and there­fore must needs be very culpable. No good, no wise man can like actions drawn from such principles.Matth. 7. 16. Farther,

XIII. This offence may be particu­larly aggravated by considering, that it hath no strong temptation alluring to it; that it yieldeth no sensible advantage; that it most easily may be avoided or corrected.

[Page 127] Every sin (saith S. Crysostome) hath not the same punishment; [...]. Chry. [...]. p. 531. but those things which may easily be reformed do bring on us greater punishment: and what can be more easy, then to reform this fault? Tell me, (saith he) what difficulty, what sweat, what art, what hazard, what more doth it require beside a little care to abstain wholly from it? [...], &c. Chrys. [...]. p. 594. It is but wil­ling, or resolving on it, and it is in­stantly done: for there is not any natu­ral inclination disposing to it,Chrys. [...]. p. 499. [...]. p. 489. any strong appetite to detain us under its power.

It gratifieth no sense, it yieldeth no profit, it procureth no honour; for the sound of it is not very melodious, and no man surely did ever get an estate by it, or was preferred to dignity for it. It rather to any good ear maketh a hor­rid and jarring noise; it rather with the best part of the world produceth displeasure, dammage, and disgrace. What therefore beside monstrous vani­ty, and unaccountable perversenesse, should hold men so devoted thereto?

Surely of all dealers in sin the Swea­rer is palpably the silliest, and maketh the worst bargains for himself; for he sinneth gratìs, and (like those in the [Page 128] Prophet) selleth his soul for nothing. Isa. 52. 3. An Epicure hath some reason to allege, an Extortioner is a man of wisedome, and acteth prudently in comparison to him; for they enjoy some pleasure, or ac­quire some gain here, in lieu of their Sal­vation hereafter: [...]. Chrys. [...]. p. 531. [...]. Ibid. but this fondling of­fendeth Heaven, and abandoneth Hap­pinesse, he knoweth not why or for what. He hath not so much as the common plea of humane infirmity to excuse him; he can hardly say that he was tempted thereto by any bait.

A phantastick humour possesseth him of spurning at Piety and sobernesse; he inconsiderately followeth a herd of wild fops; he affecteth to play the Ape. What more then this can he say for himself?

XIV. Finally, let us consider, that as we our selves, with all our members and powers, were chiefly designed and framed to glorify our Maker; (the which to doe is indeed the greatest per­fection and noblest privilege of our na­ture;) so our Tongue and speaking faculty were given to us to declare our admiration and reverence of him, to exhibit our due love and gratitude to­ward him, to professe our trust and con­fidence [Page 129] in him, to celebrate his praises, to avow his benefits, to address our suppli­cations to him, to maintain all kinds of devotional intercourse with him, to pro­pagate our knowledge, fear, love and o­bedience to him, in all such ways to pro­mote his honour and service. This is the most proper, worthy and due use of our Tongue, for which it was crea­ted, to which it is dedicated, from whence it becometh, as it is so often styled,Psal. 16. 9. & 30. 12. & 57. 8. & 108. 1. our glory, and the best member that we have; that whereby we excell all creatures here below, and whereby we are no lesse discriminated from them,Hoc enim uno▪ praestamus vel maximèferis, quòd colloqui­mur inter nos, & quòd ex­primere di­cendo sensa possumus. Cic. de Orat. 1. then by our Reason; that whereby we consort with the Blessed Angels above in the distinct utterance of praise, and communication of glory to our Crea­tour. Wherefore applying this to any impious discourse, with this to profane God's Blessed Name, with this to vio­late his Holy Commands, with this to unhallow his Sacred Ordinance, with this to offer dishonour and indignity to him, is a most unnatural abuse, an hor­rid ingratitude toward him.

It is that indeed whereby we render this noble Organ incapable of any good use. For [...]—; Chr. [...]. p. 559. [...]. p. 538. how (as the excellent Father [Page 130] doth often urge) can we pray to God for mercies, or praise God for his bene­fits, or heartily confesse our sins, or chearfully partake of the Holy myste­ries, with a mouth defiled by impious Oaths, with a heart guilty of so hai­nous disobedience?

Likewise, whereas a secondary, ve­ry worthy use of our Speech is, to pro­mote the good of our Neighbour, and especially to edifie him in Piety, accor­ding to that wholsome precept of the Apostle,Eph. 4. 29. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers; the prac­tice of Swearing is an abuse very con­trary to that good purpose, serving to corrupt our Neighbour, and to instill into him a contempt of Religion; or however grievously to scandalize him.

XV. I shall adde but two words more. One is, that we would seriously consider, that our Blessed Saviour, who loved us so dearly, who did and suffe­red so much for us, who redeemed us by his bloud,Joh 14. 15. who said unto us, If ye love me, keep my commandments, he thus positively hath injoyned,Matt. 5. 34. But I say unto you, Swear not at all: and how [Page 131] then can we find in our heart direcly to thwart his word?

The other is, that we would lay to heart the reason whereby S. James doth enforce the point, and the sting in the close of our Text, wherewith I conclude; But above all things, my bre­thren, swear not, neither by heaven, nei­ther by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your Yea be yea, and your Nay nay, lest you fall into condemnation, or, [...]. lest you fall under damnation. From the which infinite mischief, and from all sin that may cause it, God in mercy deliver us through our Blessed Redeemer Jesus, to whom for ever be all glory and praise.

The Fourth Sermon.

TITUS 3. 2.‘—To speak evil of no man.’

THese words do imply a double Duty; one incumbent on Tea­chers, another on the People who are to be instructed by them.

The Teachers Duty appeareth from reflecting on the words of the Context, which govern these, and make them up an entire sentence; [...]. Put them in mind, or, Rub up their memory to doe thus. It is S. Paul's injunction to Titus, a Bishop and Pastour of the Church, that he should admonish the people committed to his care and instruction, as of other great Duties, (of yielding obedience to Magistrates, of behaving themselves peaceably, of practising meeknesse and equity toward all men, of being readily disposed to every good [Page 134] work,) so particularly of this, [...], to revile, or speak evil of, no man.

Whence it is apparent, that this is one of the principal Duties that Prea­chers are obliged to mind people of, and to presse upon them. And if this were needfull then, when Charity, kindled by such instructions and exam­ples, was so lively; when Christians, by their Sufferings, were so inured to meeknesse and patience; when every one, for the honour of his Religion, and the safety of his person, was concerned in all respects to demean himself inno­cently and inoffensively; then is it now especially requisite, when (such en­gagements and restraints being taken off, Love being cooled, Persecution being extinct, the tongue being set loose from all extraordinary curbs) the transgression of this Duty is grown so prevalent and rife, that evil-speaking is almost as common as speaking, ordina­ry conversation extremely abounding therewith, that Ministers should dis­charge their office in dehorting and dis­suading from it.

Well indeed it were, if by their ex­ample of using mild and moderate dis­course, [Page 135] of abstaining from virulent in­vectives, tauntings and scoffings, good for little but to enflame anger, and in­fuse ill-will, they would lead men to good practice of this sort: for no exam­ples can be so wholsome, or so mischie­vous to this purpose, as those which come down from the Pulpit, the place of edification, backed with special au­thority and advantage.

However, it is to Preachers a ground of assurance, and matter of satisfaction, that in pressing this Duty they shall per­form their duty: their Text being not so much of their own chusing, as given them by S. Paul; they can surely scarce find a better to discourse upon: it can­not be a matter of small moment or use, which this great Master and Guide so expressely directeth us to insist upon. And to the observance of his Precept, so far as concerneth me, I shall immedi­ately apply my self.

It is then the Duty of all Christian people, (to be taught, and pressed on them,) not to reproach, or speak evil of any man. The which Duty, for your instruction, I shall first endeavour some­what to explain, declaring its import and extent; then, for your farther edi­fication, [Page 136] I shall inculcate it, proposing several inducements persuasive to the observance of it.

I. For Explication, we may first con­sider the object of it, no man; then the Act it self, which is prohibited, to blas­pheme, that is, to reproach, to revile, or (as we have it rendered) to speak evil.

NO MAN. S. Paul questionlesse did especially mean hereby to hinder the Christians at that time from reproa­ching the Jews and the Pagans among whom they lived, men in their lives very wicked and corrupt, men in opi­nion extremely dissenting from them, men who greatly did hate, and cruelly did persecute them; of whom there­fore they had mighty provocations and temptations to speak ill; their judge­ment of the persons, and their resent­ment of injuries, making it difficult to abstain from doing so. Whence by manifest analogy may be inferred, that the Object of this Duty is very large, indeed universal and unlimited: that we must forbear reproach not onely a­gainst pious and vertuous persons, a­gainst persons of our own judgment or [Page 137] party, against those who never did harm or offend us, against our relati­ons, our friends, our benefactours; in respect to whom there is no ground or temptation of ill-speaking; but even against the most unworthy and wicked persons, against those who most dis­coast in opinion and practice from us, against those who never did oblige us, yea those who have most disobliged us, even against our most bitter and spite­full enemies. There is no exception or excuse to be admitted from the quality, state, relation, or demeanour of men; the Duty (according to the proper sense, or due qualifications and limits of the act) doth extend to all men: for, Speak evil of no man.

As for the Act, it may be inquired what the word [...], to BLAS­PHEME, doth import. I answer, that it is to vent words concerning any person which do signify in us ill opinion, or contempt, anger, hatred, enmity con­ceived in our minds toward him; which are apt in him to kindle wrath, and breed ill bloud toward us; which tend to beget in others that hear ill conceit, or ill-will toward him; which are much destructive of his reputation, prejudicial [Page 138] to his interests, productive of dammage or mischief to him. It is otherwise in Scripture termed [...], to rail or re­vile, (to use bitter and ignominious language;Luk. 11. 45.) [...], to speak contume­liously; 2 Pet. 2. 11. [...], to bring railing accusation, Jud. 9. (or reproachfull cen­sure;Jam. 4. 11.) [...], to use obloquy, or obtrectation; Rom. 12. 14. [...], to curse, that is,Luk. 6. 28. to speak words importing that we do wish ill to a person.(2 Sam. 16. 10.)

Such is the language we are prohibi­ted to use. To which purpose we may observe, that whereas in our conversa­tion and commerce with men, there do frequently occurr occasions to speak of men and to men words apparently dis­advantageous to them, expressing our dissent in opinion from them, or a dis­like in us of their proceedings, we may doe this in different ways and terms; some of them gentle and moderate, sig­nifying no ill mind or disaffection to­ward them; others harsh and sharp, ar­guing height of disdain, disgust, or despite, whereby we bid them defiance, and shew that we mean to exasperate them. Thus, telling a man that we differ in judgment from him, or con­ceive him not to be in the right, and [Page 139] calling him a Liar, a Deceiver, a Fool; saying that he doeth amisse, taketh a wrong course, transgresseth the rule, and calling him dishonest, unjust, wicked; (to omit more odious and provoking names, unbecoming this place, and not deserving our notice;) are several ways of expressing the same things: whereof the latter, in relating passages concerning our Neighbour, or in debating cases with him, is prohibi­ted:(Act. 23. 3, 4, 5.) for thus the words reproaching, reviling, railing, cursing, and the like, do signify; and thus our Lord himself doth explain them, in his Divine Ser­mon, wherein he doth enact this Law; Whosoever (saith he) shall say to his bro­ther, Matt. 5. 22. RACA, (that is, Vain man, or Liar,) shall be in danger of the councill: but whosoever shall say, THOU FOOL, shall be in danger of Hell-fire; that is, he rendreth himself liable to a strict ac­count, and to severe condemnation be­fore God, who useth contemptuous and contumelious expressions toward his Neighbour, in proportion to the malig­nity of such expressions.

The reason of things also doth help to explain those words, and to shew why they are prohibited: because those [Page 140] harsh terms are needlesse; mild words serving as well to expresse the same things: because they are commonly un­just, loading men with greater defect or blame then they can be proved to deserve, or their actions do import: (for every man that speaketh falshood is not therefore a Liar, every man that erreth is not thence a Fool, every man that doeth amisse is not consequently Dishonest or wicked; the secret in­tentions and the habitual dispositions of men not being always to be collec­ted from their outward actions:) be­cause they are uncharitable, signifying that we entertain the worst opinions of men, and make the worst construction of their doings, and are disposed to shew them no favour or kindnesse: be­cause also they produce mischievous ef­fects, such as spring from the worst pas­sions raised by them.

This in gross is the meaning of the Precept. But since there are some o­ther Precepts seeming to clash with this; since there are cases wherein we are allowed to use the harsher sort of terms, there are great examples in ap­pearance thwarting this rule; therefore it may be requisite for determining the [Page 141] limits of our duty, and distinguishing it from transgression, that such exceptions or restrictions should be somewhat de­clared.

1. First then, we may observe, that it may be allowable to persons any­wise concerned in the prosecution or administration of Justice, to speak words which in private intercourse would be reproachfull. A Witnesse may impeach of crimes hurtfull to justice, or publick tranquillity; a Judge may challenge, may rebuke, may condemn an offender in proper terms, (or forms of speech prescribed by Law,) although most dis­gracefull and distastfull to the guilty: for it belongeth to the majesty of pu­blick Justice to be bold, blunt, severe; little regarding the concerns or passions of particular persons, in comparison to the publick welfare.

A Testimony therefore or Sentence against a criminal, which materially is a reproach, and morally would be such in a private mouth, is not yet formally so according to the intent of this rule. For practices of this kind, which serve the exigencies of Justice, are not to be interpreted as proceeding from anger, hatred, revenge, any bad passion or [Page 142] humour; but in way of needfull disci­pline for God's service, and common benefit of men. It is not indeed so much the Minister of justice, as God himself, our absolute Lord, as the Sovereign, God's representative, acting in the pu­blick behalf, as the Commonwealth it self, who by his mouth do rebuke the obnoxious person.

2. God's Ministers in Religious af­fairs, to whom the care of mens instruc­tion and edification is committed, are enabled to inveigh against sin and vice, who-ever consequentially may be tou­ched thereby: yea sometimes it is their duty, with severity and sharpnesse to reprove particular persons, not onely privately, but publickly, in order to their correction, and edification of o­thers.

Thus Saint Paul directeth Timothy; Them that sin (notoriously and scanda­lously,1 Tim. 5. 20. he meaneth) rebuke before all, 2 Tim. 4. 2. that others may fear: that is in a manner apt to make impression on the minds of the hearers, so as to scare them from like offences. And to Titus he writes, Rebuke them sharply, Tit. 1. 13. that they may be sound in the faith. Isa. 58. 1. And, Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, [Page 143] and shew my people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins, saith the Lord to the Prophet. Such are the charges and commissions laid on and granted to his Messengers.

Thus may we observe that God's Pro­phets of old,Vid. Hier [...] [...] Pelag. 1. 9. S. John the Baptist, our Lord himself, the Holy Apostles did in terms most vehement and biting re­prove the Age in which they lived, and some particular persons in them. The Prophets are full of declamations and invectives against the general cor­ruption of their Times, and against the particular manners of some persons in them.Isa. 1. 4. Ah sinfull nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil-doers, chil­dren that are corrupters! Jer. 9. 2, 3. They are all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men; and they bend their tongues like their bow for lies. Isa. 1. 23. Thy Princes are re­bellious, Hos. 9. 15. and companions of thieves; Ezek. 22. 6, 27. eve­ry one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherlesse, neither doth the cause of the widow come before them. Jer. 5. 31. & 14. 14. The Prophets prophesy falsly, and the Priests rule by their means. Hos. 6. 9. As troups of robbers wait for a man, so the company of Priests murther in the way by consent, Ezek. 22. 26. and commit lewdnesse. Mic. 3. 11. Zeph. 3. 4. [Page 144] Such is their style commonly. S. John the Baptist calleth the Scribes and Pha­risees Matt. 3. 7. a generation of vipers. Our Sa­viour speaketh of them in the same terms; calleth them anMatt. 16. 4. & 12. 34, 39. evil and adul­terous generation, Serpents, and children of vipers; Matt. 23. 13, &c. Hypocrites, painted sepul­chres, obscure graves, Matt. 15. 7, 14. 8. 16. 3. & 22. 18. ( [...],) blind Guides, Fools and blind, children of the Devil. Luk. 1 [...]. 1. S. Paul likewise calleth the Schismatical and heretical Teachers.Luk. 1 [...]. 44. Matt. 23. 24, 17. Joh. 8. 4 [...]. Phil. 3. 2. Dogs, false Apostles, evil and deceitfull workers, men of corrupt minds, Repro­bates, and abominable. With the like colours do S. Peter, 2 Cor. 11. 13. S. Jude, 1 Tim. 6. 5. and other the Apostles paint them.2 Tim. 3. 8. Which sort of speeches are to be supposed to pro­ceed,Tit. 1. 16. not from private passion or de­sign, but out of holy zeal for God's ho­nour, and from earnest charity toward men, for to work their amendment, and common edification. They were ut­tered also by special wisedom, and pe­culiar order; from God's authority, and in his name: so that as God by them is said to preach,2 Cor. 5. 20. to entreat, to warn,Col. 1. 28. and to exhort, so by them also he may be said to reprehend, and re­proach.

[Page 145] 3. Even private persons in due sea­son, with discretion and temper, may reprove others, whom they observe to commit sin, or follow bad courses, out of charitable design, and with hope to reclaim them. This was an office of charity imposed anciently even upon the Jews; much more doth it lie upon Christians, who are obliged more ear­nestly to tender the spiritual good of those who by the stricter and more ho­ly bands of brotherhood are allied to them.Levit. 19. 17. Thou shalt not hate thy brother; thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neigh­bour, and not suffer sin upon him, was a precept of the old Law: and, [...],1 Thess. 5. 14. to admonish the disorderly, is an Evangelical rule. Such persons we are enjoyned to shun and decline:1 Tim. 6. 5. but first we must endeavour by sober advice and admonition to reclaim them;Rom. 16. 17. we must not thus reject them till they ap­pear contumacious and incorrigible,Tit. 3. 10. re­fusing to hear us,2 Thess. 3. 6. or becoming deaf to reproof.Matt. 18. 17. This although it necessarily doth include setting out their faults, and charging blame on them, (answe­rable to their offences,) is not the cul­pable reproach here meant, it being needfull toward a wholsome effect, and [Page 146] proceeding from charitable intention.

4. Some vehemency (some smartness and sharpness) of speech may sometimes be used in defence of Truth, and im­pugning Errours of bad consequence; especially when it concerneth the inte­rest of Truth, that the reputation and authority of its adversaries should some­what be abased, or abated. If by a partial opinion or reverence toward them, however begotten in the minds of men, they strive to overbear or dis­countenance a good cause, their faults (so far as truth permitteth, and need requireth) may be detected and dis­played. For this cause particularly may we presume our Lord (otherwise so meek in his temper, and mild in his carriage toward all men) did characte­rize the Jewish Scribes in such terms, that their authority (being then so pre­valent with the people) might not pre­judice the Truth, and hinder the effi­cacy of his Doctrine. This is part of that [...],Jud. 3. that duty of contending earnestly for the faith▪ which is incumbent on us.

5. It may be excusable upon parti­cular emergent occasions, with some heat of language to expresse dislike of [Page 147] notorious wickednesse. As our Lord doth against the perverse incredulity and stupidity in the Pharisees,Matt. 17. 17. their profane misconstruction of his words and actions, their malicious opposing truth, and obstructing his endeavours in God's service. As S. Peter did to Simon Magus, Act. 8. 23. telling him, that he was in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. As S. Paul to Elymas the Sorcerer,Act. 13. 8, 10. when he withstood him, and desired to turn away the Deputy, Sergi­us, from the faith; O (said he, stirr'd with a holy zeal and indignation) thou full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the Devil, thou enemy of all righ­teousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? The same spirit which inabled him to inflict a sore punishment on that wicked wretch, did prompt him to use that sharp lan­guage toward him; unquestionably deserved, and seasonably pronounced. As also, when the High Priest comman­ded him illegally and unjustly to be misused, that speech from a mind justly sensible of such outrage broke forth, God shall smite thee, Act. 23. 3. thou whited wall. So, when Saint Peter presumptuously would have dissuaded our Lord from [Page 148] compliance with God's will, in under­going those crosses which were appoin­ted to him by God's decree, our Lord calleth him Satan; Matt. 16. 23. [...], Avant, Satan, thou art an offence unto me; for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that are of men.

These sort of speeches, issuing from just and honest indignation, are some­times excúsable, oftentimes commen­dable; especially when they come from persons eminent in authority, of nota­ble integrity, endued with special mea­sures of Divine grace, of wisedom, of goodnesse; such as cannot be suspected of intemperate anger, of ill nature, of ill will, of ill design.

In such cases as are above mentioned, a sort of Evill-speaking about our Neigh­bour may be allowable or excusable. But for fear of over-doing, great cau­tion and temper is to be used; and we should never apply any such limitations as cloaks to palliate unjust or unchari­table dealing. Generally it is more ad­visable, to suppresse such eruptions of passion, then to vent it; for seldom passion hath not inordinate motions joyned with it, or tendeth to good ends. And however it will doe well to reflect [Page 149] on those cases, and to remark some par­ticulars about them.

First, We may observe, that in all these cases all possible moderation, e­quity and candour are to be used; so that no Ill-speaking be practised beyond what is needfull, or convenient. Even in prosecution of offences, the bounds of truth, of equity, of humanity and clemency are not to be transgressed. A Judge must not lay on the most cri­minal person more blame, or contume­ly, then the case will bear, or then ser­veth the designs of justice. However our Neighbour doth incurr the calami­ties of sin and of punishment, we must not be insolent, or contemptuous to­ward him. So we may learn by that Law of Moses, back'd with a notable reason:Deut. 25. 2, 3. And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the Judge cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number. Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed; lest if he should exceed, and beat him above those stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee. Whence appears, that we should be carefull of not vilifying an offender beyond measure. And how [Page 150] mildly Governours should proceed in the administration of justice, the ex­ample of Joshua may teach us, who thus examineth Achan, the cause of so great mischief to the publick;Josh. 7. 19, 25. My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Is­rael, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done, hide it not from me. My son; what compella­tion could be more benign and kind? I pray thee; what language could be more courteous and gentle? give glory to God, and make confession; what words could be more inoffensively per­tinent? And when he sentenced that great Malefactour, the cause of so much mischief, this was all he said, Why hast thou troubled us? The Lord will trouble thee; words void of contumely or in­sulting, containing onely a close inti­mation of the cause, and a simple decla­ration of the event he was to under­go.

Secondly, Likewise Ministers, in the taxing sin and sinners, are to proceed with great discretion and caution, with much gentleness and meekness; signi­fying a tender pity of their infirmities, charitable desires of their good, the best opinion of them, and the best [Page 151] hopes for them, that may consist with any reason; according to those Apo­stolical rules: Gal. 6. 1. Brethren, if a man be o­vertaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meek­nesse; considering thy self, lest thou also be tempted:Rom. 15. 1. and, We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please our selves: and more expresly, 2 Tim. 2. 24, 25. A servant of the Lord must not fight, but be gentle toward all, apt to teach, patient, In meeknesse instructing those that oppose themselves. Thus did S. Peter temper his reproof of Simon Magus with this wholsome and com­fortable advice; Act. 8. 22. Repent therefore from this thy wickednesse, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.

Thirdly, As for fraternal correption, and reproof of faults, (when it is just and expedient to use it,) ordinarily the Reprehensie contumeliâ vacare debet. Neque monitio asper [...] sit, nec objurgatie contumeliosa. Ambros. de Offic. 3. 16. calmest and mildest way is the most proper, and most likely to obtain good successe: it commonly dothProv. 17. 1 [...]. in a more kindly manner convey the sense thereof into the heart,A reproof en­treth more in­to a wise man, then a hun­dred stripes into a [...]. and therein more pow­erfully worketh remorse, then the fierce and harsh way. Clearly to shew a man his fault, with the reason proving [Page 152] it such, so that he becometh through­ly convinced of it, is sufficient to breed in him regret, and to shame him before his own mind: to doe more, (in way of aggravation, [...], &c. Epict. 2. 12. of insulting on him, of inveigh­ing against him,) as it doth often not well consist with humanity, so it is seldome consonant to discretion, if we do, as we ought, seek his health and amendment. Hu­manity requireth, that when we under­take to reform our Neighbour, we should take care not to deform him; (not to discourage or displease him more then is necessary;) when we would correct his manners, that we should also consider his modesty, and consult his reputation; curam agentes (as Seneca speaketh) non tantùm salutis, Sen. de Clem. 1. 7. sed & honestae cicatricis, Vid. Chrys. in Matt. 9. 8. Or. [...]9. having care not onely to heal the wound, but to leave a comely scar behind. It a succense iniquitati, ut consulere me­mineris hu­manitatis. Be (adviseth S. Austin) so displeased with iniquity, as to consider and consult humanity: for, Zeal void of humanity, is not (saith S. Chrysostome) zeal, Aug. [...], &c. but rather animo­sity; and reproof not mixt with good will, appeareth a kind of malignity. We [Page 153] should so rebuke those who, by frailty or folly incident to mankind, have fallen into misdemeanours, that they may perceive we do sincerely pity their ill case, and tender their good; that we mean not to upbraid their weak­ness, or insult upon their misfortune; that we delight not to inflict on them more grief then is plainly needfull and unavoidable; that we are conscious and sensible of our own obnoxious­ness to the like slips or falls, and do consider, Gal. 6. 1. that we also may be tempted, and being tempted may be overborn. This they cannot perceive, or be per­suaded of, except we temper our speech with benignity and mildness. Such speechPleasant words are as an honey-comb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones. Prov. 16. 24. prudence also dictateth, as most usefull and hopefull for producing the good ends honest repre­hension doth aim at;A soft answer turneth a­way wrath; but grievous words stir up anger. Prov. 15. 1. it mollifieth and it melteth a stubborn heart, it subdueth and winneth a perverse will, it healeth distempered affections. Whereas rough­ly handling is apt to defeat or obstruct the cure; rubbing the soar doth tend to exasperate and inflame it. Harsh speech rendreth advice odious and un­savoury; [Page 154] savoury; driveth from it, and depri­veth it of efficacy: it turneth regret for a fault into displeasure and disdain against the reprover: it looks not like the dealing of a kind friend,2 Thess. 3. 15. [...]. but like the persecution of a spitefull enemy: it seemeth rather an ebullition of gall, or a defluxion from rancour, then an expression of good will: the offen­der will take it for a needless and pi­tiless tormenting, or for a proud and tyrannical domineering over him. He that can bear a friendly touch, will not endure to be lashed with angry and reproachfull words. In fine, all reproof ought to be seasoned with discretion, with candour, with moderation and meekness.

Fourthly, Likewise in defence of truth, and maintenance of a good cause, we may observe, that commonly the fairest language is most proper and ad­vantageous, and that reproachfull or foul terms are most improper and pre­judicial. A calm and meek way of discoursing doth much advantage a good cause, as arguing the patron thereof to have confidence in the cause it self, and to rely upon its strength; that he is in a temper fit to apprehend [Page 155] it himself, and to maintain it; that he propoundeth it as a friend, wishing the hearer for his own good to follow it, leaving him the liberty to judge, and chuse for himself.Qui dum di­cit, malus vi­detur, [...]tique m [...]lè dicit. Qui [...]t. 6. 2. Nisi qu [...]d i [...] ­p [...]ritos eti [...] ani [...]sos at­qu [...] iracundes esse manife­stum est, dum per i [...]piam consilii & ser [...]is ad i [...]eu [...]diam facilè vertu [...] ­tur. Firmil. apud Cyp. Ep. 75. But rude speech, and contemptuous reflexions on persons, as they do signifie nothing to the questi­on, so they commonly bring much dis­advantage and dammage to the cause, creating mighty prejudices against it: they argue much impotency in the ad­vocate, and consequently little strength in what he maintains; that he is little able to judge well, and altogether un­apt to teach others: they intimate a diffidence in himself concerning his cause, and that, despairing to maintain it by reason, he seeks to uphold it by passion; that, not being able to con­vince by fair means, he would bear down by noise and clamour; that, not skilling to get his suit quietly, he would extort it by force, obtruding his con­ceits violently as an enemy, or impo­sing them arbitrarily as a Tyrant. Thus doth he really disparage and slur his cause, however good and defensible in it self.

A modest and friendly style doth [...]te truth; it, like its authour, doth [Page 156] usually reside (not in the rumbling wind, 1 King. 19. 11, 12. nor in the shaking earthquake, nor in the raging fire, —& inh [...] ­manum est, & ipsi qui dicit inutile; tum causae contra­rium, quia planè & ad­versarii tiunt, & inimi [...]i: & quantu­lumcunque his virium est, contume­liâ augetur. Quint. 12. 9. but) in the small still voice: sounding in this, it is most audible, most penetrant, and most ef­fectual: thus propounded; it is willing­ly hearkned to; for men have no aver­sation from hearing those who seem to love them, and wish them well. It is easily conceived; no prejudice or pas­sion clouding the apprehensive facul­ties: it is readily embraced; no ani­mosity withstanding or obstructing it. It is the sweetnesse of the lips, Prov. 16. 21. [...]. Chrys. in 2 Tim. Or. 6. which (as the Wise-man telleth us) encreaseth learning; disposing a man to hear les­sons of good doctrine, rendring him capable to understand them, insinuating and impressing them upon the mind: the affections being thereby unlocked, the passage becomes open to the Rea­son.

But it is plainly a very preposterous method of instructing, [...]. Greg. Naz. Or. 26. of deciding controversies, of begetting peace, to vex and anger those concerned by ill language. Nothing surely doth more hinder the efficacy of discourse, and [Page 157] prevent conviction, [...]. Naz. Or. 32. then doth this course, upon many obvious accounts. It doth first put in a strong bar to at­tention: for no man willingly doth afford an ear to him, whom he concei­veth disaffected toward him; which opinion harsh words infallibly will pro­duce: no man can expect to hear truth from him, whom he apprehendeth dis­ordered in his own mind, whom he seeth rude in his proceedings, whom he taketh to be unjust in his dealing; as men certainly will take those to be, [...]. Chrys. Tom. 5. or. 59. who presume to revile others for using their own judgment freely, and dissen­ting from them in opinion. Again, this course doth blind the hearer's mind, so that he cannot discern what he that pretends to instruct him doth mean, or how he doth assert his doctrine. Truth will not be discerned through the smoak of wrathfull expressions; right being defaced by foul language will not ap­pear; passion being excited will not suffer a man to perceive the sense, or the force of an argument. The will also thereby is hardned, and hindred from submitting to truth. In such a case, non persuadebis, etiamsi persuase­ris; although you stop his mouth, you [Page 158] cannot subdue his heart; although he can no longer fight, yet he never will yield: animosity raised by such usage rendreth him invincibly obstinate in his conceits and courses. Briefly, from this proceeding men become unwilling to mark, unfit to apprehend, indispo­sed to embrace any good instruction or advice: it maketh them indocile and intractable, averse from better instructi­on, pertinacious in their opinions, and refractary in their ways.

Every man (saith the Wise-man) shall kisse his lips that giveth a right an­swer: Prov. 24. 26. but no man surely will be ready to kisse those lips which are embittered with reproach, or defiled with dirty language.

It is said of Pericles, [...]. that with thun­dring and lightning he put Greece into confusion: such discourse may serve to confound things, it seldome tendeth to compose them. If Reason will not pierce,Chrys. in 2 Tim. 2. 24. [...]. Rage will scarce avail to drive it in. Satyrical virulency may vex men sorely, but it hardly e­ver soundly converts them. Few become wiser or better by ill words. Children may be [Page 159] frighted into compliance by loud and severe increpations; but men are to be allured by rational persuasion back'd with courteous usage: they may be sweetly drawn, they cannot be violently driven to change their judgment and practice. Whence that advice of the Apostle,2 Tim. 2. 25. With meeknesse instruct those that oppose themselves, doth no lesse fa­vour of wisedom, then of goodnesse.This case is like the other cases, where­in the prac­tice of good and great men, al­though ex­cusable, is not yet ex­emplary: as the heroical acts of Da­vid, of Samp­son, of Ehud, of Phine as, of Elias, of Moses; Da­vid's Duel, Sampson's Suicide, Mo­ses's slaying the Egyptian, Ehud's stab­bing the K. of Moab, E­lia [...]'s calling for fire, by extraordina­and peculiar inflict.

Fifthly, As for the examples of ex­traordinary persons, which in some ca­ses do seem to authorize the practice of Evil-speaking, we may consider, that as they had especial commission enabling them to doe some things beyond ordi­nary standing rules, wherein they are not to be imitated; as they had especi­al illumination and direction, which preserved them from swerving in parti­cular cases from truth and equity; so the tenour of their life did evidence, that it was the glory of God, the good of men, the necessity of the case, which moved them to it. And of them also we may observe, that in divers occasi­ons, (yea generally, whenever onely their private credit or interest were concerned,) although grievously pro­voked, they did out of meeknesse, pa­tience, [Page 160] and charity, wholly forbear re­proachfull speech. Our Saviour, who sometimes upon special reason in his discourses used such harsh words, yet when he was most spitefully accused, reproached, and persecuted, did not open his mouth, or return one angry word:1 Pet. 2. 23. Being reviled, he did not (as S. Peter, proposing his example to us, telleth us) revile again; suffering, he did not threaten. He used the softest language to Judas, to the Souldiers, to Pilate and Herod, to the Priests, &c. And the Apostles, who sometimes in­veigh so zealously against the opposers and perverters of truth, did in their pri­vate conversation and demeanour strict­ly observe their own rules of abstinence from reproach:1 Cor. 4. 12. Being reviled we blesse, Rom. 12. 14. being persecuted we suffer it; so doth S. Paul represent their practice. And in reason we should rather follow them in this their ordinary course, then in their extraordinary sallies of practice.

In fine, however in some cases and circumstances the matter may admit such exceptions, so that all language dis­gracefull to our Neighbour is not ever culpable; yet the cases are so few and rare in comparison, the practice com­monly [Page 161] is so dangerous and ticklish, that worthily forbearing to reproach doth bear the style of a general Rule: and particularly, (for clearer direction;) we are in the following cases obliged carefully to shun it; or in speaking a­bout our Neighbour we must observe these Cautions.

1. We should never in severe terms inveigh-against any man without reaso­nable warrant, or presuming upon a good call and commission thereto. As every man should not assume to himself the power of administring justice, (of trying, sentencing, and punishing of­fenders,) so must not every man take upon him to speak against those who seem to doe ill; which is a sort of pu­nishment, including the infliction of smart and dammage upon the persons concerned. Every man hath indeed a commission, in due place and season, with discretion and moderation to ad­monish his Neighbour offending; but otherwise to speak ill of him, no pri­vate man hath just right or authority; and therefore in presuming to doe it, he is disorderly and irregular, trespassing beyond his bounds, usurping an undue power to himself.

[Page 162] 2. We should never speak ill of any man without apparent just cause. It must be just: we must not reproach men for things innocent, or indifferent; for not concurring in disputable opini­ons with us, for not complying with our humour, for not serving our interest, for not doing any thing to which they are not obliged, or for using their li­berty in any case: it must be at least some considerable fault, which we can so much as tax. It must also be clear and certain, notorious and palpable; for to speak ill upon slender conjectures, or doubtfull suspicions, is full of ini­quity.Jud. 10▪ [...], They rail at things which they know not, is part of those wicked mens character, whom S. Jude doth so severely repre­hend. If indeed, these conditions be­ing wanting, we presume to reproach any man, we do therein no lesse then slander him; which to doe is unlawfull in any case, is in truth a most diabolical and detestable crime. To impose odi­ous names and characters on any person, which he deserveth not, or without ground of truth, is to play the Devil; and Hell it self scarce will own a fouler practice.

[Page 163] 3. We should not cast reproach upon any man without some necessary rea­son. In charity (that Charity which covereth all sins, Prov. 10. 12. which covereth a mul­titude of sins) we are bound to connive at the defects,1 Pet. 4. 8. and to conceal the faults of our brethren;1 Cor. 13. 4 [...] to extenuate and ex­cuse them, when apparent, so far as we may with truth and equity. We must not therefore ever produce them to light, or prosecute them with severity, except very needfull occasion urgeth: such as is the glory and service of God, the maintenance of truth, the vindica­tion of innocence, the preservation of publick justice and peace; the amend­ment of our Neighbour himself, or se­curing others from contagion. Barring such reasons, (really being, not affec­tedly pretended,) we are bound not so much as to disclose, as to touch our Neighbour's faults; much more not to blaze them about, not to exaggerate them by vehement invectives.

4. We should never speak ill of any man beyond measure: be the cause ne­ver so just, the occasion never so ne­cessary, we should yet no-wise be im­moderate therein, exceeding the bounds prescribed by truth, equity, and huma­nity. [Page 164] We should never speak worse of any man what-ever then he certainly deserveth, according to the most fa­vourable construction of his doings; never more then the cause absolutely re­quireth. We should rather be carefull to fall short of what in rigourous truth might be said against him, then in the least to passe beyond it. The best cause had better seem to suffer a little by our reservednesse in its defence, then any man be wronged by our aspersing him; for God, the patron of truth and right, is ever able to secure them without the succour of our unjust and uncharitable dealing. The contrary practice hath in­deed within it a spice of Slander, that is, of the worst iniquity.

5. We must never speak ill of any man out of bad principles, or for bad ends.

No sudden or rash Anger should in­stigate us thereto.Eph. 4. 31. For, Let all bitter­nesse, Col. 3. 8. and wrath, and anger, and cla­mour, and evil-speaking be put away from you, with all malice, is the Apostolical precept: they are all associates and kin­dred, which are to be cast away to­gether. Such anger it self is culpable, as a work of the flesh, and therefore to [Page 165] be suppressed; and all its brood there­fore is also to be smothered: the daugh­ter of such a mother cannot be legiti­mate.Jam. 1. 20. The wrath of man worketh not the righteousnesse of God.

We must not speak ill out of invete­rate Hatred or Ill-will. For this murthe­rous, this viperous disposition should it self be rooted out of our hearts: what­ever issueth from it cannot be other­wise then very bad; it must be a poi­sonous breath that exhaleth from that soul source.

We must not be provoked thereto by any Revengefull disposition, or ran­corous Spleen, in regard to any injuries or discourtesies received. For, as we must not revenge our selves, or render evil in any other way; so particularly not in this, which is commonly the speciall instance expressly prohibited. Render not evil for evil, 1 Pet. 3. 9. (saith Saint Peter) nor railing for railing; but contrariwise blesse, or speak well: and, Blesse them (saith our Lord) which curse you; Matt. 5. 44. Bless (saith Saint Paul) and curse not. Rom. 12. 14.

We must not also doe it out of Con­tempt:Deut. 25. 3. for we are not to slight our brethren in our hearts. No man real­ly [Page 166] (considering what he is, whence he came, how he is related, what he is ca­pable of) can be despicable. Extreme naughtinesse is indeed contemptible; but the unhappy person that is engaged therein,He that is void of wise­dom despiseth his neighbour. Prov. 11. 12. is rather to be pitied, then de­spised. However, Charity bindeth us to stifle contemptuous motions of heart, and not to vent them in vilifying ex­pression. Particularly, it is a barba­rous practice, out of contempt to re­proach persons for natural imperfecti­ons, for meannesse of condition, for unlucky disasters, for any involuntary defects: this being indeed to reproach Mankind, unto which such things are incident; to reproach Providence, from the disposal whereof they do pro­ceed.Prov. 17. 5. Whoso mocketh the poor, despiseth his Maker, saith the Wise-man: and the same may be said of him that reproach­fully mocketh him that is dull in parts, deformed in body, weak in health or strength, defective in any such way.

Likewise we must not speak ill out of Envy; because others do excell us in any good quality, or exceed us in fortune. To harbour this base and ug­ly disposition in our minds, is unwor­thy of a Man, (who should delight in [Page 167] all good springing up any-where, and befalling any man, naturally allied un­to him;) it is most unworthy of a Christian, who should tender his bro­ther's good as his own,Rom. 12. 15. and rejoyce with those that rejoyce. From thence to be drawn to cast reproach upon any man, is horrible and hainous wickednesse.

Neither should we ever use reproach as a means of compassing any Design we do affect or aim at: 'tis an unwar­rantable engine of raising us to wealth, dignity, or repute. To grow by the diminution, to rise by the depression, to shine by the eclipse of others, to build a fortune upon the ruines of our Neighbour's reputation, is that which no honourable mind can affect, no ho­nest man will endeavour. Our own wit, courage, and industry, managed with God's assistence and blessing, are sufficient, and onely lawfull instruments of prosecuting honest enterprises; we need not, we must not in stead of them employ our Neighbour's disgrace: no worldly good is worth purchasing at such a rate, no project worth atchie­ving by such foul ways.

Neither should we out of Malignity, to cherish or gratify ill humour, use [Page 168] this practice. It is observable of some persons, that not out of any formed displeasure, grudge, or particular dis­affection, nor out of any particular de­sign, but meerly out of a [...], an ill disposition, springing up from na­ture, or contracted by use, they are apt to carp at any action, and with sharp reproach to bite any man that comes in their way, thereby feeding and soothing that evil inclination. But as this inhumane and currish humour should be corrected, and extirpated from our hearts; so should the issues thereof at our mouths be stopped: the bespattering our Neighbour's good name should never afford any satisfac­tion or delight unto us.

Nor out of Wantonnesse should we speak ill, for our divertisement or sport. For our Neighbour's reputation is too great and precious a thing to be played with, or offered up to sport; we are very foolish in so disvaluing it, very naughty in so misusing it. Our wits are very barren, our brains are ill fur­nished with store of knowledge, if we can find no other matter of conversa­tion.

[Page 169] Nor out of Negligence and inadver­tency should we sputter out reproach­full speech; shooting ill words at ro­vers, or not regarding who stands in our way. Among all temerities this is one of the most noxious, and therefore very culpable.

In fine, we should never speak con­cerning our Neighbour from any other principle then Charity, or to any other intent but what is charitable; such as tendeth to his good, or at least is con­sistent therewith.1 Cor. 16. 14. Let all your things (saith S. Paul) be done in charity: and words are most of the things we doe concerning our Neighbour, wherein we may expresse Charity. In all our speeches therefore touching him, we should plainly shew, that we have a care of his reputation, that we tender his interest, that we even desire his content and repose. Even when rea­son and need do so require, that we should disclose and reprehend his faults, we may, we should by the manner and scope of our speech signify thus much. Which rule were it observed, if we should never speak ill otherwise then out of charity, surely most Ill-speaking would be cut off; most, I fear, of our [Page 170] tattling about others, much of our gos­sipping would be marr'd.

Indeed so far from bitter or sour our language should be, that it ought to be sweet and pleasant;Prov. 15. 26. & 16. 24. so far from rough and harsh, that it should be cour­teous and obliging; so far from signify­ing wrath, ill-will, contempt, or ani­mosity, that it should expresse tender affection, good esteem, sincere respect toward our brethren; and be apt to produce the like in them toward us: the sense of them should be gratefull to the heart; the very sound and accent of them should be delightfull to the ear.Rom. 15. 2. Every one should please his neigh­bour for his good to edification. 1 Cor. 10. 33. Our words should always be [...],Col. 4. 6. with grace, seasoned with salt; they should have the grace of courtesie,Charitas—cùm arguit mitis est, cùm blanditur simplex est: piè solet sae­vire, sine dolo mulcere; pa­ [...]ienter novit irasei, humi­liter indigna­ri. S. Bern. Ep. 2. they should be seasoned with the salt of discretion, so as to be sweet and savoury to the hea­rers. Commonly ill language is a cer­tain sign of inward enmity and ill-will. Good-will is wont to shew it self in good terms; it cloatheth even its grief handsomely, and its displeasure carrieth favour in its face: its rigour is civil and gentle, temper'd with pity for the faults and errours which it disliketh, [Page 171] with the desire of their amendment and recovery whom it reprehendeth. It would inflict no more evil then is ne­cessary; it would cure its Neighbour's disease without exasperating his pati­ence, troubling his modesty, or im­pairing his credit. As it always jud­geth candidly, so it never condemneth extremely.

II. But so much for the explication of this Precept, and the directive part of our discourse. I shall now brief­ly propound some inducements to the observance thereof.

1. Let us consider, that nothing more then railing and reviling is opposite to the nature, and inconsistent with the te­nour of our Religion; the which (as even a Heathen did observe of it) nil nisi justum suadet, Ammian. Marcell. & le­ne, Lingua Christum confessa non sit maledica, non tur­bulenta, non conviciis & litibus perstrepens audia­tur. Cypr. de Vnit. Eccl. Conviciis & maledictis quaeso vos abstinete; quia neque maledici regnum Dei consequentur; & lingua quae Christum confessa est, incolumis & pura cum suo honore servanda est. Cypr. Ep. 7. doth recommend, nothing but what is very just and mild: which propoundeth the prac­tices of Charity, Meeknesse, Patience, Peaceablenesse, Moderation, Equity, Ala­crity or good humour, as its principal laws, and decla­reth them the chief fruits of [Page 172] the Divine Spirit, and Grace: which chargeth us to curb and compose all our Passions; more particularly to restrain and represse Anger, Animosity, Envy, Malice, and such like dispositions, as the fruits of carnality and corrupt lust: which consequently drieth up all the sources, or dammeth up the sluces of bad language.1 Pet. 4. 8. As it doth above all things oblige us to bear no ill-will in our hearts, so it chargeth us to vent none with our mouths.

2. It is therefore often expresly con­demned and prohibited as evil. 'Tis the property of the wicked, a character of those who work iniquity, Psal. 64. 3. to whet their tongues like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words.

3. No practice hath more severe pu­nishments denounced to it then this. The Railer (and it is indeed a very proper and fit punishment for him, he being exceedingly-bad company) is to be banished out of all good Society; thereto S. Paul adjudgeth him:1 Cor. 5. 11. I have (saith he) now written unto you, not to keep company, if any man that is cal­led a brother be a fornicatour, or cove­tous, or an idolater, or a Railer, or a [Page 173] drunkard, or an extortioner, with such an one not to eat. Ye see what compa­ny the Railer hath in the Text, and with what a crew of people he is cou­pled: but no good company he is al­lowed other-where; every good Chri­stian should avoid him as a blot, and a pest of conversation:Hinc intelli­gere possumus quàm gravis sit & pernici­osa maledic­tio, quando, etiamsi alia bona adfue­rint, sola ex­cludit à coelo. Salv. de Gu­ber. Dei lib. 3. and finally he is sure to be excluded from the blessed Society above in Heaven; for1 Cor. 6. 10.nei­ther thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor Revilers, nor extortioners shall inhe­rit the Kingdom of God: and,Apoc. 22. 15. Without (without the heavenly city) are Dogs, (saith S. John in his Revelation,) that is, those chiefly, who out of currish spite or malignity do frowardly bark at their Neighbours, or cruelly bite them with reproachfull language.

4. If we look upon such language in its own nature, what is it but a sym­ptome of a foul, a weak, a disordered and distempered mind? 'Tis the smoak of inward rage and malice: 'tis a stream that cannot issue from a sweet spring: 'tis a storm, that cannot bluster out of a calm region.Prov. 15. 26. The words of the pure are pleasant words, as the Wise-man saith.

[Page 174] 5. This practice doth plainly signify low spirit, ill breeding, and bad man­ners; and thence misbecometh any wise, any honest, any honourable per­son. It agreeth to Children, who are unapt, and unaccustomed to deal in matters considerable, to squabble; to Women of meanest rank, (apt by na­ture, or custome, to be transported with passion,) to scold. In our mo­dern languages it is termed Villany, as being proper for rustick Boors, or men of coursest education and employment; who, having their minds debased by being conversant in meanest affairs, do vent their sorry passions, and bicker about their petty concernments, in such strains; who also, being not ca­pable of a fair reputation, or sensible of disgrace to themselves, do little va­lue the credit of others, or care for aspersing it. But such language is un­worthy of those persons, and cannot easily be drawn from them, who are wont to exercise their thoughts about nobler matters, who are versed in af­fairs manageable onely by calm delibe­ration and fair persuasion, not by im­petuous and provocative rudenesse; the which do never work otherwise upon [Page 175] masculine souls, then so as to procure disdain, and resistence. Such persons, knowing the benefit of a good name, being wont to possesse a good repute, prizing their own credit as a considera­ble good, will never be prone to be­reave others of the like by opprobri­ous speech.In quo admi­rari soleo gra­vitatem & justitiam & sapientiam Caesaris, qui nunquam nisi honorificentissimè Pompeium ap­pellat. Cic. Epist. Tom. 6. 6. A noble enemy will ne­ver speak of his enemy in bad terms.

We may farther consider, that all wise, all honest, all ingenuous persons have an aversation from ill speaking, and cannot entertain it with any acceptance or complacence; that onely ill-natured, unworthy and naughty people are its willing auditours, or do abett it with applause. The good man, in the 15. Psalm,Psal. 15. 3. non accipit opprobrium, doth not take up, or accept, a reproach against his neighbour: Prov. 17. 4. but A wicked doer (saith the Wise-man) giveth heed to false lips, and a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue. And what reasonable man will doe that which is disgustfull to the wise and good, is gratefull onely to the foolish and baser sort of men? I pretermit, [Page 176] that using this sort of language doth incapacitate a man for to benefit his Neighbour,It is always taken as an argument of ill-will. and defeateth his endea­vours for his edification, disparaging a good cause,Maledicus à malefico non distat, nisi oc­casione. prejudicing the defence of truth, obstructing the effects of good instruction,Quint. 12. 9. and wholsome reproof; as we did before remark and declare. Farther,

8. He that useth this kind of speech doth, as harm and trouble others, so create many great inconveniencies and mischiefs to himself thereby. Nothing so enflameth the wrath of men, so pro­voketh their enmity, so breedeth lasting hatred and spite, as do contumelious words. They are oftenthe scourge of the tongue, Job 5. 21. Prov. 12. 18. There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword. Psal. 57. 4. & 59. 7. & 64. 3. Psal. 52. 2. sharp rasour. Prov. 30. 14. knives. called swords and arrows; and as such they pierce deeply, and cause most grievous smart; which men feeling are enraged, and ac­cordingly will strive toThe froward tongue shall be cut out, Prov. 10. 31. requite them in the like manner, and in all other ob­vious ways of revenge. Hence strife, clamour and tumult, care, suspicion and fear, danger and trouble, sorrow and regret, do seise on the Reviler; and he is sufficiently punished for this dealing. No man can otherwise then live in perpetual fear of reciprocal like usage from him, whom he is conscious [Page 177] of having so abused. Whence, if not justice, or charity toward others, yet love, and pity of our selves, should persuade us to forbear it as disquietfull, incommodious, and mischievous to us.

We should indeed certainly enjoy much love, much concord, much qui­et, we should live in great safety and security, we should be exempted from much care and fear, if we would re­strain our selves from abusing and offen­ding our Neighbour in this kind: being conscious of so just and innocent de­meanour toward him, we should con­verse with him in a pleasant freedom and confidence, not suspecting any bad language or ill usage from him.

9. Hence with evidently-good rea­son is he that useth such language cal­led a Fool, and he that abstaineth from it is commended as wise.Prov. 18. 6, 7. A fool's lips enter into contention, and his mouth cal­leth for strokes. A fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.Prov. 10. 19. He that refraineth his tongue is wise.Prov. 12. 18. In the tongue of the wise is health. He that keepeth his lips keepeth his life:Prov. 13. 3. but he that openeth wide his mouth (that is, in evil-speaking, gaping with clamour and vehemency) shall have de­struction. [Page 178] The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious:Eccles 10. 12. but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.Prov. 18. 21. Death and life are in the power of the tongue; and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof; that is, of the one or the other, an­swerably to the kind of speech they chuse.

In fine, very remarkable is that ad­vice, or resolution of the grand point concerning the best way of living hap­pily,Psal. 34. 12, 13. in the Psalmist: What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Abstinence from ill speaking he seemeth to propose as the first step toward the fruition of a durably-happy life.

10. Lastly, we may consider, that it is a grievous perverting the design of Speech, (that excellent faculty, which so much distinguisheth us from, so highly advanceth us above other crea­tures,) to use it to the defaming and disquieting our Neighbour. It was given us as an instrument of beneficial commerce, and delectable conversati­on; that with it we might assist and advise, might chear and comfort one another: we therefore in employing it [Page 179] to the disgrace, vexation, dammage, or prejudice in any kind of our Neigh­bour, do foully abuse it; and so doing, render our selves indeed worse then dumb beasts: for,Mutos n [...] ­sci, & egere omni ratione satius fuisset, quàm provi­dentiae mune­ra in mutu­am perniciem convertere. Quint. 12. 1. better far it were that we could say nothing, then that we should speak ill.

Now the God of grace and peace—make us perfect in every good work to doe his will,Heb. 13. 20, 21. working in us that which is well­pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

The Fifth Sermon.

PROV. 10. 18.‘He that uttereth Slander is a Fool.’

GEneral Declamations against Vice and Sin are indeed excellently usefull, as rouzing men to con­sider and look about them: but they do often want effect, because they onely raise confused apprehensions of things, and indeterminate propensions to action; the which usually, before men throughly perceive or resolve what they should practise, do decay and vanish. As he that cries out fire doth stir up people, and inspireth them with a kind of hovering tendency eve­ry way; yet no man thence to purpose moveth, untill he be distinctly infor­med where the mischief is; then do they, who apprehend themselves con­cerned, run hastily to oppose it: So, [Page 182] till we particularly discern where our offences lie, (till we distinctly know the hainous nature and the mischievous consequences of them,) we scarce will effectually apply our selves to correct them. Whence it is requisite, that men should be particularly acquainted with their sins, and by proper arguments be dissuaded from them.

In order whereto I have now selec­ted one sin to describe, and dissuade from, being in nature as vile, and in practice as common, as any other what­ever that hath prevailed among men. It is Slander, a sin which in all times and places hath been epidemical and rise; but which especially doth seem to reign and rage in our Age and Coun­trey.

There are principles innate to men, which ever have, and ever will incline them to this offence. Eager appetites to secular and sensual goods; violent passions, urging the prosecution of what men affect; wrath and displeasure a­gainst those who stand in the way of compassing their desires; emulation and envy toward those who hap to succeed better, or to attain a greater share in such things; excessive self-love; un­accountable [Page 183] malignity and vanity, are in some degrees connatural to all men, and ever prompt them to this dealing, as appearing the most efficacious, com­pendious and easie way of satisfying such appetites, of promoting such de­signs, of discharging such passions. Slander thence hath always been a principal engine, whereby covetous, ambitious, envious, ill-natured and vain persons have strove to supplant their competitours, and advance themselves; meaning thereby to procure, what they chiefly prize and like, wealth, or dig­nity, or reputation, favour and power in the court, respect and interest with the people.

But from especial causes our Age peculiarly doth abound in this practice: for, besides the common dispositions in­clining thereto, there are conceits new­ly coined, and greedily entertained by many, which seem purposely levelled at the disparagement of Piety, Charity, and Justice, substituting Interest in the room of Conscience, authorizing and commending, for good and wise, all ways serving to private advantage. There are implacable dissensions, fierce animosities, and bitter zeals sprung up; [Page 184] there is an extreme curiosity, nicenesse, and delicacy of judgement; there is a mighty affectation of seeming wise and witty by any means; there is a great unsettlement of mind, and corruption of manners, generally diffused over people: from which sources it is no wonder that this floud hath so over­flown, that no banks can restrain it, no fences are able to resist it; so that ordinary conversation is full with it, and no demeanour can be secure from it.

If we do mark what is done in many (might I not say, in most?) companies, what is it, but one telling malicious stories of, or fastning odious characters upon another? What do men com­monly please themselves in so much, as in carping and harshly censuring, in defaming and abusing their Neighbours? Is it not the sport and divertisement of many, to cast dirt in the faces of all they meet with; to bespatter any man with foul imputations? Doth not in every corner a Momus lurk, from the venome of whose spitefull or petulant tongue no eminency of rank, dignity of place, or sacrednesse of office, no innocence or integrity of life, no wise­dom [Page 185] or circumspection in behaviour, no good nature, or benignity in dea­ling and carriage, can protect any per­son? Do not men assume to themselves a liberty of telling Romances, and fra­ming characters concerning their Neigh­bour, as freely as a Poet doth about Hector or Turnus, Thersites or Draucus? Do they not usurp a power of playing with, of tossing about, of tearing in pieces their Neighbour's good name, as if it were the veriest toy in the world? Do not many, having a form of godli­nesse, (some of them demurely, others confidently, both without any sense of, or remorse for what they doe,) back­bite their brethren? Is it not grown so common a thing to asperse causelesly, that no man wonders at it, that few dislike, that scarce any detest it? that most notorious Calumniatours are heard, not onely with patience, but with plea­sure; yea are even held in vogue and reverence, as men of a notable talent, and very serviceable to their party? so that Slander seemeth to have lost its nature, and not to be now an odious sin, but a fashionable humour, a way of pleasing entertainment, a fine knack, or curious feat of policy; so that no [Page 186] man at least taketh himself or others to be accountable for what is said in this way? Is not, in fine, the case become such, that whoever hath in him any love of truth, any sense of justice or honesty, any spark of charity toward his brethren, shall hardly be able to sa­tisfie himself in the conversations he meeteth; but will be tempted, with the Holy Prophet, to wish himself se­questred from society, and cast into so­litude; repeating those words of his, Oh that I had in the wildernesse a lod­ging-place of way-faring men, Jer. 9. 2, 3. & 6. 28. that I might leave my people, Ezek. 22. 9. and go from them: for they are—an assembly of treacherous men, and they bend their tongues like their bow for lies? This he wished in an Age so resembling ours, that I fear the description with equal patnesse may sute both:Jer. 9. 4, 5. Take ye heed (said he then, and may we not advise the like now?) every one of his neighbour, and trust ye not in any brother: for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbour will walk with slanders. They will de­ceive every one his neighbour, and will not speak the truth: they have taught their tongue to speak lies, and weary themselves to commit iniquity.

[Page 187] Such being the state of things, obvious to experience, no discourse may seem more needfull, or usefull, then that which serveth to correct or check this practice: the which I shall endeavour to doe, 1. by describing the Nature, 2. by declaring the Folly of it; or shewing it to be very true which the Wise-man here asserteth, He that utte­reth Slander is a Fool. The which par­ticulars I hope so to prosecute, that a­ny man shall be able easily to discern, and ready heartily to detest this practice.

I. For explication of its Nature, we may describe Slander to be the uttering false (or equivalent to false, morally false) speech against our Neighbour, in prejudice to his fame, his safety, his welfare, or concernment in any kind, out of malignity, vanity, rashness, ill nature, or bad design. That which is in Holy Scripture forbidden and reproved under several names and notions; of Exod. 20. 16. bearing false witnesse, Psal. 35. 11. false accusation, Jud. 9. 2 Pet. 2. 11. railing censure, Luk. 3. 14. & 19. 8. sycophantry, Levit. 19. 16. Prov. 18. 8. & 26. 20. tale­bearing, Prov. 16. 28. Rom. 1. 29. 2 Cor. 12. 20. whispering, Psal. 15. 3. Rom. 1. 30. backbiting, Jer. 9. 4. sup­planting, Psal. 15. 3. taking up reproach: which terms some of them do signifie the na­ture, others denote the special kinds, [Page 188] others imply the maners, others suggest the ends of this practice. But it seemeth most fully intelligible by observing the several kinds and degrees thereof; as also by reflecting on the divers ways and manners of practising it.

The principall kinds thereof I ob­serve to be these.

1. The grossest kind of Slander is that which in the Decalogue is called Bearing false testimony against our neigh­bour; that is, flatly charging him with facts the which he never committed, and is no wise guilty of. As in the case of Naboth, when men were sub­orned to say,1 King. 21. 13. Naboth did blaspheme God and the King: and as was David's case,Psal. 35. 11. when he thus complained, False witnesses did rise up, they laid to my charge things that I knew not of. This kind in the highest way (that is, in ju­dicial proceedings) is more rare; and of all men, they who are detected to practise it, are held most vile and infa­mous; as being plainly the most per­nicious and perillous instruments of in­justice, the most desperate enemies of all mens right and safety that can be. But also out of the Court there are many Knights errant of the post, whose [Page 189] business it is to run about scattering false reports; sometimes loudly pro­claiming them in open companies, sometimes closely whispering them in dark corners; thus infecting conversa­tion with their poisonous breath: these no lesse notoriously are guilty of this kind, as bearing always the same malice, and sometimes breeding as ill effects.

2. Another kind is, Affixing scanda­lous names, injurious epithets, and odi­ous characters upon persons, which they deserve not.Num. 16. 3, 13, 14. As when Corah and his complices did accuse Moses of being ambitious, unjust, and tyrannical: when the Pharisees called our Lord an Im­postour,John 19. 7, 21. a Blasphemer,Matt. 26. 65. a Sorcerer,Matt. 9. 3. & 12. 24. a Glutton and Wine-bibber,Matt. 11. 19. an Incendi­ary,Luk. 23. 2, 5, 14. and Perverter of the people, one that spake against Caesar, and forbad to give tribute: John 19. 12. Luk. 23. 2. when the Apostles were charged of beingAct. 17. 6. & 24. 5. pestilent, turbulent, factious and seditious fellows. This sort being very common, and thence in ordinary repute not so bad, yet in just estimation may be judged even worse then the former; as doing to our Neighbour more heavy and more irreparable wrong. For it imposeth on [Page 190] him really more blame, and that such which he can hardly shake off: because the charge signifieth habit of evil, and includeth many acts; then, being ge­neral and indefinite, can scarce be dis­proved. He, for instance, that calleth a sober man Drunkard, doth impute to him many acts of such intemperance; (some really past, others probably fu­ture;) and no particular time or place being specified, how can a man clear himself of that imputation, especially with those who are not throughly acquainted with his conversation? So he that calleth a man unjust, proud, perverse, hypocritical, doth load him with most grievous faults, which it is not possible that the most innocent per­son should discharge himself from.

3. Like to that kind is this, Aspersing a man's actions with harsh censures, and foul terms, importing that they proceed from ill principles, or tend to bad ends; so, as it doth not, or cannot appear. Thus when we say of him that is gene­rously hospitable,At nos virtu­tes ipsas in­vertimus, atque Sincerum cu­pimus vas in­crustare. pro­bus quis that he is profuse; of him that is prudently frugal, that he is niggardly; of him that is chearfull and free in his conversation, that he is vain or loose; of him that is serious [Page 191] and resolute in a good way,Nobiscum vi­vit? multùm est demissus homo. illi Tardo cogno­men pinguis damus. &c. optimé. Hor. Serm. 1. 3. Vid. Sidon. Apoll. that he is sullen or morose; of him that is con­spicuous and brisk in vertuous practice, that it is ambition or ostentation which acts him; of him that is close and bash­full in the like good way, that it is sneaking stupidity, or want of spirit; of him that is reserved, that it is craft; of him that is open, that it is simplicity in him: when we ascribe a man's libe­rality and charity to vain-glory, or po­pularity; his strictnesse of life, and constancy in devotion, to superstition, or hypocrisie. When, I say, we passe such censures, or impose such characters on the laudable or innocent practice of our Neighbours, we are indeed Slan­derers, imitating therein the great Ca­lumniatour, who thus did slander even God himself, imputing his prohibition of the Fruit unto envy toward men; (God, Gen. 3. 5. said he, doth know, that in the day ye eat thereof, your eyes shall be ope­ned, and ye shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil;) who thus did ascribe the steddy Piety of Job, not to a consci­encious love and fear of God, but to policy,Job 1. 9. & 2. 4. and selfish design, Doth Job fear God for nought?

[Page 192] Whoever indeed pronounceth con­cerning his Neighbour's intentions o­therwise then as they are evidently ex­pressed by words, or signified by overt actions, is a Slanderer; because he pre­tendeth to know, and dareth to averr, that which he no-ways possibly can tell whether it be true; because the heart is exempt from all jurisdiction here, is onely subject to the govern­ment and trial of another world; be­cause no man can judge concerning the truth of such accusations; because no man can exempt, or defend himself from them: so that apparently such practice doth thwart all course of ju­stice and equity.

4. Another kind is,Jer. 23. 36. Perverting a man's words or actions disadvantage­ously by affected misconstruction. All words are ambiguous, and capable of different senses, (some fair, some more foul; [...]. Epict.) all actions have two handles, one that candour and charity-will, an­other that disingenuity and spite may lay hold on: and in such cases, to mis­apprehend is a calumnious procedure, arguing malignant disposition and mis­chievous design. Thus when two men did witnesse, that our Lord affirmed, [Page 193] he could demolish the temple, Matt. 26. 60, 61. and rear it again in three days; although he did indeed speak words to that purpose,Joh. 2. 19. meaning them in a figurative sense, (discernible enough to those who would candidly have minded his drift and way of speaking;) yet they who crudely alleged them against him are called false witnesses.Psal. 56. 5. Every day they wrest my words. (At last, saith the Gospel, came two false witnesses, and said,Matt. ubi suprá.This fellow said, I am able to de­stroy the temple, &c.) Thus also when some certified of S. Stephen, as having said,Act. 6. 13, 14. that Jesus of Nazareth should de­stroy that place, and change the customes that Moses delivered; although proba­bly he did speak words near to that purpose, yet are those men called false witnesses: And (saith S. Luke) they set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words, &c. Which instances plainly do shew, if we would avoid the guilt of Slander, how carefull we should be to interpret fairly and favourably the words and the actions of our Neighbour.

5. Another sort of this practice is, Partial and lame representation of mens discourse, or their practice; suppressing some part of the truth in them, or con­cealing [Page 194] some circumstances about them, which might serve to explain, to ex­cuse, or to extenuate them. In such a manner easily, without uttering any Logical untruth, one may yet grievous­ly calumniate. Thus suppose that a man speaketh a thing upon supposition, or with exception, or in way of ob­jection, or meerly for disputation sake, in order to the discussion or clearing of truth; he that should report him asser­ting it absolutely, unlimitedly, positive­ly and peremptorily, as his own settled judgment, would notoriously calum­niate. If one should be inveagled by fraud, or driven by violence, or slip by chance into a bad place, or bad com­pany; he that should so represent the grosse of that accident, as to breed an opinion of that person, that out of pure disposition and design he did put him­self there, doth slanderously abuse that innocent person. The reporter in such cases must not think to defend himself by pretending that he spake nothing false; for such propositions, however true in Logick, may justly be deemed lies in morality, being uttered with a malicious and deceitfull (that is, with a calumnious) mind, being apt to im­presse [Page 195] false conceits, and to produce hurtfull effects concerning our Neigh­bour. There are slanderous truths, as well as slanderous falshoods: when truth is uttered with a deceitfull heart, and to a base end,Prov. 12. 17. it becomes a lie. He that speaketh truth, (saith the Wise-man) sheweth forth righteousnesse: but a false witnesse, deceit. Deceiving is the pro­per work of Slander; and truth abused to that end putteth on its nature, and will engage into like guilt.

6. Another kind of Calumny is, by Instilling sly suggestions; which al­though they do not downrightly assert falshoods, yet they breed sinister opi­nions in the hearers; especially in those who, from weaknesse or credulity, from jealousie or prejudice, from negligence or inadvertency, are prone to entertain them.Vid. Herm. Pastor. where the Pastor observes, that the De­vil doth in his temptati­ons inter­sperse some truths, ser­ving to ren­der his delu­sions passa­ble. This is done many ways; by pro­pounding wily suppositions, shrewd insinuations, crafty questions, and spe­cious comparisons, intimating a possi­bility, or inferring some likelihood of, and thence inducing to believe the fact. Doth not (saith this kind of Slanderer) his temper incline him to doe thus? may not his interest have swayed him thereto? had he not fair opportunity [Page 196] and strong temptation to it? hath he not acted so in like cases? Judge you therefore whether he did it not. Thus the close Slanderer argueth; and a weak or prejudiced person is thereby so caught, that he presently is ready thence to conclude the thing done. A­gain; He doeth well, (saith the Syco­phant) it is true; but why, and to what end? Is it not, as most men do, out of ill design? may he not dissemble now? may he not recoil hereafter? have not others made as fair a show? yet we know what came of it. Thus do calumnious tongues pervert the judg­ments of men to think ill of the most innocent, and meanly of the worthiest actions. Even commendation it self is often used calumniously, with intent to breed dislike and ill-will toward a person commended in envious or jea­lous ears; or so as to give passage to dispraises, and render the accusations following more credible. 'Tis an arti­fice commonly observed to be much in use there, where the finest tricks of supplanting are practised, with greatest effect; so that, pessimum inimicorum genus, laudantes; there is no more pe­stilent enemy, then aexcusando exprobraret. Tac. Ann. 1. p. 10. malevolent prai­ser. [Page 197] All these kinds of dealing, [...]. Polyb. lib. 4. as they issue from the principles of Slander, and perform its work, so they deservedly bear the guilt thereof.

7. A like kind is that of Oblique and covert reflexions; when a man doth not directly or expresly charge his Neigh­bour with faults, but yet so speaketh, that he is understood, or reasonably pre­sumed to doe it. This is a very cunning and very mischievous way of Slandering; for therein the sculking Calumniatour keepeth a reserve for himself, and cut­teth off from the person concerned the means of defence. If he goeth to clear himself from the matter of such aspersi­ons: What need (saith this insidious speaker) of that? must I needs mean you? did I name you? why do you then assume it to your self? do you not prejudge your self guilty? I did not, but your own Conscience it see­meth doth accuse you. You are so jea­lous and suspicious, as persons over­wise or guilty use to be. So meaneth this serpent out of the hedge securely and unavoidably to bite his Neighbour; and is in that respect more base and [Page 198] more hurtfull then the most flat and po­sitive Slanderer.

8. Another kind is that of Magnify­ing and aggravating the faults of others; raising any small miscarriage into a hai­nous crime, any slender defect into an odious vice, and any common infirmi­ty into a strange enormity; turning a small mote in the eye of our Neigh­bour into a huge beam, Matt. 7. 3. a little dimple in his face into a monstrous wen. This is plainly Slander, at least in degree, and according to the surplusage whereby the censure doth exceed the fault. As he that, upon the score of a small debt, doth extort a great summe, is no lesse a thief, in regard to what amounts be­yond his due, then if without any pre­tence he had violently or fraudulently seised on it: so is he a Slanderer, that, by heightning faults or imperfections, doth charge his Neighbour with greater blame, or loads him with more disgrace then he deserves. 'Tis not onely Slan­der to pick a hole where there is none, but to make that wider which is, so that it appeareth more ugly, and cannot so easily be mended. For Charity is wont to extenuate faults, Justice doth never exaggerate them. As no man is exempt [Page 199] from some defects, or can live free from some misdemeanours; so by this practice every man may be rendred very odious and infamous.

9. Another kind of Slander is, Im­puting to our Neighbour's practice, judgment, or profession, evil conse­quences (apt to render him odious, or despicable) which have no depen­dence on them, or connexion with them. There do in every Age occurr disorders and mishaps, springing from various complications of causes, wor­king some of them in a more open and discernible, others in a more secret and subtle way; (especially from Divine judgment and Providence checking or chastizing Sin:) from such occurren­ces it is common to snatch occasion and matter of Calumny. Those who are disposed this way, are ready perempto­rily to charge them upon whom-ever they dislike or dissent from, although without any apparent cause, or upon most frivolous and senselesse pretences; yea, often, when Reason sheweth the quite contrary, and they who are so charged are in just esteem of all men the least obnoxious to such accusations. So usually the best friends of mankind, [Page 200] those who most heartily wish the peace and prosperity of the world, and most earnestly to their power strive to pro­mote them, have all the disturbances and disasters happening charged on them by those fiery Vixons, who (in pursuance of their base designs, or gratification of their wild passions) re­ally do themselves embroil things, and raise miserable combustions in the world. So it is, that they who have the con­science to doe mischief, will have the confidence also to disavow the blame and the iniquity, to lay the burthen of it on those who are most innocent. Thus, whereas nothing more disposeth men to live orderly and peaceably, no­thing more conduceth to the settlement and safety of the publick, nothing so much draweth blessings down from Heaven upon the Common-weal, as true Religion; yet nothing hath been more ordinary, then to attribute all the miscarriages and mischiefs that hap­pened, unto it: even those are laid at its door, which plainly do arise from the contempt or neglect of it; being the natural fruits, or the just punish­ments,1 King. 18. 17, 18. of Irreligion. King Ahab by forsaking God's commandments, and fol­lowing [Page 201] wicked superstitions, had trou­bled Israel, drawing sore judgments and calamities thereon; yet had he the heart and the face to charge those events on the great assertour of Piety, Elias: Art thou he that troubleth Israel? The Jews by provocation of Divine justice had set themselves in a fair way toward de­solation and ruine; this event to come they had the presumption to lay upon the faith of our Lord's doctrine:Joh. 11. 48. If (said they) we let him alone, all men will believe on him, and the Romans shall come, and take away our place and nation: whenas, in truth, a compli­ance with his directions and admoniti­ons had been the onely means to pre­vent those presaged mischiefs.Tertull▪ Apol. And, Si Tibris ascenderit in moenia, if any pu­blick calamity did appear, then Chri­stianos ad Leones, Christians must be charged and persecuted as the causes thereof. To them it was that Julian and other Pagans did impute all the concussions, confusions, and devastati­ons falling upon the Romane Empire. TheChristianis temporibus detrahunt, & mala quae il­la civitas per­tulit, Christo imputant. De Civ. D. I. 1. III. 31. They (saith that great Father) detract from the Christian times, and impute the evils which that city suffered, unto Christ. sacking of Rome by the Goths they cast upon Christianity: for the vindi­cation of it from which reproach Saint Austin did write those renowned Books [Page 202] de Civitate Dei. So liable are the best and most innocent sort of men to be calumniously accused in this manner.

Another practice (worthily bearing the guilt of Slander) is, [...]. M. Ant. being Aiding and accessory thereto, by any-wise fur­thering, cherishing, abetting it. He that by crafty significations of ill-will doth prompt the Slanderer to vent his poison; he that by a willing audience and attention doth readily suck it up, or who greedily swalloweth it down by credulous approbation and assent;David, Psal. 101. 5. Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off; [...], him have I driven away, say the LXX. he that pleasingly re­lisheth and smacketh at it, or expresseth a delightfull com­placence therein; as he is a partner in the fact, so is he a sharer in the guilt.Neque verò illa justa est excusatio, Referentibus a­liis injuriam facere non possum. Nemo invito audi­tori libenter refert. Sa­gitta in lapidem nunquam figitur; interdum resiliens percutit dirigentem. Di­sc at detractor, dum te videt non libenter audire, non facilè detrahere. Hier. ad Nep [...]t. Ep. 2. There are not onely slanderous Throats, but slanderous Ears also; not onely wicked In­ventions, which ingender and brood lies, but wicked Assents, which hatch and foster them. Not onely the spitefull Mother which con­ceiveth [Page 203] such spurious brats, but the Mid-wife that helpeth to bring them forth, the Nurse that feedeth them, the Guar­dian that traineth them up to maturity, and setteth them forth to live in the world, as they do really contribute to their subsistence, so deservedly they partake in the blame due to them, and must be responsible for the mischief they doe. For indeed were it not for such free entertainers, such nou­rishers,Posidonius relateth of S. Austin, that he had up­on his table written these two verses, Quisquis amat dictis [...]b­sentum r [...]dere vitam, Hanc mensam indignam [...] ­verit esse sibi: (He that loveth by ill speech to gnaw the life of those who are absent, let him know himself unwor­thy to sit at this table; or, that this table is unfit for him:) and if any there did use detraction, he was offended, and minded them of those verses, threatning also to leave the table, and withdraw to his chamber. Posid. cap. 2 [...]. such encouragers of them, Slanders commonly would die in the womb, or prove still-born, or present­ly entring into the cold air would expire, or for want of nourishment soon would starve. It is such friends and patrons of them who are the causes that they are so rife; they it is who set ill-natured, base and designing people upon devising, searching af­ter, and picking up malici­ous and idle stories. Were it not for such customers, the trade of Calumniating would fall. Many pursue it meerly out of servility and flattery, to tickle the ears, to sooth the [Page 204] humour, to gratifie the malignant dis­position, or ill-will of others; who upon the least discouragement would give over the practice. If therefore we would exempt our selves from all guilt of Slander, we must not onely abstain from venting it, but forbear to [...], Thou shalt not receive (or, take up) a false report, saith the Law, Exod. 23. 1. regard or countenance it: for,Prov. 17. 4. Beatus est, qui ità se contra hoc vi­tium arma­vit, ut apud eum detrahe­re nemo aude­at. Hier. ad Celantiam. He is (saith the Wise-man) a wicked doer, who giveth heed to false lips; and a li­ar, who giveth ear to a naughty tongue, Yea, if we thoroughly would be clear from it, we must shew an aversation from hearing it, an unwillingnesse to believe it, an indignation against it; so either stifling it in the birth, or con­demning it to death being uttered. This is the sure way to destroy it, and to prevent its mischief. If we wouldHedge thy ears with thorns, &c. Ecclus 28. 24. ità legit Cypr. Ep. 55. stop our ears, we should stop the Slanderer's mouth: if we would resist the Calum­niatour, he would fly from us: if we would reprove him, we should repell him. For, AsProv. 25. 23. [...]. Chrys. [...]. the north-wind driveth away rain, so (the Wise-man telleth us) doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.

[Page 205] These are the chief and most com­mon kinds of Slander; and there are several ways of practising them worthy our observing, that we may avoid them; namely these.

1. The most notoriously-hainous way is, forging, and immediately venting ill stories.Psal. 52. 2. As it is said of Doeg, Thy tongue deviseth mischief; and of another like companion,Psal. 50. 19. Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit: and as our Lord saith of the Devil, When he speaketh a lie, Joh. 8. 44. (Isa. 32. 7.) [...], he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it. This palpably is the supreme pitch of Calumny, unca­pable of any qualification or excuse: Hell cannot goe beyond this; the cur­sed Fiend himself cannot worse employ his wit, then in minting wrongfull false­hoods.

2. Another way is, receiving from others, and venting such stories, which they who doe it certainly know, or may reasonably presume to be false: the be­coming hucksters of counterfeit wares, or factours in this vile trade. There is no false coiner, who hath not some complices and emissaries ready to take from his hand, and put off his [Page 206] mony: and such Slanderers at second hand are scarce lesse guilty then the first authours. He that breweth lies may have more wit and skill, but the broa­cher sheweth the like malice and wic­kednesse. In this there is no great dif­ference between the great Devil, that frameth scandalous reports, and the lit­tle Imps, that run about and disperse them.

3. Another way is, when one with­out competent examination, due weigh­ing, and just reason, doth admit, and spread tales prejudicial to his Neigh­bour's welfare; relying for his warrant (as to the truth of them) upon any slight or slender authority. [...], &c? Chrys. in Heb. 11. 3. [...], &c. Ibid. This is a very common and current practice: men presume it lawfull enough to say over what-ever they hear; to report any thing, if they can quote an authour for it. It is not, say they, my inven­tion; I tell it as I heard it: sit fides penes authonem; let him that informed me undergoe the blame, if it prove false. So do they conceive themselves excusable for being the instruments of injurious disgrace and dammage to their Neighbours. But they greatly mistake therein: for as this practice commonly [Page 207] doth arise from the same wicked prin­ciples, at least in some degree, and pro­duceth altogether the like mischievous effects, as the wilfull devising and con­veying Slander: so it no lesse thwar­teth the rules of duty, and laws of e­quity; God hath prohibited it, and reason doth condemn it.Levit. 19. 16. Thou shalt not (saith God in the Law) goe up and down as a tale-bearer among thy people: Prov. 18. 8. & 26. 22. as a tale-bearer, (as Rachil, that is,) as a merchant or trader in ill reports and stories concerning our Neighbour, to his prejudice. Not onely the framing them, but the dealing in them beyond reason or necessity, is interdicted. And it is part of a Good man's character in the 15. Psalm, Non accipit opprobrium, He taketh not up a reproach against his neighbour; Psal. 15. 3. that is, he doth not easily entertain it, much lesse doth he effec­tually propagate it: and in our Text, He, it is said, that uttereth Slander (not onely he that conceiveth it) is a Fool.

And in reason, before exact trial and congnizance, to meddle with the fame and interest of another, is evidently a practice full of iniquity, such as no man can allow in his own case, or brook be­ing [Page 208] used toward himself, without jud­ging himself to be extremely abused by such reporters. In all reason and equi­ty, (yea in all discretion,) before we yield credence to any report concer­ning our Neighbour, or adventure to relate it, many things are carefully to be weighed and scanned. We should concerning our Authour consider, whe­ther he be not a particular enemy, or disaffected to him; whether he be not ill-humoured, or a delighter in telling bad stories; whether he be not disho­nest, or unregardfull of justice in his dealings and discourse; whether he be not vain, or carelesse of what he saith; whether he be not light and credulous, or apt to be imposed upon by any small appearance; whether at least in the present case he be not negligent, or too forward and rash in speaking. We should also concerning the Matter re­ported mind, whether it be possible, or probable; whether sutable to the disposition of our Neighbour, to his principles, to the constant tenour of his practice; whether the action im­puted to him be not liable to misappre­hension, or his words to misconstructi­on. All reason and equity do, I say, [Page 209] exact from us, diligently to consider such things, before we do either embrace our selves, or transmit unto others any story concerning our Neighbour; lest unadvisedly we doe him irreparable wrong and mischief. Briefly, we should take his case for our own, and consider whether we our selves should be con­tent, that upon like grounds or testi­monies any man should believe, or re­port disgracefull things concerning us. If we fail to doe thus, we do (vainly, or rashly, or maliciously) conspire with the Slanderer to the wrong of our innocent Neighbour; and that in the Psalmist (by a parity of reason) may be transferred to us,Psal. 50. 18. Thou hast consented unto the Liar, and hast partaken with the authour of Calumny.

4. Of kin to this way is the assen­ting to popular rumours, and thence affirming matters of obloquy to our Neighbour. Every one by experience knows how easily false news do rise, and how nimbly they scatter themselves; how often they are raised from nothing, how soon they from small sparks grow into a great blaze, how easily from one thing they are transformed into ano­ther: especially news of this kind, [Page 210] which do sute and feed the bad humour of the vulgar. 'Tis obvious to any man how true that is of Tacitus, how Plebi non judicium, non veritas. Tac. Ann. 16. Non est consi­lium in vul­go, non ratio, non discrimen, non diligen­tia—ex opi­nione pluri­ma, ex veri­tate pauca ju­dicat. Cic. pro Planco. [...]. Phocyl. void of consideration, of judgment, of equity, the busie and talking part of mankind is. Whoever therefore gives heed to flying tales, and thrusts him­self into the herd of those who spread them, is either strangely injudicious, or very malignantly disposed. If he want not judgment, he cannot but know, that when he complieth with popular fame, it is meer chance that he doth not slander, or rather it is odds that he shall doe so; he consequently sheweth himself to be indifferent whether he doeth it or no, or rather that he doth encline to doe it:Prov. 14. 15. The simple believeth e­very word. whence, not caring to be otherwise, or loving to be a Slan­derer, he in effect and just esteem is such; having at least a slanderous heart and inclination. He that puts it to the venture whether he lieth or no, doth eo ipso lie morally, as declaring no care or love of truth.Exod. 23. 2. Thou shalt not (saith the Law) follow a multitude to doe evil: and with like reason we should not follow the multitude in speaking evil of our Neighbour.

[Page 211] 5. Another slanderous course is, to build censures and reproaches upon slen­der conjectures, or uncertain suspici­ons,1 Tim. 6. 4. (those [...], evil surmi­ses, Matt. 9. 4. which S. Paul condemneth.) Of these occasion can never be wanting to them who seek them, or are ready to embrace them; no innocence, no wise­dom can any-wise prevent them; and if they may be admitted as grounds of defamation, no man's good name can be secure. But he that upon such ac­counts dareth to asperse his Neighbour,Ziba. 2 Sam. 16. 3. & 19. 27. is in moral computation no lesse a Slan­derer, then if he did the like out of pure invention, or without any ground at all: for doubtfull and false in this case differ little; to devise, and to di­vine, in matters of this nature, do im­port near the same. He that will judge or speak ill of others, ought to be well assured of what he thinks or says: he that asserteth that which he doth not know to be true, doth as well lie, as he that affirmeth that which he know­eth to be false; (for he deceiveth the hearers, begetting in them an opi­nion that he is assured of what he af­firms;) especially in dealing with the concernments of others, whose right [Page 212] and repute justice doth oblige us to be wary of infringing, charity should dis­pose us to regard and tender as our own. It is not every possibility, every seeming, every faint shew or glimmering appea­rance, which sufficeth to ground bad opinion, or reproachfull discourse con­cerning our Brother: the matter should be clear, notorious, and palpable, be­fore we admit a disadvantageous con­ceit into our head, a distastfull resent­ment into our heart, a harsh word into our mouth about him. Men may fan­sie themselves sagacious and shrewd, (persons of deep judgment and fine wit they may be taken for;) when they can dive into others hearts, and sound their intentions; when through thick mists or at remote distances they can de­scry faults in them; when they collect ill of them by long trains, and subtle fetches of discourse: but in truth they do thereby rather bewray in themselves small love of truth, care of justice, or sense of charity, together with little wisedom and discretion: for Truth is onely seen in a clear light; Justice re­quireth strict proof;1 Cor. 13. 5, 7. Charity thinketh no evil, and believeth all things for the best; Wisedom is not forward to pro­nounce [Page 213] before full evidence.Prov. 18. 13. (He, saith the Wise-man, that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.) In fine, they who proceed thus, as it is usual that they speak false­ly, as it is casual that they ever speak truly, as they affect to speak ill, true or false; so worthily they are to be rec­koned among Slanderers.

6. Another like way of Slandering is, impetuous or negligent sputtering out of words, without minding what truth or consequence there is in them, how they may touch or hurt our Neigh­bour. To avoid this sin▪ we must not onely be free from intending mischief, but wary of effecting it; not onely carefull of not wronging one distinct person, but of harming any promiscu­ously; not onely abstinent from aiming directly, but provident not to hit ca­sually any person with obloquy. For as he that dischargeth shot into a crowd, or so as not to look about regarding who may stand in the way, is no lesse guilty of doing mischief, and bound to make satisfaction to them he woundeth, then if he had aimed at some one per­son: so if we fling out bad words at random, which may light unluckily, and [Page 214] defame some-body, we become Slande­rers unawares, and before we think on it. This practice hath not ever all the malice of the worst Slander, but it wor­keth often the effects thereof, and there­fore doth incurr its guilt, and its pu­nishment; especially it being common­ly derived from ill temper, or from bad habit, which we are bound to watch over, to curb, and to correct. The Tongue is a sharp and parlous weapon, which we are bound to keep up in the sheath, or never to draw forth but ad­visedly, and upon just occasion; it must ever be wielded with caution and care: to brandish it wantonly, to lay about with it blindly and furiously, to slash and smite therewith any that happeth to come in our way, doth argue malice, or madnesse.

7. It is an ordinary way of procee­ding to calumniate, for men, reflecting upon some bad disposition in them­selves, (although resulting from their own particular temper, from their bad principles, or from their ill custome,) to charge it presently upon others; presuming others to be like themselves: like the wicked person in the Psalm,Psal. 50. 21. Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such [Page 215] an one as thy self. This is to slander Mankind first in the grosse; then in retail, as occasion serveth, to asperse any man: this is the way of half-witted Machiavilians, and of desperate repro­bates in wickednesse, who, having prostituted their consciences to vice, for their own defence and solace, would shrowd themselves from blame under the shelter of common pravity and in­firmity;Remedium poenae suae ar­bitrantur, si nemo sit sanc­tus, si omni­bus detra­hatur, si tur­ba sit pereun­tium, &c. Hier. ad A­sellam, Ep. 99. accusing all men of that where­of they know themselves guilty. But surely there can be no greater iniquity then this, that one man should undergo blame for the ill conscience of another.

These seem to be the chief kinds of Slander, and most common ways of practising it. In which description the Folly thereof doth, I suppose, so clear­ly shine, that no man can look thereon without loathing and despising it, as not onely a very ugly, but a most foolish practice. No man surely can be wise, who will suffer himself to be defiled therewith. But to render its Folly more apparent, we shall display it; declaring it to be extremely foolish upon several accounts. But the doing this, in regard to your patience, we shall forbear at present.

The Sixth Sermon.

PROV. 10. 18.‘He that uttereth Slander is a Fool.’

I Have formerly in this place, dis­coursing upon this Text, explained the Nature of the Sin here con­demned, with its several kinds and ways of practising.

II. I shall now proceed to declare the Folly of it; and to make good by di­vers reasons the assertion of the Wise­man, that He who uttereth Slander is a Fool.

1. Slandering is Foolish, as sinfull and wicked.

All Sin is foolish upon many ac­counts; as proceeding from ignorance, errour, inconsideratenesse, vanity; as implying weak judgement, and irratio­nal choice; as thwarting the dictates [Page 218] of Reason, and best rules of Wisedom; as producing very mischievous effects to our selves, bereaving us of the chief goods, and exposing us to the worst evils. What can be more egregiously absurd, then to dissent in our opinion and discord in our choice from infinite Wisedom; to provoke by our actions sovereign Justice, and immutable Seve­rity; to oppose Almighty Power, and offend immense Goodnesse; to render our selves unlike, and contrary in our doings, our disposition, our state, to absolute Perfection and Felicity? What can be more desperately wild, then to disoblige our best Friend, to forfeit his love and favour, to render him our Enemy, who is our Lord and our Judge, upon whose meer will and disposal all our subsistence, all our welfare does ab­solutely depend? What greater mad­nesse can be conceived, then to deprive our Minds of all true content here, and to separate our Souls from eternal Bliss hereafter; to gall our Consciences now with soar Remorse, and to engage our selves for ever in remedilesse Miseries? Such Folly doth all Sin include: whence in Scripture-style worthily Goodnesse and Wisedom are terms equivalent; [Page 219] Sin and Folly do signifie the same thing.

If thence this practice be proved ex­tremely sinfull, it will thence sufficient­ly be demonstrated no less foolish. And that it is extremely sinfull, may easily be shewed. It is the character of the superlatively-wicked man;Psal. 50. 19, 20. Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit: Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother's son. It is indeed plainly the blackest and most hellish sin that can be; that which giveth the grand Fiend his names, and most expresseth his na­ture. He is [...], the Slanderer; Satan, the spitefull Adversary; the old Snake, or Dragon, hissing out lies, and spitting forth venome of calumnious accusation;Apoc. 12. 10. the Accuser of the brethren, a murtherous, envious, malicious Calum­niatour;Joh. 8. 44. the Father of lies; the grand defamer of God to Man, of Man to God, of one Man to another. And highly wicked surely must that practice be, whereby we grow Namesakes to him, conspire in proceeding with him, resemble his disposition and nature. It is a complication, a comprisal, a col­lection and summe of all wickednesse; [Page 220] opposite to all the principall Vertues, (to Veracity and Sincerity, to Charity and Justice,) transgressing all the great Commandments, violating immediately and directly all the Duties concerning our Neighbour.

To Lie simply is a great fault, being a deviation from that good Rule which prescribeth truth in all our words;Eph. 4. 25. ren­dring us unlike and disagreeable to God,1 Pet. 2. 1. who is the God of truth; Psal. 31. 5. & 25. 10. & 86. 15. & 89. 14. & 146. 6. (whoProv. 12. 22. & 6. 17. loveth truth, and practiseth it in all his doings, who abominateth falsehood;) including a treacherous breach of faith toward mankind; (we being all, in order to the maintenance of society, by an im­plicit compact, obliged by speech to declare our mind, to inform truly, and not to impose upon our Neighbour;) arguing pusillanimous timorousnesse, and impotency of mind, a distrust in God's help, and diffidence in all good means to compasse our designs; beget­ting deception and errour, a foul and ill-favoured brood: Lying, I say, is up­on such accounts a sinfull and blame­able thing: and of all Lies those cer­tainly are the worst, which proceed from malice, or from vanity, or from both, and which work mischief; such as Slanders are.

[Page 221] Again, to bear any hatred or ill-will, to exercise enmity toward any man, to design or procure any mischief to our Neighbour, whom even Jews were commanded to love as themselves, Levit. 19. 18. whose good, by many laws, and upon divers scores, we are obliged to tender as our own, is a hainous fault: and of this apparently the Slanderer is most guilty in the highest degree. For evidently true it is which the Wise-man affirmeth, A lying tongue hateth those that are af­flicted with it; Prov. 26. 28. there is no surer argu­ment of extreme hatred; nothing but the height of ill-will can suggest this practice. The Slanderer is an enemy, as the most fierce and outrageous, so the most base and unworthy that can be: he fighteth with the most perillous and most unlawfull weapon, in the most furious and foul way that can be. His weapon is an envenomed arrow, Jam. 3. 8. full of deadly poison, Psal. 64. 3, 4. & 57. 4. which he shooteth suddenly, and feareth not; a weapon which by no force can be resisted, by no art declined, whose impression is altogether inevitable, and unsustainable. It is a most insidious, most treache­rous, and cowardly way of fighting; wherein manifestly the weakest and [Page 222] basest spirits have extreme advantage, and may easily prevail against the bra­vest and worthiest: for no man of ho­nour or honesty can in way of resistence or requital deign to use it, but must infallibly without repugnance be born down thereby. By it the vile practiser atchieveth the greatest mischief that can be. His words are, as the Psalmist saith of Doeg, Psal. 52. 4. devouring words, (Thou lovest all devouring words, O thou deceitfull tongue:) Prov. 25. 18. & 12. 6. and, A man (saith the Wise­man) that beareth false witness against his neighbour, is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow; An ungodly man diggeth up evil, and in his lips there is a burning fire. that is, he is a com­plicated instrument of all mischiefs: he smiteth and bruiseth like a maul, he cutteth and pierceth like a sword, he thus doth hurt near at hand; and at distance he woundeth like a sharp arrow, Prov. 16. 27. it is hard any-where to evade him,Ecclus 28. 18, &c. or to get out of his reach. Many (saith another Wise-man, the imitatour of Solomon) have fallen by the edge of the sword: but not so many as have fallen by the tongue. Well is he that is defen­ded from it, and hath not passed through the venome thereof; who hath not drawn the yoke thereof, nor hath been bound in its bands. For the yoke thereof is as a [Page 223] yoke of iron, and the bands thereof are bands of brass. The death thereof is an evil death, the grave were better then it. Incurable are the wounds which the Slanderer inflicteth, irreparable the dammages which he causeth, indeleble the marks which he leaveth.Adversus Sy­cophantae mor­sum nullum est remedium. No bal­same can heal the biting of a Sycophant; no thread can stitch up a good name torn by calumnious defamation; no soap is able to cleanse from the stains aspersed by a foul mouth. Aliquid ad­haerebit; somewhat always of suspicion and ill opinion will stick in the minds of those who have given ear to slander. So extremely opposite is this practice unto the Queen of Vertues, Charity. Its property indeed is,1 Cor. 13. 7. to believe all things, that is, all things for the best, and to the advantage of our Neigh­bour; not so much as to suspect any evil of him, without unavoidably-ma­nifest cause: how much more not to devise any falshood against him? It covereth all things,Prov. 17. 9. studiously conniving at real defects, and concealing assured miscarriages: how much more not di­vulging imaginary or false scandals? It disposeth to seek and further any the least good concerning him: how [Page 224] much more will it hinder committing grievous outrage upon his dearest good name?

Again, all injustice is abominable; to doe any sort of wrong is a hainous crime; that crime, which of all most immediately tendeth to the dissolution of society, and disturbance of humane life; which God therefore doth most loath, and men have reason especially to detest. And of this the Slanderer is most deeply guilty.Prov. 19. 28. A witness of Belial scorneth judgement, and the mouth of the wicked devoureth iniquity, saith the Wise-man. He is indeed, according to just estimation, guilty of all kinds what­ever of injury, breaking all the Second Table of Commands respecting our Neighbour. Most formally and direct­ly he beareth false witnesse against his neighbour: He doth covet his neighbour's goods; for 'tis constantly out of such an irregular desire, for his own presu­med advantage,Wo be to them who justifie the wicked for reward, and take a­way the righ­teousness of the righteous from him. to dispossess his Neigh­bour of some good, and transfer it on himself, that the Slanderer uttereth his tale: He is ever a thief and robber of his good name, a deflowrer and defiler of his reputation, anDei Episco­pos linguae gladio jugu­lâstis, fun­dentes san­guinem non corporis, sed honoris. Opt. lib. 2. assassine and murtherer of his honour.Isa. 5. 23. So doth he [Page 225] violate all the rules of justice, and per­petrateth all sorts of wrong against his Neighbour.

He may indeed perhaps conceive it no great matter that he committeth; because he doth not act in so boisterous and bloudy a way, but onely by words, which are subtle, slimme, and transient things; upon his Neighbour's credit onely, which is no substantial, or vi­sible matter. He draweth (thinks he) no bloud, nor breaketh any bones, nor impresseth any remarkable scar: 'tis onely the soft air he breaketh with his tongue, 'tis onely a slight character that he stampeth on the fancy, 'tis onely an imaginary stain that he daubeth his Neighbour with: therefore he suppo­seth no great wrong done, and seemeth to himself innocent, or very excusable. But these conceits arise from great in­considerateness, or mistake; nor can they excuse the Slanderer from grievous injustice. For in dealing with our Neighbour, and meddling with his pro­perty, we are not to value things ac­cording to our fancy, but according to the price set on them by the owner: we must not reckon that a trifle, which he prizeth as a jewel. Since then all [Page 226] men (especially men of honour and honesty) do, from a necessary instinct of nature, estimate their good name beyond any of their goods, yea do commonly hold it more dear and pre­cious then their very lives; we, by violently or fraudulently bereaving them of it, doe them no lesse wrong, then if we should rob or couzen them of their substance, yea then if we should maim their body, or spill their bloud, or even stop their breath. If they as grievously feel it, and resent it as deep­ly, as they do any other outrage, the injury is really as great to them. Even the Slanderer's own judgement and conscience might tell him so much: for they who most slight another's fame, are usually very tender of their own, and can with no patience en­dure that others should touch it: which demonstrates the inconsideratenesse of their judgment, and the iniquity of their practice. It is an injustice not to be corrected or cured. Thefts may be re­stored, Wounds may be cured; but there is no restitution or cure of a lost good name: it is therefore an irrepa­rable injury.

[Page 227] Nor is the thing it self, in true judg­ment, contemptible; but in it self really very considerable.Prov. 22. 1. & 15. 30. A good name, saith Solomon himself,Eccles 7. 1. (no fool,) is rather to be chosen then great riches; and loving fa­vour rather then silver and gold. In its consequences it is much more so; the chief interests of a man, the successe of his affairs, his ability to doe good, (for himself, his friends, his neighbour,) his safety,Prov. 12. 6. the best comforts and conveni­encies of his life, sometimes his life it self, depending thereon: so that who­ever doth snatch or filch it from him, doth not onely according to his opini­on, and in morall value, but in reall effect commonly rob, sometime mur­ther, ever exceedingly wrong his Neigh­bour. It is often the sole reward of a man's Vertue and all the fruit of his in­dustry; so that by depriving him of that, he is robb'd of all his estate, and left stark naked of all, excepting a good Conscience, which is beyond the reach of the world, and which no malice or misfortune can devest him of. Full then of iniquity, full of uncharitable­nesse, full of all wickednesse is this practice; and consequently full it is of Folly. No man, one would think, of [Page 228] any tolerable sense, should dare, or deign to incurr the guilt of a practice so vile and base, so indeed diabolical and detestable. But farther more par­ticularly,

2. The Slanderer is plainly a Fool; because he maketh wrong judgments and valuations of things, and according­ly driveth on silly bargains for himself, in result whereof he proveth a great loser. He means by his calumnious stories either to vent some passion boi­ling in him, or to compasse some de­sign which he affects, or to please some humour that he is possessed with: but is any of these things worth purchasing at so dear a rate? can there be any va­luable exchange for our honesty? Is it not more advisable to suppress our pas­sion, or to let it evaporate otherwise, then to discharge it in so foul a way? Is it not better to let go a petty inte­rest, then to further it by committing so notorious and hainous a sin; to let an ambitious project sink, then to buoy it up by such base means? Is it not wisedom rather to smother, or curb our humour, then by satisfying it thus to forfeit our innocence? Can any thing in the world be so considerable, [Page 229] that for its sake we should defile our Souls by so foul a practice, making shipwreck of a good Conscience, a­bandoning honour and honesty, incur­ring all the guilt, and all the punish­ment due to so enormous a crime? Is it not far more wisedom, contentedly to see our Neighbour to enjoy credit and successe, to flourish and thrive in the world, then by such base courses to sully his reputation, to rifle him of his goods, to supplant or cross him in his affairs? We do really, when we think thus to depresse him, and to climb up to wealth or credit by the ruines of his honour, but debase our selves. What­ever comes of it, (whether he succeeds, or is disappointed therein,) assuredly he that useth such courses will himself be the greatest loser, and deepest suf­ferer. 'Tis true which the Wise-man saith,Prov. 21. 6. The getting of treasures by a lying tongue, is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death. Isa. 5. 18. And, Woe un­to them (saith the Prophet) that draw iniquity with cords of vanity; that is, who by falshood endeavour to compass unjust designs.

But it is not, perhaps he will pretend, for to asswage a private passion, or to [Page 230] promote his particular concernment, that he makes so bold with his Neigh­bour, or deals so harshly with him; but for the sake of orthodox Doctrine, for advantage of the true Church, for the advancement of publick Good, he judgeth it expedient to asperse him▪ This indeed is the covert of innume­rable Slanders: zeal for some Opinion, or some Party, beareth out men of Sec­tarian and factious spirits in such practi­ces; they may doe, they may say any thing for those fine ends. What is a little truth, what is any man's reputa­tion in comparison to the carrying on such brave designs? But (to omit that men do usually prevaricate in these ca­ses; that it is not commonly for love of truth, but of themselves, not so much for the benefit of their Sect, but for their own interest, that they calum­niate) this plea will no-wise justifie such practice. For Truth and Sincerity, Equity and Candour, Meeknesse and Charity are inviolably to be observed, not onely toward dissenters in opinion, but even toward declared enemies of truth it self; we are to bless them, (that is, to speak well of them, and to wish well to them,) not to curse them, (that [Page 231] is, not to reproach them, or to wish them ill, much lesse to bely them.) Truth also, as it cannot ever need, so doth it always loath and scorn the pa­tronage and the succour of lies; it is able to support and protect it self by fair means; it will not be killed upon a pretence of saving it, or thrive by its own ruine. Nor indeed can any party be so much strengthned and un­derpropt, as it will be weakned and un­dermined, by such courses: No cause can stand firm upon a bottom so loose and slippery, as falshood is: All the good a Slanderer can doe is, to dispa­rage what he would maintain. In truth, no Heresie can be worse, then that would be which should allow to play the Devil in any case. He that can dispense with himself to slander a Jew or a Turk, doth in so doing ren­der himself worse then either of them by profession are: for even they (and even Pagans themselves) disallow the practice of inhumanity and iniquity. All men by light of nature avow Truth to be honourable, and Faith to be in­dispensably observed. He doth not un­derstand what it is to be Christian, or careth not to practise according there­to, [Page 232] who can find in his heart in any case, upon any pretence, to calumniate. In fine, to prostitute our Conscience, or sacrifice our honesty, for any cause, to any interest what-ever, can never be warrantable or wise. Farther,

3. The Slanderer is a Fool, because he useth improper means and preposte­rous methods of effecting his purposes. As there is no design worth the carry­ing on by ways of falshood and iniqui­ty; so is there scarce any (no good or lawfull one at least) which may not more surely, more safely, more clever­ly be atchieved by means of truth and justice. Is not always the straight way more short then the oblique and croo­ked? is not the plain way more easie then the rough and cragged? is not the fair way more pleasant and passable then the foul? Is it not better to walk in paths that are open and allowed, then in those that are shut up and pro­hibited; then to clamber over walls, to break through fences, to trespasse upon enclosures?Prov. 10. 9. Surely yes: He that walketh uprightly, walketh surely. Using strict veracity and integrity, candour and equity, is the best method of ac­complishing good designs. Our own [Page 233] industry, good use of the parts and fa­culties God hath given us, embracing fair opportunities, God's blessing and Providence, are sufficient means to re­ly upon for procuring, in an honest way, what-ever is convenient for us. These are ways approved, and amiable to all men; they procure the best friends, and fewest enemies; they af­ford to the practiser a chearfull courage, and good hope; they meet with lesse disappointment, and have no regret or shame attending them. He that hath recourse to the other base means, and maketh lies his refuge, Isa. 28. 15, 17. as he renounceth all just and honest means,Jer. 28. 15. as he disclai­meth all hope in God's assistence, and forfeiteth all pretence to his blessing; so he cannot reasonably expect good successe, or be satisfied in any under­taking. The supplanting way indeed seems the most curt and compendious way of bringing about dishonest or dis­honourable designs: but as a good de­sign is certainly dishonoured thereby, so is it apt thence to be defeated; it raising up enemies and obstacles, yiel­ding advantages to who-ever is dispo­sed to cross us. As in trade it is noto­rious, that the best course to thrive is [Page 234] by dealing squarely and truly; any fraud or couzenage appearing there doth overthrow a man's credit, and drive away custome from him: so in all other transactions, as he that dealeth justly and fairly will have his affairs proceed roundly, and shall find men ready to comply with him; so he that is observed to practise falshood, will be declined by some, opposed by o­thers, disliked by all; no man scarce willingly will have to doe with him; he is commonly forced to stand out in businesse, as one that plays foul play.

4. Lastly, the Slanderer is a very Fool, as bringing many great inconve­niencies, troubles, and mischiefs on himself.

First,Prov. 18. 7. & 13. 3. & 18. 21. A fool's mouth (saith the Wise-man) is his destruction, his lips are the snare of his soul: and if any kind of speech is destructive and dangerous, then is this certainly most of all; for by no means can a man enflame so fierce anger, impresse so stiff hatred, raise so deadly enmity against himself, and con­sequently so endanger his safety, ease, and welfare, as by this practice. Men can more easily endure, and sooner [Page 235] will forgive, any sort of abuse then this; they will rather pardon a robber of their goods, then a defamer of their good name.

Secondly, Such an one indeed is not onely odious to the person immediately concerned, but generally to all men that observe his practice. Every man presently will be sensible how easily it may be his own case, how liable he may be to be thus abused, in a way against which there is no guard or defence.—ecquid Ad te pòst paulò ventu­ra pericula sentis? Hor. Ep. 1. 18. The Slanderer therefore is apprehended a common enemy, dange­rous to all men; and thence rendreth all men averse from him, and ready to crosse him.—Sibi quisque timet, quanquam est intactus & o­dit. Idem. Love and peace, tranquil­lity and security can onely be main­tained by innocent and true dealing: so the Psalmist hath well taught us; What man is he that desireth life, Psal. 34. 12, 13. and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.

Thirdly, All wise, all noble, all in­genuous and honest persons have an a­versation from this practice, and cannot entertain it with any acceptance, or complacence.Prov. 13. 5. (A righteous man hateth lying, saith the Wise-man.) It is one­ly [Page 236] ill-nurtured and ill-natured, unwor­thy and naughty people, that are wil­ling auditours or encouragers thereof. A wicked doer (saith the Wise-man a­gain) giveth heed to false lips; Prov. 17. 4. and a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue. All love of truth, and regard to justice, and sense of humanity, all generosity and ingenuity, all charity and good will to men, must be extinct in those who can with delight, or indeed with patience, lend an ear, or give any countenance to a Slanderer: and is not he a very Fool, who chuseth to displease the best, onely soothing the worst of men?

Fourthly, The Slanderer indeed doth banish himself from all good conversa­tion and company, or intruding into it becomes very disgustfull thereto: for he worthily is not onely looked up­on as an enemy to those whom he slan­dereth, but to those also upon whom he obtrudeth his calumnious discourse. He not onely wrongeth the former by the injury, but he mocketh the latter by the falshood of his stories; implicit­ly charging his hearers with weaknesse and credulity, or with injustice and pravity.

[Page 237] Fifthly, He also derogateth wholly from his own credit, in all matters of discourse. For he that dareth thus to injure his Neighbour, who can trust him in any thing he speaks? what will not he say to please his vile humour, or farther his base interest? what (thinks any man) will he scruple or boggle at, who hath the heart in thus doing wrong and mischief to imitate the De­vil? Farther,

Sixthly, This practice is perpetually haunted with most troublesome com­panions, inward regret, and self-con­demnation, fear, and disquiet: [...]. &c. Chrys. [...]. the conscience of dealing so unworthily doth smite and rack him; he is ever in danger, and thence in fear to be dis­covered, and requited for it. Of these passions the manner of his behaviour is a manifest indication: for men do seldom vent their slanderous reports openly, and loudly, to the face, or in the ear of those who are concerned in them; but do utter them in a low voice, in dark corners, out of sight and hearing, where they conceit themselves at present safe from being called to an account.Psal. 59. 7. Swords (saith the Psalmist of such persons) are in their lips; for, Who, say they, doth, [Page 238] hear? Psal. 101. 5. And, Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off, saith David again, intimating the common manner of this practice. Calumny is like the plague, Psal. 91. 6. that walketh in darkness. Hence appositely are the practisers there­of termed whisperers, and backbiters: their heart suffers them not openly to avow, their conscience tells them they cannot fairly defend their practice. A­gain,

Seventhly, The consequent of this practice is commonly shamefull disgrace, with an obligation to retract, and ren­der satisfaction: for seldome doth Ca­lumny passe long without being detec­ted andPsal. 63. 11. The mouth of them that speak lies shall be stop­ped. confuted.Prov. 10. 9. He that walketh up­rightly walketh surely; but he that per­verteth his ways shall be known: and Prov. 12. 19. (Prov. 26. 26.)—Refrain your tongue from backbi­ting: for there is no word so secret that shall goe for nought; and the mouth that slande­reth, slayeth the soul. Sap. 1. 11. Et delator habet quod dedit exiti­um. Vid. Tac. An. 1. p. 45. The lip of truth shall be established for ever; but a lying lip is but for a moment, saith the great observer of things. And when the Slander is disclosed, the Slan­derer is obliged to excuse, (that is, to palliate one lie with another, if he can doe it,) or forced to recant, with much disgrace and extreme displeasure to him­self: he is also many times constrained, with his losse and pain, to repair the mischief he hath done.

[Page 239] Eighthly, To this in likelihood the concernments of men, and the powers which guard justice will forcibly bring him: and certainly his Conscience will bind him thereto; God will indispen­sably exact it from him. He can never have any sound quiet in his mind, he can never expect pardon from Heaven, with­out acknowledging his fault, repairing the wrong he hath done, restoring that good name of which he dispossessed his Neighbour: for in this no lesse then in other cases Conscience cannot be satis­fied, remission will not be granted, except due restitution be performed: and of all restitutions this surely is the most difficult, most laborious, and most troublesome. 'Tis no-wise so hard to restore goods stollen or extorted, as to recover a good opinion lost, to wipe off aspersions cast on a man's name, to cure a wounded reputation: the most earnest and diligent endeavour can hard­ly ever effect this, or spread the plaister so far as the soar hath reached. The Slan­derer therefore doth engage himself into great streights, incurring an obligation to repair an almost-irreparable mischief.

Ninthly, This practice doth also cer­tainly revenge it self, imposing on its [Page 240] actour a perfect retaliation;He that dili­gently seeketh good, procu­reth favour: but he that seeketh mis­chief, it shall come unto him. Prov. 11. 27. Prov. 26. 27. It was the punishment of Slanderers in the Law—Then shall ye doe unto him as he had thought to have done unto his brother. Deut. 19. 19. Prov. 19. 5. A false witnesse shall not be unpunished; and he that telleth lies shall not escape. Psal. 52. 4, 5. God shall destroy thee for ever, thou false tongue. Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord; but they that deal truly are his delight. Prov. 12. 22. a tooth for a tooth; an irrecoverable infamy to himself, for the infamy he causeth to others. Who will regard his fame, who will be concerned to excuse his faults, who so outrageously abuseth the repu­tation of others? He suffereth justly, he is payed in his own coin, will any man think, who doth hear him reproa­ched.

Tenthly, In fine, the Slanderer (if he doth not by serious and sore repen­tance retract his practice) doth banish himself from Heaven and happinesse, doth expose himself to endlesse miseries and sorrows.Apoc. 21. 27. For, if none that maketh a lie shall enter into the heavenly city; if without those mansions of joy and blisse every one must eternally abide that lo­veth, Apoc. 22. 15. or maketh a lie; ifApoc. 21. 8. It is one of those things which God especially doth abomi­nate. Prov. 6. 19. & 12. 22. A false wit­nesse shall pe­rish. Prov. 21. 28. [...], to all liars their portion is assigned in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; then assuredly the capital Liar, the Slanderer, (who lieth most injuriously and mischievously,) shall [Page 241] be far excluded from felicity, and thrust down into the depth of that miserable place.1 Cor. 6. 10. & 5. 11. If (as S. Paul saith) no railer, or evil-speaker, shall inherit the Kingdom of God; how far thence shall they be removed, who without any truth or justice do speak ill of and reproach their Neighbour? If for every [...], idle, Matt. 12. 36. or vain, word we must render a strict account; how much more shall we be severely reckoned with for this sort of words, so empty of truth and void of equity; words that are not onely negatively vain, or uselesse, but positively vain, as false, and spoken to bad purpose? If Slander perhaps here may evade detection, or scape deserved punishment; yet infallibly hereafter, at the dreadfull Day, it shall be disclo­sed, irreversibly condemned, inevita­bly persecuted with condign reward of utter shame and sorrow.

Is not he then, he who, out of ma­lignity, or vanity, to serve any design, or sooth any humour in himself or o­thers, doth by committing this sin in­volve himself into all these great evils, both here and hereafter, a most despe­rate and deplorable Fool?

[Page 242] Having thus described the Nature of this Sin, and declared the Folly there­fore, we need, I suppose, to say no more for dissuading it; especially to persons of a generous and honest mind, who cannot but scorn to debase and de­file themselves by so mean and vile a practice; or to those who seriously do professe Christianity, that is, the Reli­gion which peculiarly above all others prescribeth constant Truth, strictest Ju­stice, and highest Charity.

I shall onely adde, that since our faculty of speech (wherein we do excell all other creatures) was given us, as in the first place to praise and glorifie our Maker, so in the next to benefit and help our Neighbour; as an instrument of mutual succour and delectation, of friendly commerce and pleasant con­verse together; for instructing and ad­vising, comforting and chearing one another; it is an unnatural perverting, and an irrational abuse thereof, to em­ploy it to the dammage, disgrace, vex­ation, or wrong in any kind of our bro­ther. Better indeed had we been as Brutes without its use, then we are, if so worse then bruitishly we abuse it.

[Page 243] Finally, all these things being consi­dered, we may, I think, reasonably conclude it most evidently true, that, He which uttereth Slander, is a Fool.

The Seventh Sermon.

S. JAMES 4. 11.‘Speak not evil of one another, Bre­thren.’

ONe half of our Religion con­sisteth in Charity toward our Neighbour; [...]. and of that Cha­rity much the greater part seemeth ex­ercised in Speech; for as speaking doth take up the greatest part of our life, (our quick and active Mind continually ven­ting its Thoughts, and discharging its Passions thereby; all our conversation and commerce passing through it, it having a large influence upon all our practice) so Speech commonly having our Neighbour and his Concernments for its Objects, it is necessary, that either most of our Charity will be em­ploied [Page 2] therein, or that by it we shall most offend against that great Duty, together with its Associates, Justice and Peace.

And all Offences of this kind (which transgress Charity, violate Justice, or infringe Peace) may perhaps be for­bidden in this Apostolical Precept; for the word [...], according to its origination, and according to some use, doth signifie all kind of Obloquy, and so may comprize slander, harsh censure, reviling, scoffing, and the like kinds of speaking against our Neigh­bour; but in stricter acceptation, and according to peculiar use, it denoteth that particular sort of Obloquy, which is called Detraction, or Backbiting: So therefore we may be allowed to un­derstand it here; and accordingly I now mean to describe it, and to dis­suade from its practice.

There is between this, and the other chief sorts of Obloquy, (Slander, Cen­suring, and Reviling) much affinity, yet there is some difference; for Slan­der involveth an imputation of fals­hood; Reviling includeth bitter or foul language, but Detraction may be couched in Truth, and cloathed in [Page 3] fair Language; it is a Poison often in­fused in sweet Liquor, and ministred in a Golden Cup. It is of nearer kin to Censuring, and accordingly S. James here coupleth it thereto: He that de­tracteth from a Brother, and he that cen­sureth his Brother, backbiteth the Law, and censureth the Law: yet may these two be distinguished; for Censuring seemeth to be of more general purport, extending indifferently to all kinds of Persons, Qualities, and Actions, which it unduly taxeth; but Detraction espe­cially respecteth worthy Persons, good Qualities, and laudable Actions, the reputation of which it aimeth to de­stroy, or to impair.

This sort of ill practice (so rife in use, so base in its nature, so mischie­vous in its effects) it shall be my en­deavour to describe, that we may know it, and to dissuade, that we may shun it.

It is the fault (opposite to that part of Charity and Goodness, which is cal­led Ingenuity, or Candor) which, out of naughty disposition or design, stri­veth to disgrace worthy Persons, or to disparage good Actions, looking for blemishes and defects in them, using [Page 4] care and artifice to pervert and misre­present things to that purpose.

An honest and charitable Mind dis­poseth us, when we see any Man en­dued with good Qualities, and pursuing a tenour of good practice, to esteem such a Person, to commend him, to interpret what he doth to the best, not to suspect any ill of him, or to seek any exception against him; it inclineth us, when we see any Action materially good, to yield it simply due approba­tion and praise, without searching for, or surmising any defect in the cause or principle, whence it cometh, in the design or end to which it tendeth, in the way or manner of performing it. A good man would be sorry to have any good thing spoiled; as to find a crack in a fair Building, a flaw in a fine Jewel, a canker in a goodly Flower, is grievous to any indifferent man; so would it be displeasing to him to ob­serve defects in a worthy Person, or commendable Action; he therefore will not easily entertain a suspicion of any such, he never will hunt for any. But on the contrary, 'tis the property of a Detractor, when he seeth a wor­thy Person, (whom he doth not af­fect, [Page 5] or whom he is concerned to wrong) to survey him throughly, and to sift all his Actions, with intent to de­scry some failing, or any semblance of a fault, by which he may disparage him; when he vieweth any good Action, he peereth into it, labouring to espy some pretence, to derogate from the commendation apparently be­longing to it. This in general is the nature of this Fault. But we may get a fuller understanding of it, by consi­dering more distinctly some particular Acts, wherein it is commonly exer­cised, or the several paths in which the detracting Spirit treadeth; such are these following:

1. A Detractor is wont to represent Persons and Actions under the most disadvantagious Circumstances he can, setting out those which may cause them to appear odious or despicable, slipping over those which may commend or ex­cuse them. There is no Person so ex­cellent, who is not by his Circumstan­ces forced to omit some things, which would become him to do, if he were able; to perform some things lamely, and otherwise then he would do, if he could reach it; no Action so wor­thy [Page 6] but may have some defect in matter, or manner, [...]. Theoph. uncapable of redress; and he that representeth such Person or Action, leaving out those excusing cir­cumstances, doth tend to beget a bad or mean opinion of them, robbing them of their due value, and commendation: thus to charge a man of not having done a good work, when he had not the power, or opportunity to perform it, or is by cross accidents hindred from doing it according to his desire; to sug­gest the Action was not done exactly, in the best Season, in the rightest Mode, in the most proper Place, with Expres­sions, Looks, or Gestures most conve­nient, these are tricks of a Detractor; who when he cannot deny the Metal to be good, and the Stamp true, he clippeth it, and so would reject it from being current.

2. He is wont to misconstrue ambi­guous Words, or to misinterpret doubtful appearances of Things: Let a man speak never so well, or act never so fairly, yet a Detractor will say his Words may bear this ill Sence, his Acti­ons may tend to that bad Purpose; we may therefore suspect his meaning, and cannot yield him a full Approbation.

[Page 7] 3. He is wont to misname the quali­ties of Persons or Things,At nos virtu­tes ipsas inver­timus, at (que) Sincerum cu­pimus vos in­crustare; pro­bus quis Nobiscum vi­vit? multús est demissus ho­mo; illi Tardo cogno­men pinguis damus, &c. assigning bad Appellations or Epithets to good or indifferent Qualities: the names of Vertue and Vice do so neerly border in signification, that it is easy to trans­fer them from one to another, and to give the best Quality a bad Name: Thus, by calling a sober man sowre, a chearful man vain, a conscientious man morose,Hor. Sat. L. 3. a devout man superstitious, a free man prodigal, a frugal man sordid, an open man simple, a reserved man crafty, one that standeth upon his Ho­nour and Honesty proud, a kind man ambitiously popular, a modest man sullen, timerous, or stupid, is a very easy way to detract, and no Man there­by can scape being disparaged.

4. He doth imperfectly characterize Persons, so as studiously to vail, or faintly to disclose their Vertues, and good Qualities, but carefully to ex­pose, and fully to aggravate or amplify any defects or failings in them. The Detractor will pretend to give a cha­racter of his Neighbour, but in so do­ing he stifleth what may commend him, and blazoneth what may disgrace him; like an envious Painter he hideth, or [Page 8] in dusky Colours shadoweth all the graceful Parts and goodly Features, but setteth out all Blemishes in the briskest Light, and most open view. Every Face hath in it some Mole, Spot or Wrinkle; there is no man, that hath not (as they speak) some blind place; some blemishes in his nature or temper, some faults contracted by education or custom, somewhat amiss proceeding from ignorance, or misapprehension of things; these (although they be in themselves small and inconsiderable, al­though they are some of them involun­tary and thence inculpable, although they be much corrected or restrained by vertuous Discipline, although they are compensated by greater Vertues, yet these) the Detractor snatcheth, mould­eth, and out of them frameth an Idea of his Neighbour, apt to breed hatred, or contempt of him in an unwary Spe­ctator; whereas were Charity, were Equity, were Humanity to draw the Person, it representing his Qualities with just advantage, would render him lovely, and venerable.

5. He is wont not to commend or al­low any thing absolutely, and clearly, but always interposing some exception, to [Page 9] which he would have it seem liable: the man indeed,Non audes re­petere, qui ta­cendo ampliùs criminaris: & quia non habes quod objicias, simulas veri­cundiam; ut lector te putet mihi parcere, qui mentiens nec tuae animae pepercisti. saith he, doth seem to have this, or that laudable quality; the acti­on hath a fair appearance, but then if he can, he blurteth out some spiteful Objection; if he can find nothing co­lourable to say against it, yet he will seem to know, and to suppress some­what; but (saith he) I know what I know, I know more than I'le say— so (adding perhaps a crafty Nod or Shrug,Hier. in Ruff. 3, 6. a malicious Sneer or Smile) he thinks to blast the fairest perfor­mance.

6. He is ready to suggest ill Causes and Principles (latent in the Heart) of Practices apparently good; ascribing what is well done to bad Disposition, or bad Purpose: So to say of a liberal man, that he is so from an ambitious Temper, or out of a vain-glorious design; of a religious man, that his constant Exer­cises of Devotion proceed not from a conscientious Love and Fear of God, or out of intention to please God and work out his Salvation, but from Hy­pocrisy, from affectation to gain the favour and good opinion of men, from design to promote worldly Interests; this is the way of Detraction: He doth [Page 10] well (saith the Detractor) it cannot be denied; but for what reason doth he so? is it not plainly his Interest to do so? doth he not mean to get Applause, or Preferment thereby? Doth Job serve God for naught? so said the Father of detracting Spirits.

7. He derogateth from good Actions by pretending to correct them, or to shew better that might have been done in their room: it is, saith he, done in some respect well or tolerably; but it might have been done better, with as small trouble, and cost; he was over­seen in chusing this way, or proceeding in this manner: Thus did Judas blame the good woman, who anointed our Lord's Feet;Joh. 12. 5. Why (said he) was not this Ointment sold, and given to the Poor? so did his covetous baseness prompt him to detract from that performance, of which our Saviour's goodness did pro­nounce, that it was a good work, which should perpetually through the whole World pass for memorable. Mat. 26. 10, 13.

8. A Detractor not regarding the general Course, and constant Tenour of a mans Conversation, which is con­spiciously and clearly good, will attaque some part of it, the goodness whereof [Page 11] is less discernable, or more subject to contest, and blame; as if in a Body ad­mirably handsome, one overlooking that curious Harmony, that delicate Complexion, those fine Lineaments, and goodly Features which running through the whole, do conspire to ren­der it a lovely Spectacle, should pitch on an Eye, or a Nose to carp at; or as if in a Town, otherwhere begirt with impregnable Defences, one should search for the weakest place, to form a Battery against it.

9. In Fine, The Detractor injecteth suggestions of every thing any-wise plausible or possible, that can serve to diminish the worth of a Person, or va­lue of an Action, which he would dis­countenance; he pryeth into every Nook, he bolteth every circumstance, he improveth every pretence, he alledg­eth any Report or Rumour, he useth all the tricks imaginable to that end. Such is the nature and way of detracti­on; in enlarging upon which I am the more sparing, because the Arts and Me­thods of Detraction being in great part common with those of Slander and Cen­sure, I have otherwhile in treating upon those offences more fully declared them.

[Page 12] Now for disswading from its Pra­ctice, I shall propound to your Consi­deration, the causes whence it proceed­eth, the irregularities and pravities which it involveth, the effects which it produceth; the which will appear so base, and ugly, that whoever shall con­sider them, cannot I suppose but loath the Daughter of such Parents, the sub­ject of such Qualities, and the Mother of such Children.

I The causes of Detraction are

1. Ill Nature, and bad Humour: as good Nature, and ingenuous Disposi­tion incline men to observe, like, and commend what appeareth best in our Neighbour; so malignity of Temper and Heart prompteth to espy, and catch at the worst: one, as a Bee, gather­eth Honey out of any Herb; the other, as a Spider, sucketh Poison out of the sweetest Flower.

2. Pride,Expedit vobis neminem vide­ri bonum, quasi aliena virtus exprobratio ve­strorum deli­ctorum sit. Sen. de Vit. B 19. Ambition, and inordinate Self-Love: the Detractor would en­gross Praise, and derive all Glory to himself; he would be the chief, the only excellent Person; therefore he would justle anothers Worth out of the way, that it may not endanger [Page 13] standing in competition with his, or lessening it by a partnership; that it may not out-shine his Reputation, or dim it by the lustre thereof.

3. Envy: A Detractor liketh not to see another thrive, and flourish in the good esteem of men, therefore he would gladly blast his Worth, and Vertue; his Eye is evil and sore, there­fore would he quench, or cloud the light, that dazleth it.

4. Malicious Revenge and Spite: his Neighbours good Practice condemneth his bad Life; his Neighbours worth disparageth his unworthiness; this he conceiveth highly prejudicial to him; hence in revenge he will labour to vi­lify the Worth and good Works of his Neighbour.

5. Sense of Weakness, [...]. Socr. Hist. Eccl. 6. 13. want of Cou­rage, or despondency of his own Abili­ty: He that in any kind deemeth him­self able, or confideth in his own Strength, and Industry, will allow to others the commendation beseeming their Ability; for he thinketh himself in capacity to deserve the same, and as he would not lose the Fruits of his own Deserts, so he taketh it for equita­ble, that another should enjoy them; [Page 14] to deprive another of them, he seeth were in consequence to prejudice his own capacity and hope: but he that feeleth himself destitute of worth, and despaireth to arrive to the credit of others, is thence tempted to disparage and defame such Persons: this course he taketh as the best allay of his con­temptibleness, the only solace for his defects that he can hope for; being he cannot arise to anothers pitch, he would bring down that other to his; he can­not directly get any praise, therefore he would indirectly find excuse, by shrouding his unworthiness under the blame of others: Hence Detraction is a sign of the weakest and basest Spirit; 'tis an impotent and groveling Serpent, that lurketh in the Hedg, waiting op­portunity to bite the heel of any no­bler Creature that passeth by.

6. Evil Conscience: A man that is conscious to himself of a solid worth and vertue,Remedium poenae suae ar­bitrantur si ne­mo sit sanctus, si omnibus de­trahatur, si turba sit pere­untium, si mul­titudo peccan­tium. Hier. ad Asellam. Ep. 99 of having honest intenti­ons, of having performed good Deeds, is satisfied with the Fruits of inward Comfort, and outward Approbation, which they do yield; he therefore will scorn to seek the bettering himself by the discredit of others; he will not by [Page 15] so mean a practice, adulterate that worth, in which he feeleth sufficient complacence; he rather doth like, that others should enjoy their due commen­dation, as justifying his own claim thereto; he willingly payeth it, because he may justly demand it; and because with-holding it from another, may pre­judice his own right thereto: But he that is sensible of no good qualities in himself, that is conscious of no worthy actions that he hath done, to breed a satisfaction of mind, or build a repu­tation upon, would please himself in making others as little better than himself as he can, would ground a kind of credit upon the ruins and rub­bish of another's fame. When he knoweth he cannot shine by his own light, he would seem less obscure by eclipsing the brightness of others, and shutting out the day from about him; conceiving that all things look alike in the dark, and that bad appeareth not bad where no good is near.

As also a good man liketh Worth and Vertue, because they resemble what he discerneth in himself; so evil men hate them, because they do not find them­selves masters of them; they are like [Page 16] the Fox, who said, The Grapes were sowr, because he could not reach them; and that the Hare was dry meat, be­cause he could not catch her. A De­tractor therefore is always a bad man, and wanteth those good qualities which he would disparage.

7. Bad selfish Design: Detraction is a common Engine, whereby naughty men strive to compass their ends; when by fair means, by their own Wit, In­dustry, Courage, worthy Behaviour, they cannot promote their Interests, they cannot drive on their ambitious or covetous Projects, they cannot at­tain that preferment or that gain which they affect, then they betake themselves to this crooked and foul way of sup­planting, by detracting those whom they conceit to stand in the way of their Designs. It was the first piece of wicked policy that ever was practised in the World, the Devil by detracting from the goodness and veracity of God (misrepresenting his Intentions, and misconstruing his Commands) strove to atchieve his mischievous design of seducing our Fore-fathers; and in his foot-steps his serpentine Progeny (the race of malicious, envious, ambitious, [Page 17] covetous, and crafty Politicians) do tread. It is observed to be a Fault that usually haunteth Courts, wherein there is com­petition for the favour of a Prince, and the consequences thereof, (for Digni­ty, Power, Wealth, Repute): to get which to themselves, they strive to dis­possess, or prevent others by this In­strument of Detraction. It is also rife among Scholars, that is, among Com­petitors for Wit, Learning, Industry, and the rewards of them, Reputation or Preferment. From such Principles and Causes usually doth this Practice spring.

It doth involve these kinds of irre­gularity II and pravity.

1. Injustice. A Detractor careth not how he dealeth with his Neighbour, what wrong he doth him. Justice ob­ligeth to render every man his due; honour to whom honour is due, and praise to him that deserveth praise. There can be no greater injury done a man, then to spoil his best good, his Vertue; then to rob him of the best reward of his pains and cares, which is a fair Re­putation; (I speak of Rewards which lie in the reach of men). No man [Page 18] prizes any thing comparably to his Ho­nesty and Honour; who therefore by any means blurreth them, is most inju­rious. Wo unto them—who take the righ­teousness of the Righteous from him, Prov. 17. 15. Isa. 5. 23.

Injurious indeed he is not only to the vertuous Person, but to Vertue it self; for commendation is a debt we owe to it where-ever it is found; which conduceth to its encouragement and advancement; and to wrong Goodness it self, is the most heinous in­justice.

2. Uncharitableness: It is evident that the Detractor doth not love his Neighbour; for Charity maketh the best of every thing:1 Cor. 13. Charity believeth every thing, hopeth every thing to the advantage of its Object; Charity de­lighteth to see the Beloved to prosper and flourish; and will therefore con­tribute its endeavour to the procuring it to do so: the Detractor therefore (who would defile the best, and dis­play the worst in his Neighbour) can have no Charity; he indeed manifesteth the greatest hatred, seeing he striveth to do the greatest mischief, to cause the greatest vexation to his Neighbour, in [Page 19] bereaving him of his most precious and dear enjoyments.

3. Impiety: He that loveth and re­verenceth God, will acknowledg and approve his Goodness, in bestowing ex­cellent Gifts and Graces to his Bre­thren; when such appear, he will be afraid to disavow, or disgrace them, that he may not rob God himself of the glory thence due to his favour and mercy, or through his Neighbours side wound the Divine Benignity: he will be ready to bless and praise God for all such emanations of his Goodness; as those did in the Gospel, who beholding our Saviour's miraculous Works of Grace, did glorifie God, who had given such works unto men: but the Detractor careth not for that; he feareth not to bereave God of the honour of dispen­sing good Gifts, that his Brother may not have the honour of receiving them; he will rather deny God to be good, then allow a man to be so by his Grace and Blessing; so is he no less a Detractor from God, then from his Neighbour.

Hence of all Offences, Detraction certainly must be most odious to God: He is the God of Truth, and therefore [Page 20] detesteth Lying, of which Detraction ever (especially in moral esteem) hath a spice: He is the God of Justice, and therefore especially doth abhor wrong­ing the best Persons and Actions; he is the God of Love, and therefore can­not but loath this capital violation of Charity; he is jealous of his Glory, and cannot therefore endure it to be abused by slurring his good Gifts and Graces; he cannot but hate that Of­fence, which approacheth to that most heinous and unpardonable sin, that consisteth in defaming the excellent Works performed by Divine Power and Goodness,Matt. 12. ascribing them to bad Causes.

4. Detraction involveth degenerous baseness, meanness of spirit, and want of good manners. All men affect to seem generous, and will say, They scorn to be base; but Generosity is in nothing more seen, then in a candid estimation of other mens Vertues and good Qualities; to this generosity of Nature, generosity of Education, gene­rosity of Principles and Judgment do all conspiringly dispose: 'Tis the noblest kind of courtesie, to tender and farther the Reputation of others; to be liberal [Page 21] in bestowing commendation on de­serving Persons; it obligeth men more then any other benefit can do, pro­curing them commonly real advan­tage, always chearing and satisfying their mind; for in nothing more do they please themselves, then in reap­ing this Fruit of their good Intention, and honest Industry, the approbation of worthy men; it is therefore a most gentile thing thus to oblige men. But on the other side, no­thing more plainly argueth a dege­nerate, and ignoble heart, ill-breeding and ill-formed Manners, a sorry Mind and poor Judgment, then to disesteem or disparage Worth and Vertue in others: 'Tis the most savage rudeness, the most sordid illiberality, the most ugly clownishness that can be; of all men therefore it most doth misbe­come those who pretend to be Gentle­men.

5. In consequence to these things, Detraction includeth Folly; for every injust, every uncharitable, every im­pious, every base Person is (as such) a Fool; none of those qualities are consistent with Wisdom; but the folly of it will particularly appear (toge­ther [Page 22] with its pravity) by the bad and hurtful effects, which it produceth, both in regard to others, and to him that practiseth it; some of which are these:

III 1. The practice thereof is a great discouragement, and obstruction to the common practice of Goodness: for many seeing the best Men thus dispa­raged, and the best Actions vilified, are disheartned and deterr'd from pra­ctising Vertue, especially in a conspi­cuous and eminent degree: Why, will many a man say, Shall I be strictly good, seeing Goodness is so liable to be misused, seeing thereby I shall pro­voke the detracting Tongue, seeing my Reward shall be to have a severe inquisition pass upon me, to have my Life defaced, and my Name bespat­tered? Had not I better be contented with a mediocrity, and obscurity of goodness, then by a glaring lustre thereof to draw the envious eye, and kindle raging Obloquy upon me? Thus men of a weaker spirit, or a bashful temper (who are not stiff and resolute in their way, who have not the heart or the face to bear up a­gainst [Page 23] rude assaults of their Reputati­on) will be scared and daunted by Detraction; so as consequently to be induced, ‘—placare invidiam virtute relictâ.Hor. And when thus the credit of Vertue is blasted in its Practisers, many will be diverted from it; so will it grow out of request, and the World will be corrupted by these Agents of the Evil One.

It were indeed, upon this conside­ration, advisable and just, not to seem ever to detract; even not then when we are well assured that by speaking ill, we shall not really do it; if we should discover any Man to seem wor­thy, or to be so reputed, whom yet we discern (by standing in a nearer light) not to be truly such, having had opportunity to know his bad qua­lities, bad purposes, or bad deeds; yet Wisdom would commonly dictate, and Goodness dispose not to marr his repute: If we should observe (with­out danger of mistake) any plausible Action to be performed out of bad Inclinations, Principles, or Designs; [Page 24] yet ordinarily in discretion and hone­sty we should let it pass with such commendation as its appearance may procure, rather then to slur it, by ven­ting our disadvantagious apprehensions about it: for it is no great harm that any man should enjoy undeserved com­mendation, or that a counterfeit worth should find a dissembled respect; it is but being over-just, which if it be ever a fault, can hardly be so in this case, wherein we do not expend any cost, or suffer any dammage; but it may do mischief to blemish an appear­ance of Vertue; it may be a wrong thereto to deface its very Image; the very disclosing Hypocrisy doth inflict a wound on Goodness, and exposeth it to scandal; for bad men thence will be prone to infer, that all Vertue pro­ceedeth from the like bad Principles: so the disgrace cast on that which is spurious, will redound to the preju­dice of that which is most genuine: And if it be good to forbear detracting from that worth which is certainly false, much more is it so in regard to that which is possibly true; and far more still is it so in respect to that which is clear and sure.

[Page 25] 2. Hence Detraction is very noxi­ous and baneful to all Society; for all Society is maintained in welfare by en­couragement of honesty and industry; the which, when disparagement is cast upon them, will be in danger to languish and decay; whence a Detractor is the worst Member that can be of a Society; he is a very Moth, a very Canker there­in.

3. Detraction worketh real dam­mage, and mischief to our Neighbour; it bereaveth him of that goodly Repu­tation which is the proper reward of Vertue, and a main support to the pra­ctice of it; it often really obstructeth and disappointeth his Undertakings, estranging those from him, or setting them against him, who do credulously entertain it.

4. The Detractor abuseth those, in­to whose ears he instilleth his poiso­nous suggestions, engaging them to partake in the injuries done to Worth and Vertue; causing them to entertain injust and uncharitable conceits, to practise unseemly and unworthy beha­viour toward good men.

5. The Detractor produceth great inconveniences and mischiefs to him­self.

[Page 26] He raiseth against himself fierce ani­mosity, and wrath: for Men, that are conscious to themselves of their own honest meaning, and blameless pro­ceedings, cannot endure to be abused by unjust disparagement; hence are they stirred to boil with passion, and to discharge revenge upon the Detractor.

He exposeth himself to general ha­tred; all good men loath him as a base and mischievous Person, and a particu­lar Enemy of theirs, always ready to wrong them; every man is apt to say, He that doth thus abuse another, will be ready to serve me in like manner, if I chance to come in his way, vilifying the best thing I can do; even the worst men will dislike him; for even such af­fect to do somewhat laudable or plausi­ble, and would be glad to enjoy ap­probation for it; and cannot therefore brook those who lie in wait to rob them of the Fruit of their good endea­vours; so do all men worthily detest and shun the Detractor, as a common Enemy to Goodness first, and then un­to Men. Farther;

6. The Detractor yieldeth occasion to others, and a kind of right to return the same measure upon him. If he [Page 27] hath in him a shew of any thing lauda­ble, men will not allow him any com­mendation from it: for why, conceive they, shall he receive that which he will not suffer others to enjoy? How can any Man admit him to have any real worth or vertue in himself, who doth not like it, or treat it well in ano­ther? Hence, if a Detractor hath any good in him, he much injureth him­self, depriving himself of all the re­spect belonging thereto.

7. Again, the Detractor (esteeming things according to moral possibility) will assuredly be defeated in his aims; his detraction in the close will avail no­thing, but to bring trouble and shame upon himself; for God hath a particu­lar care over Innocence and Goodness, so as not to let them finally to suffer; the good mans Righteousness he will bring forth as the light, Psal. 37. 6. and his Judgment as the noon day: Wise men easily will dis­cern the foul play, and will scorn it; Good men ever will be ready to clear and vindicate the Truth; Worth how­ever clouded for a time, will break through all Mists, and gloriously ex­pand it self, to the confusion of its most sly opposers.

[Page 28] Such are the natural and obvious ef­fects of this practice; the consideration whereof (together with the causes producing it, and the essential adjuncts which it doth involve) will, I should think, suffice to deter us from it.

I shall only adjoin one Considerati­on, which our Text suggesteth: Speak not evil of one another, Brethren, saith the Apostle: Brethren; That Appella­tion doth imply a strong Argument en­forcing the Precept: Brethren, with especial tenderness of affection, should love one another, and delight in each others good; they should tender the interest and honour of each other as their own; they should therefore by all means cherish and countenance Ver­tue in one another, as that which pro­moteth the common Welfare, which adorneth and illustrateth the dignity of their Family. We should rejoice in the good qualities and worthy deeds of any Christian, as glorifying our com­mon Father, as gracing our common Profession, as edifying the common Body, whereof we are Members; Mem­bers we are one of another, and as such should find complacence in the health and vigor of any part, from whence [Page 29] the whole doth receive benefit and comfort: for one Brother to repine at the Welfare, to malign the Prosperity, to decry the Merit, to destroy the Re­putation of another, is very unnatu­ral; for one Christian any-wise to wrong or prejudice another, is highly impious.

To conclude; It is our duty (which Equity, which Ingenuity, which Cha­rity, which Piety do all concurrently oblige us to) when-ever we do see any good Person, or worthy Deed, to yeeld hearty esteem, to pay due respect, glad­ly to congratulate the Person, and wil­lingly to commend the Work; ren­dring withal, thanks and praise for them to the Donor of all good Gifts: unto whom, for all the good things be­stowed upon us, and upon all his Crea­tures, be for ever all glory and praise. Amen.

The Eighth Sermon.

S. MATTH. 7. 1.‘Judg not.’

THese Words (being part of our Saviours most Divine Sermon upon the Mount) contain a ve­ry short Precept, but of vast use, and consequence; the observance whereof would much conduce to the good of the World, and to the private quiet of each man; it interdicting a Practice, which commonly produceth very mis­chievous and troublesome Effects; a Practice never rare among men, but now very rife; when with the general causes, which ever did and ever will in some measure dispose men thereto, some special ones do concur, that powerfully incline to it.

[Page 32] There are innate to men an injust Pride, emboldning them to take upon them beyond what belongeth to them, or doth become them; an excessive Self-love, prompting them as to flatter themselves in their own conceit, so to undervalue others, and from vilifying their Neighbours, to seek commendati­on to themselves; an envious maligni­ty, which ever lusteth to be pampered with finding or making faults; many corrupt Affections, springing from flesh­ly Nature, which draw or drive men to this Practice; so that in all Ages it hath been very common, and never any profession hath been so much invaded, as that of the Judg.

But divers peculiar Causes have such an influence upon our Age, as more strongly to sway men thereto: there is a wonderful affectation to seem hugely wise and witty; and how can we seem such more, then in putting on the garb and countenance of Judges; scanning, and passing Sentence upon all Persons, and all things incident? there is an ex­treme niceness and delicacy of conceit, which maketh us apt to relish few things, and to distast any thing; there are dissensions in opinion, and addicted­ness [Page 33] to parties, which do tempt us, and seem to authorize us in condemning all that differ from us; there is a deep cor­ruption of mind and manners, which engageth men in their own defence to censure others, diverting the blame from home,Expedit vobis neminem vide­ri bonum; quasi aliena virtus exprobratio ve­strorum deli­ctorum sit. Sen. de Vit. B. 19. and shrowding their own under the covert of other mens faults; there are new principles of Morality, and Policy, become current with great vogue, which allow to do or say any thing subservient to our Interests, or Designs; which also do represent all men so bad, that (admitting them true) nothing hardly can be said ill of any man beyond Truth and Justice.

Hence is the World become so ex­treamly critical and censorious, [...]. Chrys. ad den. T. 6. Orat. 42. that in many places the chief employment of men, and the main body of conversati­on is, if we mark it, taken up in judg­ing: Every gossiping is, as it were, a Court of Justice; every seat becometh a Tribunal; at every Table standeth a Bar, whereto all men are cited, where­at every man (as it happeneth) is ar­reigned, and sentenced: No sublimity or sacredness of Dignity, no integrity or innocence of Life, no prudence or circumspection of Demeanour can ex­empt [Page 34] any Person from it; Not one es­capeth being taxed under some scanda­lous Name, or odious Character, one or other. Not only the outward Acti­ons and visible Practices of men are judged; but their retired sentiments are brought under trial, their inward dispositions have a verdict past on them, their final states are determined. Whole Bodies of men are thus judged at once, and nothing it is in one breath to damn whole Churches, at one push to throw down whole Nations into the bottom­less Pit. All mankind in a lump is se­verely censured, as void of any real goodness, or true vertue; so fatally depraved as not to be corrigible by any good discipline, not to be recoverable even by the grace of God: yea God himself is hardly spared, his Providence coming under the bold obloquy of those, who (as the Psalmist speaketh of some in his time, whose race doth yet survive) speak loftily, Psal. 73. 8, 9. and set their Mouth against the Heavens.

This being too apparently the pre­sent state of things, and obvious pra­ctice of men, it were desirable, that in order to their being reclaimed, men commonly did well understand the na­ture [Page 35] of this practice with the heinous guilt, and consequently the deadly hazard they do incur thereby: at this purpose my discourse shall aim, wherein I shall endeavour both to describe the nature of the practice forbidden in my Text, and to declare the pravity, ini­quity, and folly of it.

Judge not. As to the word we may observe, that it being in it self accord­ing to its primitive sence of a middle and indifferent signification, is yet fre­quently in the Scripture used in the worst sence; so as to import those acts, or those effects of judgment, which pass to the disadvantage of the Persons subjected thereto; for condemnation, and for infliction of punishment: And this sence here surely the word doth principally respect, yet not so precisely as to exclude somewhat contained in the larger sence: We are so prohibited the condemning, and punishing our Neighbour in his good name, that withal some acts antecedent, or conco­mitant to those, are glanced at in the prohibition: undue application there­to, unjust proceeding therein are also signified unlawful; for the meaning of the word, and the reason of the [Page 36] case may be so far extended.

But for the fuller and clearer un­derstanding of the matter, we must ob­serve, that there are divers sorts of Judging, or acts resembling Judgment, which do not belong to this precept; which it is requisite to distinguish from this Judging prohibited.

1. That exercising publick Judgment, or administring Justice is not here pro­hibited, I need not to insist, that is necessary; Humane Society could not subsist, Right could not be maintained, nor Peace preserved without it; God thereby governeth the World, earthly Judges being his Instruments and Substi­tutes; such Judgment is not so much the act of men, as of God himself, by whose Authority, in whose Name, for whose Service it is ministred. As Moses told the Judges in his time,Deut. 1. 17. You shall not be afraid of the Face of Man, for the Judgment is God's. And in numberless places of Scripture this Judgment is al­lowed, and authorized; it therefore is not touched here.

2. That Trial and Censure (although out of Court, and without formal pro­cess) which any kind of Superiors do exercise upon their Inferiors, committed [Page 37] to their inspection and care; such as of Parents over Children, Masters over Servants, Pastors over their Flock, any Governours over their Charge, their Admonitions, Reprehensions, and Cor­rections are to be excepted hence, as being in themselves needful, and war­ranted, yea enjoyned by God.

3. Neither are fraternal correption or friendly reproof (proceeding out of charitable design, upon clear ground, in fit season, within reasonable compass) concerned in this prohibition; this be­ing a wholesome practice, and a duty incumbent on us:Lev. 19. 17. Thou shalt (saith the Law) not hate thy Brother in thine heart; 1 Thess. 5. 14. thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy Neighbour, and not suffer Sin upon him.

4. All observing, and reflecting upon our Neighbours Actions, all framing an opinion about them, and expressing our Minds concerning them are not for­bidden. For we are not bound perpe­tually to shut our Eyes, or go about hood-winked; nor to stop our Ears and make our selves deaf: And how can we forbear to think according to plain evidence? how can we resist the impressions of sense upon our Minds? [Page 38] how can we contest notorious experi­ence? How also barring such appre­hensions of obvious and apparent things, could we bear testimony con­cerning them? how could we signifie our approbation or dislike of them? how could we for his amendment admo­nish or reprove our Neighbour, as in some cases we are obliged to do?

5. We are not hence obliged to think so well of all men, as without compe­tent knowledg always to rely upon their pretences, or to intrust our interests in their hands; for common experience acquainteth us that we may be deceived in trusting men, Prudence biddeth us in matters of importance not to confide in uncertainties; wherefore we shall not be culpable for being wary in such cases: this indeed is not a positive Judgment, but only a waving to declare in favour, when sufficient ground of doing so doth not appear; it is only a reasonable suspecting the possibility of miscarriage in some Persons, not a down­right asserting ill concerning any one man; wherefore to do it as it suiteth discretion, so it doth not thwart Justice or Charity; and cannot therefore be prohibited here.

[Page 39] 6. We are also not hence obliged, in contradiction to plain sense, to judg well of men; accounting him for a Saint, or a good man, whom we see living disorderly, or committing scan­dalous offences; plainly repugnant to the rules of Piety, Justice, or Sobriety.

In fine, There are some special cases, and circumstances, wherein good men excusably may in severe terms de­clare their resentment of manifest wick­edness, especially such as is prejudicial to God's Honour, and publick good. Of this there are divers instances, which yet hardly can be reduced to common rules, or proposed for general example; the matter being ticklish, and men be­ing apt to pervert any liberty or pre­tence of this kind, by indulging to their own bad humours and passions.

These sorts of allowable Judgments be­ing excepted, it is then private, affected, needless, groundless, rash and harsh cen­suring the persons or actions of our Bre­thren; such as doth resemble not the acting of a lawful Superior, of a needful Witness, of a faithful Friend, but of a Judg, acting without competent right, upon no good grounds, or in undue manner, which is here interdicted: the [Page 40] word Judging doth well imply the na­ture of this Fault, the manner of our proceeding therein, the grounds of its unlawfulness; neither perhaps can we better understand our duty in this mat­ter, then by expending what are the Properties and Obligations of a Judg, and comparing our practice thereto; for thence it may plainly appear how unqualified we are to bear this Office, and how unduly we execute it.

1. No Judg should intrude himself into the Office, or assume a Judicial Power without competent Authority; that is, by delegation from Superior Powers, or by voluntary reference of the Parties concerned. This Conditi­on we fail in, when-ever without war­rant from God, or special reason ex­acting it from us, we do pry into, scan, and tax the Actions of our Neighbour.1 Pet. 4. 15. When,1 Thess. 4. 11. I say, we are pragmatically in­quisitive into the Purposes and Pro­ceedings of our Superiors,Prov. 27. 16. of our Equals,1 Tim. 5. 13. of those who are not subject to our Charge and Care, when we nar­rowly examine them: When we pe­remptorily blame them, then do we unduly exalt our selves above them, and exercise an unwarrantable jurisdiction [Page 41] over them. What Sense doth offer, we may receive in; what Judgment Reason doth extort, we may follow; what Testimony publick Benefit re­quireth, we may yield; what Expres­sion Charity doth call for toward our Neighbour's edification, we may sea­sonably vent: but if we proceed fur­ther in this way, the Party concerned may appeal from us as incompetent and unlawful Judges of his actions,Quid in pote­statem alienam irruis? quid temerarius Dei Tribunal as­cendis? Opt. lib. 2. or his state; we are arrogant and injuri­ous in presuming to exercise that Office. God is the Master and Judg of Men, and without Authority from him, we must not presume to judg his Servants and Subjects: So we are taught by S. Paul; Rom. 14. 4. Who (saith he) art thou that judgest another man's Servant? to his own Master he standeth or falleth: and S. James in like manner upon the same ground expostulateth with the Censu­rer;Jam. 4. 11. There is (saith he) one Law-giver, who is able to save, or to destroy; Who art thou that judgest another? Our Lord himself for this reason declined inter­medling in the affairs of Men;Luke 12. 14. Who (said he) made me a Judg, or Divider over you? And shall we constitute our selves in the Office, shall we seat our [Page 42] selves on the Tribunal, without any Commission from God, or Call from Men? How many Judges, if this pro­viso were observed, would have their quietus? how many Censures would be voided hence?

2. A Judg should be free from all Prejudices, and all partial Affections; especially from those which are disad­vantagious to the Party in danger to suffer;Levit. 19. 15. such as tempt or incline to con­demn him; from ill-opinion, and ill-will, from anger, envy, revengefulness, con­tempt, and the like: for he that is pos­sessed with these, is no wise qualified to be a Judg; his eyes are blinded, or distorted, or infected with bad tin­ctures, so that he cannot discern what is right, or that he seeth things repre­sented in the wrong place, and under false colours: His Mind is discompo­sed and disturbed, so that he cannot calmly and steadily apprehend or con­sider the just state of the Case; his Will is biassed, and strongly propend­eth one way, so that he cannot pro­ceed uprightly in a streight and even course: Being not indifferently affected, but concerned on one side,Jam. 2. 1. he is be­come a Party,Matth. 22. 16. or an Adversary,1 Tim. 5. 21. and [Page 43] thence unfit to be a Judg; He hath de­termined the Cause with himself before­hand, so that no place is left to further discussion or defence; wherefore before such a Judg the best Cause will fall, the clearest Innocence shall not preserve from condemnation. He therefore that will undertake this Office, must first devest himself of all Prejudices, must rid himself of all Passions, must purify himself from all corrupt Inclinations, taking care not to come with a con­demning Mind, or a lust to punish the obnoxious Party; otherwise a just Ex­ception lieth against him, and reaso­nably his Jurisdiction may be decli­ned.

If this Rule were put in practice, there would be little censuring; for few come to it with a free and pure Mind; few blame their Neighbours without some preoccupation of Judg­ment, or some disaffection toward them.

3. A Judg should never proceed in Judgment, without careful examinati­on of the Cause, so as well to under­stand it.Deut. 1. 16. Even those, who out of in­dispensible Duty, or by a just Power may call others to accompt, are yet ob­liged [Page 44] to be wary, and never to pass Sentence without due congnizance of the Cause; otherwise they will judg blindly and rashly; they will either decide wrongly, or so truly, that do­ing it must be imputed not to their Vertue, but to their Fortune; often they will be mistaken, and 'tis luck that they are not so always; and what plainer Iniquity can there be, then that the Reputation or real Interest of any Man should be put to the arbitrement of Chance; that he should be defamed, or damnified, not for a certain Fault, but from an unhappy Lot? As things viewed at a distance appear much dif­ferent in bigness, shape, and colour from what they are in nature and reali­ty; so if we do not look nearly and narrowly, we shall greatly misappre­hend the nature, the degrees, the right characters of things, and of persons; then be our pretence to judg never so fair, yet our proceeding is unjust; then if we do unduly invade the place, it will be a great aggravation of our mis­demeanour: If of our own head and pleasure, we will constitute our selves Judges, yet at least we should act the Judges part, in patiently attending to, [Page 45] and heedfully sifting the Cause: If we have not a stomack to hear, if we will not afford the care to mind what may be alledged in favour of the Party concerned; if we cannot, or will not scan every Point and Circumstance, which may serve to acquit him, or to excuse and extenuate his Guilt, why do we undertake to be his Judges? Why do we engage our selves into the Commission of so palpable injustice? yea,Prov. 18. 13. of so disgraceful folly: for, He that answereth a Matter before he heareth it, it is (saith the wise Man) a folly, and shame unto him. This Caution ex­cludeth rash Judgment, from which if Men would abstain, there would be little censuring: for nothing is more ordinary, then for men to do like those of whom S. Jude saith, [...],Jud. 10. they rail at what they know not; they censure Persons with whom they are not throughly acquainted, they condemn Actions, whereof they do not clearly ken the Reasons; they lit­tle weigh the Causes and Circumstances which urge or force men to do things; they stand at great distance, and yet with great assurance and peremptori­ness determine how things are, as if [Page 46] they did see through them, and knew them most exactly.

4. A Judg should never pronounce final Sentence, but ex allegatis & pro­batis, upon good grounds, after cer­tain Proof, and upon full Conviction. Not any slight Conjecture, or thin Surmise; any idle Report, or weak Pretence is sufficient to ground a Con­demnation upon; the Case should be irrefragably clear and sure before we determine on the worse side:John 7. 24. Judg not (saith our Lord) according to the appearance, [...]. Ch [...]ys. in Gen. Hom. 42 but judg righteous Judgment. The Jews seeing our Lord cure an in­firm Person upon the Sabbath Day, presently upon that semblance condem­ned him of violating the Law; not considering either the sence of the Law, or the nature of his performance;Quod probari non potest, mi­hi infectum est. Bern. and this he termeth unrighteous Judgment. Every Accusation should be deem­ed null,De occultis cordis alieni temerè judica­re iniquum est, & cùm cujus non videntur opera nisi bo­na, peccatum est ex suspicio­ne reprehende­re. Joh. 3. 1. Ep. 1. until both as to matter of fact, and in point of right, it be firmly proved true; it sufficeth not to presume it may be so; to say, It seemeth thus, doth not sound like the Voice of a Judg; otherwise seeing there never is wanting some colour of Accusation, every Action being liable to some su­spicion, [Page 47] or sinister construction, no In­nocence could be secure, no Person could escape condemnation; the Re­putation and Interest of all men living would continually stand exposed to inevitable danger. It is a Rule of Equity and Humanity, built upon plain Reason, that rather a Nocent Person should be permitted to escape, then an Innocent should be constrained to suf­fer: for the impunity of the one is but an inconvenience, the suffering of the other is a wrong; the punishment of the Guilty, yieldeth only a remote pro­bable benefit; the affliction of the Blameless, involveth a near certain mis­chief: wherefore it is more prudent and more righteous to absolve a Man, of whose guilt there are probable Ar­guments, then to condemn any Man upon bare suspicions. And remarkable it is how God in the Law did prescribe the manner of Trial and Judgment, even in the highest Case, and most nearly touching himself, that of Idola­try; If (saith the Law, Deut. 17. 4.) it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and enquired diligently, and behold it be true, and the thing certain, that such an abomination is wrought in Israel; then [Page 48] shalt thou bring forth that man, or that woman, and shalt stone them: See what great Caution is prescribed, what preg­nant Evidence is required in such Cases; it is not enough that it be reported, or come to our ear; diligent inquiry must be made, it must be found true, it must ap­pear certain, before we may proceed to condemn, or execute; it is indeed not fair judgment, but meer calumny to condemn a man, before he doth by sufficient proof appear guilty.

If this Rule were regarded, how many Censures would be prevented? For do not men catch at any shadow of a Fault? are they not ready upon the least presumption to condemn their Neighbour? Doth not any, even the weakest & vainest testimony, any wan­dring hear-say, or vulgar rumour serve to ground the most heavy Sentences?

5. From hence is plainly consequent, that there are divers Causes wholly ex­empted from our Judgment, and which in no case we must pretend to meddle with; such as are the secret thoughts, affections, and purposes of men, not expressed by plain words, nor declared by overt acts; for a capacity of judg­ing, doth ever suppose a power of cog­nizance; [Page 49] and it being impossible for us to reach the knowledg of those things, we cannot therefore pretend to judg of them. As it is the property of God to search the Hearts, and try the Reins, so it is his Prerogative to judg concerning the secret motions in them; the which we attempting to do, no less vainly and foolishly, then presumptu­ously and profanely do encroach up­on.

This Point also being regarded, would prevent innumerable rash Judg­ments; for men commonly do no less dive into the thoughts, and reprehend, the inward dispositions and designs of their Neighbour, then they do his most apparent and avowed Actions; 'tis al­most as ordinary to blame men for the invisible workings of their Mind, as for their most visible deportment in Conversation.

6. Hence also it is not commonly al­lowable to judg concerning the state (either present or final) of our Neigh­bour in regard to God; [...]. Greg. Naz. Orat. 26. so as to take him for a wicked man, or to denounce Reprobation upon him: for the state of men is not so much determined by single Actions, as by a body of Pra­ctice, [Page 50] or by a long course and tenour of Life, compounded and complicated of Actions in number and kind uncon­ceivably various, it dependeth not on­ly upon external visible Behaviour, but upon the practice of close Retirements, and occult motions of Soul; upon the results of natural Temper, upon the influence of fortuitous Circumstances; upon many things indiscernible, inscru­table,Psal. 139. 6. and unaccomptable to us; the which God alone can perceive, and estimate throughly:1 Sam. 16. 7. God seeth not (as he did himself tell Samuel) as man se­eth; Isa. 11. 3. for man looketh on the outward ap­pearance, but God locketh on the heart: He searcheth our hearts, Psal. 139. 2, 3. and understand­eth our thoughts afar off: He compasseth our path, and is acquainted with all our ways: Prov. 16. 2. He weigheth our spirits; he know­eth our frame; 1 Sam. 2. 3. he numbreth our steps; he scanneth our Designs,Psal. 103. 14. and poiseth all our Circumstances exactly;Job 14. 16. he doth penetrate, and consider many things transcending our reach, upon which the true worth of Persons, and real merit of Actions do depend; he there­fore only can well judg of mens state. As a specious out-side doth often cover inward hollowness and foulness, so [Page 51] under an unpromising appearance much solidity and sincerity of Good­ness may lodg; a dirty ground doth often contain good Seeds within it; our judgment therefore in such Cases is likely (at least in degree) to be fal­lacious and unjust; and therefore it is fit to supersede it, according to the ad­vice and discourse of S. Paul; 1 Cor. 4. 5. He that judgeth me is the Lord; Therefore judg nothing before the time, until the Lord come; who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make ma­nifest the counsels of the heart; and then shall every man have praise (that is a right estimate of his Person and Deeds) from God.

If this were duly considered, many hard thoughts, and many harsh words would be spared; Men would not be so apt to damn those, whom they have no skill to try.

7. Farther; A Judg should not un­dertake to proceed against any man, without warning and citing him to ap­pear, or without affording him com­petent liberty and opportunity to de­fend and justifie himself. Judgment should not be administred clancularly, in dark Corners, but in open Court; [Page 52] not suspiciously, in a muttering or whispering way; but frankly, with a clear and audible voice; not upon surprize, but with allowance of leisure and advice, that the Party may be able to apprehend his Case, and manage his Plea, for his best defence: for it may justly be presumed, that as he is most concerned, so he is best acquainted with his own Proceedings, and may allege Reasons for them, which no man can so well perceive as himself; it is therefore fit that he should be heard, before he is condemned, that he may not suffer wrong; at least that he may be convinced that he doth not, and that our proceeding may be cleared from misprision; that also the World may be satisfied of Justice being done; and that likewise false Accusers may be liable to due shame and chastisement. The manner of proceeding used by the Romans, Acts 25. 16. and reported by Festus in S. Paul's Case, was full of reason and equity: It is not (said that Governor) the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he, which is ac­cused, have the Accusers face to face, and have license to answer for himself, con­cerning the Crime laid against him: [Page 53] Otherwise indeed any Innocence may easily be oppressed irrecoverably, [...], &c. Theod. Ep. 91. with­out any defence, and consequently without any means of evasion or re­dress. We should never yield both ears to the Accuser, but reserve one for the Accused.God himself (as some of the Fathers ob­serve) hath shewed us an Example of this Equity, descendam igi­tur & videbo, &c. Gen. 18. 21. [...]. Theod. Ep 119 & P. Pelagius ad Eliam. The end of Justice, we may consider, is not to condemn nor to work mischief to any one, but rather, so far as may be, to acquit and prevent evil to all; at least it aimeth to clear the Truth, and state the Case in­differently; wherefore 'tis just, that all advantage that well can be, should be afforded to the obnoxious Party for his justification and deliverance; at least that he be not denied equal ad­vantage with his Prosecutors; Huma­nity would allow him some favour; the most rigorous Justice cannot refuse him leave to contest his Cause upon equal terms: wherefore 'tis fit that he should be acquainted with his Case, that competent time and means should be afforded him to prepare for his De­fence, that his Plea should receive, if not a favourable, yet a free audience: the contrary practice is indeed rather backbiting, whispering, supplanting, or sycophantry, then fair and lawful judging.

[Page 54] The observation of this Rule would also cut off many Censures; for seldom it is that our Censurers do charge men to their faces, but rather take all possi­ble care, that what they say may never come to the ears of those whom they accuse; they fear nothing more then being confronted, and detected; they decline the shame and the requital due to their sycophantick practice; which is a manifest Argument of their foul dealing; and they no less in reality do thence condemn themselves, then they would seem to condemn others.

8. Moreover, a Judg is obliged to conform all his Determinations to the setled Rules of Judgment, so as never to condemn any man for acting that, which is injoined, or approved, or per­mitted by them; he must not pro­nounce according to his private fancy, or particular affection, but according to the standing Laws; which as they are the only certain Rules of Moral Action, the only Grounds of Obligati­on, the only Standards of Guilt and Innocence, so in reason they should be the sole Measures of Judging; he that proceedeth otherwise, is an arbitrary and a slippery Judg; he encroacheth [Page 55] upon the Right and Liberty of those with whom he medleth, pronouncing them Guilty, whom God and Reason do proclaim blameless. This is that which S. Paul doth reprove in the 14th to the Romans, Rom. 14. and other-where;1 Cor. 8. 8. the Case was this;Col. 2. 16. Some were of opinion, that abstaining from some kinds of Meat, and observing some Festival Times, were matters of Duty required by God; others thought it free to eat any thing, and to use any times a­like: these, according to such their private opinions, did censure the practices of each other; one Party con­demned the other as transgressing Du­ty, the other contemned them as weak in Judgment; but the Apostle reprov­eth both as irregular in their Behavi­our, in taxing one another for Matters which on both hands were indifferent; the Divine Law having clearly neither enjoined those observances, nor pro­hibited them; so that each man had a liberty to do, or to abstain, as he thought good, or most agreeable to his Duty, and conducible to his Salvation: So is it culpable in us to blame any man for doing that which is not repugnant to God's express Command, or to the [Page 56] plain Dictates of Reason.

The observing this Condition, would smother many Censures: For do we not commonly reprehend our Neigh­bours for practices wholly blameless, perhaps commendable? Do we not sometimes grievously reproach them for not complying with our Desires, for not serving our Interests, for not jump­ing with our Humours, for not dancing after our Pipe; for dissenting from us in any Conceit, although dubious or false; for discosting from our practice, although bad or inconvenient? Say we not ordinarily, he is morose, peevish, singular, rude, because he will not run with us into the same excess of Riot; he is weak, nice, superstitious, because he constantly and strictly adhereth to his Duty; he is negligent, loose, pro­fane, because he useth his liberty in some mattets indifferent? Bar such matters of obloquy, into how narrow a compass would it be restrained?

9. Hence farther it is to be supposed, that a Judg should be a Person of good Knowledg and Ability; [...]. Arist. [...]th. [...]. 3. well versed and skilful in the Laws concerning Matters under debate; endued with good measure of Reason, enabling him [Page 57] as to sift aud canvas Matters of Fact, so to compare them accurately with the Rules of Right; for nothing is more absurd then an Ignorant, and un­skilful Judg. Men therefore of weak Capacity, of mean Education, of small Experience, are qualified to judg in few Cases, most things being placed above their reach; such never should presume to censure Actions, the worth or moral quality whereof, depend up­on the stating and resolution of ab­struse, intricate, or subtile Questions: It is not therefore for Mechanicks or Rusticks to judg about Difficulties of Science, about Controversies in Reli­gion, about Mysteries of Policy, or Reasons of State; or to censure those who deal in them; in so doing, they hugely trespass beyond their Calling and Sphere; they do strangely mis­become the Bench, and will very un­towardly misbehave themselves there­on; the decision of such Matters is to be reserved to those, who by study and experience have attained peculiar Fa­culties to do it respectively.

Observing this Point, would draw many down from their usurped Seats of Judicature, and stop numberless vain [Page 58] Sentences; we should have very few Judges left, if all men would be so modest and so wise, as not to meddle beyond their skill and ability.

10. Again; It is proper for a Judg not to make himself an Accuser; not to seek for Misdemeanours;Sine dubio in omnibus statim accusationibus hoc agendum est, nè ad eas libenter de­scendisse vide­amur. Quintil. 11. 1. not to draw more Causes under his cogni­zance, then are in course presented be­fore him: He should rather judg as out of constraint, then of choice; rather as sorry to find a Necessity, then glad to snatch an occasion of condem­ning Offenders. So should we rather decline, then seek the Office of censu­ring our Brethren, rather conniving at, and concealing their Faults, then being forward to expose them; abso­lute Reason only should induce, or indispensible Necessity force us there­to.

This also greatly would diminish the Trade of Censuring; for if we should never censure without great Reason or necessity, how seldom should we do it? Do we not rather affect to do it causlesly and needlesly? do we not eagerly search after, and greedily em­brace all occasions to do it? Is it not a pleasant entertainment to us, to be [Page 59] carping and cavelling at any Body we meet, at any thing we see done? Far­ther,

11. He that pretendeth to judg others, should himself be innocent; under no Indictment, and not liable to Condemnation:Cúm ipse sis reus, in alterum audes ferre sententiam? Opt. 2. Is it not very impro­per for a Criminal, for one who is not only in Truth, and in his own Consci­ence guilty, but who standeth actually convicted of heinous Offences, to sit upon the Bench, determining about the Deeds and the States of others? It is the case of us all, we are all noto­riously guilty of heinous Crimes before God,Psal. 143. 2. we all do lie under the Sentence of his Law; we do all stand in need of Pardon from our Judg, his Mercy is our only Hope and Refuge; and shall we then pretend to be Judges, or be passing Sentence on our Brethren? If only those, who are free and guiltless, should judg, who could undertake it? there would surely be no more, then there appeared then, when in the Case of the Woman taken in Adultery, our Lord propounded the like condition; [...],Joh. 8. 7, 9. He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her: upon which Proposition the [Page 60] Sequel was; And they which heard it, being convicted by their own Conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even to the last; and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst; so infallibly should no man be allowed to judg, who were not him­self void of like Guilt, would every man escape censure.

12. Lastly; It is the property of a good Judg to proceed with great mo­deration, equity, candor, and mild­ness; as a general Friend, a Friend to Justice, to the Publick, to Mankind, to the Party impeached: As a Friend to Justice, he should be careful that the Defendant receive no wrong in his Credit, or Interest; as a lover of the Publick, he should wish that no Of­fences or Scandals be found; out of humanity he should desire, that no man may incur the blemish of guilt, or pain of suffering; he should ten­der the Parties Case as compassionable, and desire that he may be delivered from the evil threatning him; this should render him willing to acquit, and free the Party, apt to apprehend and interpret all things favourably, ready to excuse and mollifie the business [Page 61] what he can; far from picking faults out of obscure surmises, or slender pretences, from aggravating the miscar­riages that are detected, from stretch­ing the blame farther then it will reach of it self, or making the case worse then it needs must be, from pronoun­cing a harsh or heavy sentence thereon. He should always be of Counsel to the Defendant, pleading his Cause so far as truth and equity will permit; put­ting himself in his Case, and thence no wise dealing with him more rigorously, then he, according to impartial judg­ment, should in the like case deem it equal that himself should be dealt with: in fine, however the Matter in the result appear to stand, he should avoid rigour and extremity, he should exercise clemency and mercy.

If this course were observed, innu­merable Causes, which now are severe­ly judged, would never be mentioned, or come under trial, but would pre­sently be cast out; many would soon, after small discussion, be voided; few would pass that extremity of censure, which now by the cruel asperity of men, they are forced to undergo: For do we not accuse men for things, that are [Page 62] no Faults; do we not exaggerate the guilt of petty Faults? do we not in­sult over great miscarriages with too unmerciful severity? as if they were incorrigible and unpardonable.

Seeing then few of us, according to those reasonable qualifications and conditions, are capable of being Judges; seeing, if those equal Rules were ob­served, most Censures would be dis­carded; seeing hard it is for any man either warrantably to undertake, or uprightly to discharge this Office; great reason there is for this Precept, most fit it is that we should be forbid­den to judg.

So much for the part explicative, and directive; now for the persuasive, and for inducing us to eschew this pra­ctice, let us briefly declare the pravity and vanity of it; the performing which, will I suppose, be sufficient to dissuade and deter us from it. Be pleased only first to note, that some Considerations which we shall pro­pound, will be applicable to some kind of bad censure, some to another, ac­cording to the several defects and inca­pacities we have to judg lawfully, upon the grounds already touched.

[Page 63] 1. Censuring is an impious practice in regard to God.

By taking upon our selves to judg unduly, without Authority, or beyond it, we do invade God's Office, setting up our selves as Judges in his room; we usurp his Right, exercising Juris­diction over his Subjects, without order and license from him: 'tis S. Paul's Ar­gument,Rom. 14. 4. Who art thou that judgest ano­thers Servant? that is, how intollera­bly bold and arrogant, how sacrilegi­ously injurious and profane art thou, to climb up into God's Tribunal, and thence to pronounce doom upon his Subjects?

By rash judgment in matters not sub­ject to our cognizance, (as when we pronounce concerning the secret thoughts and intentions of men) we proudly and perversly do arrogate to our selves the incommunicable Perfe­ctions of God, who alone can know such things, and determine rightly in such cases; who therefore hath reserved them to himself,1 Cor. 4. 5. commanding us to judg nothing before the time, until the Lord come.

By passing Sentence about the state of our Neighbour, we do anticipate [Page 64] God's Judgment, and by prejudging strive to frustrate it. We take upon us to purge his Floor; Matt. 3. 12, 13. & 25. 32. to sever the Chaff from the Corn, and the Tares from the Wheat,Quantus ar­rogantiae tu­mor est, quan­ta humilitatis ac lenitatis oblivio, arro­gantiae suae quanta jactatio, at quis aut facere se posse credat, quod nec Aposto­lis concessit Dominus, ut zizania à frumento putet se posse discerne­re, aut quasi ipsi paleam auferre, & aream purgare concessum sit, pa­leas conetur à tritico separare? Cypr. Ep. 52. to discriminate the Goats from the Sheep; which to perform, will be the Work of God's Infinite Wisdom and Justice at the great day.

By censuring our Brethren causlesly, for not complying with our conceits, humours, or practices, we lay hold up­on, and appropriate to our selves God's Legislative Power; we subject his Law to our fancy and pleasure; we in ef­fect condemn his Law of Error and Imperfection; we do at least make our selves sharers with him in the enacting Laws, and dispensing Justice: He (saith S. James) that speaketh against his Brother, Jam. 4. 11. and judgeth his Brother, speaketh against the Law, and judgeth the Law; that is, he opprobriously doth imply the Law to be defective, until he doth compleat or correct it; making it a guilt not to satisfy his Will or Conceit, beside the plain intent of [Page 65] the Law; the dispensation of Justice is not sufficient, unless he partake there­in, taxing whom and why he pleaseth; God without him is not a perfect Law­giver, or Judg.

We are also very ingrateful in not being favourable towards òur Brethren in Judgment; when as God is in his Judgment so benign, patient, and mer­ciful toward us;Psal. 130. 3. who is not extreme to mark what we do amiss; is not forward to seek or find faults,Isa. 30. 18. but rather wait­eth to be gracious, hideth his face from our sins; Psal. 51. 9. and passeth by our trangres­sions; Mic. 7. 18. doth not aggravate our offen­ces,Psal. 78. 39. & 103. 14. but rather doth excuse them, re­membring that we are flesh; is not glad of occasion to punish,Mic. 7. 18. but delighteth in mercy; Lam. 3. 33. and doth not afflict willingly, or grieve the children of men; is not se­vere,Ezr. 9. 13. but punisheth us less than our ini­quities deserve; Hab. 3. 2. and in his wrath remem­breth mercy. And are we not impious, if we do so ill requite him, and so lit­tle resemble him, in being rigorous and harsh toward our Brethren, when they offend▪ or seem to do so?

In fine; Censuring is impious, as involving the violation of those great Commandments, of exercising (in all [Page 66] our demeanour and dealing) Humili­ty, Meekness, Pity, and Mercy to­ward our Brethren; of pursuing and promoting peace among them.

2. Censuring, in respect to our Neighbour, is an unjust practice. It is unjust to meddle in Affairs, with which we have nothing to do; to draw those Persons under our Juris­diction, who are not subject to it, but are liable to render their Accompt at another Bar; to punish those in their reputation or interest, over whom we have no just Authority, who have their own Master, to whom they must stand or fall.

'Tis most unjust to judg any man without competent means of knowing, or skill to determine his Case; to con­demn him without diligent trial, with­out certain proof, without full con­viction of his Fault; to punish him without just cause, or beyond due mea­sure.

'Tis very unjust to usurp an inte­rest in the Goods, which are to our Neighbour most proper and dear; his Credit and Concernments depend thereon; disposing of them as we please, to his disadvantage and preju­dice.

[Page 67] 'Tis also very unjust,—aequum est Peccatis veni­am poscentem reddere rursus. Hor. S [...]rm. 1 3. Det ille veni­am facile, cui veniâ est opus. Sen. Tr. when as we do need the candid Judgment, the for­bearance, and pardon of others for many things faulty and offensive that we commit, to refuse the like to others.

3. Censuring is also a very unchari­table practice, and so contrary to the principal Duty of our Religion; it is so eminently in all cases wherein it is unjust, (for Charity doth virtually contain Justice, and transcendeth it) it is so peculiarly when-ever it is harsh or rigorous, when it is affected; when it is needless or unprofitable; for Cha­rity disposeth us to be gentle, meek, patient, and merciful in all our deal­ings; it engages us to hide and smo­ther, to diminish and excuse, to pass by and pardon Offences;1 Cor. 13. 5, 7. [...]. Naz. Or. 21. Charity seek­eth no evil, it covereth all things, it bear­eth all things; it tendreth our Neigh­bour's good, and advantage of all kinds, (his credit, his interest, his con­venience, and pleasure) it therefore will inflict no more evil, then reason and necessity shall indispensably re­quire.

A Censurer is indeed unjust and un­charitable, not only toward those [Page 68] whom he censureth, but also toward those into whom thereby he doth in­fuse ill-opinion, and ill-will toward their Neighbour; he is guilty of their injustice and uncharitableness, a mis­chief more irreparable then his own.

4. Censuring is a very foolish and vain practice in manifold respects;Est proprium stultitiae alio­rum vitia cer­nere, oblivisci s [...]orum. Cic. Tusc. 1. as arguing great ignorance and inconside­rateness, as producing grievous incon­veniencies and mischiefs; especially to the practiser of it.

It signifieth, that we do not well understand, or not well consider the natural impotency and frailty of man­kind; how liable others are to mistake, and slip; and how prone we our selves are thereto; how (as S. James saith) in many things we offend all; Jam. 3. 2. Did we observe, or would weigh this; we should not be so forward to censure, or so vehement and bitter in it; we should see failing and tripping in many things to be a common case, rather de­manding commiseration then censure.

It implieth also, that we little consi­der, how our escaping any Faults, which our neighbour slippeth into, is no wise imputable to any worth or ver­tue in us, so much as the good Provi­dence, [Page 69] and merciful Grace of God, guarding or rescuing us from them; if we did apprehend and reflect on this, it would appear our Duty rather to bless God for our being protected from miscarriages, then censoriously to insult over those who seem to fall into them. It signifieth we have no sight or sense of our own defects; for did we clearly see, did we humbly resent them, that would damp our heat and earnestness to censure. It declares a fond self-conceit, that we deem our selves superior to our Neighbour in Wisdom, and less obnoxious to blame, and therefore fit to be his Judges; whereas according to a sober esteem of our selves, we should appear more fit to stand at the Bar, then to sit upon the Bench; and should thence more dread the one, then affect the other.

It sheweth likewise, that we do not rightly conceive the nature, or wor­thily esteem the consequences of this practice: We know not, or regard not, the value of our Neighbour's Reputa­tion, which by censure we do mean to ruin, or impair: We perhaps by no means would rob him of his Substance, or of his Life; yet we scruple not by [Page 70] grievous censure to bereave him of his good Name; which he, the best prizer of his own Goods, may esteem beyond his Estate, or his Life it self; we think it nothing, or a slight matter to carp at him, but he feeleth it very painful, and deeply resenteth it.

It argueth in us an untamed fierce­ness of mind, and discomposedness of passion, which can never consist or co­habit with Wisdom; for a well-order­ed, calm, and free mind, will be slow in conceiving offence or dislike, mode­rate in estimating things,Prov. 12, 16. A fools wrath is presently known; but a prudent man covereth shame. reserved in expressing its sentiments, not easily transported into extremity or excess; it consequently hardly will suffer a Man to break forth into rash or harsh censure.Prov. 29. 11. A fool utter­eth all his mind; but a wise man keepeth it till afterwards. So many Signs and Argu­ments of incogitancy and blindness this Practice doth involve.

5. Furthermore, this practice will produce many great inconveniencies and mischiefs to us.

1. We do thereby provoke, and in a sort authorize others to requite us in the same kind: [...]at tibi contrà [...], inqui­rant [...]i [...]ia ut tra [...], & [...]lli [...] Hor. Serm [...] for nothing more doth excite the indignation, doth enflame the anger, doth engender the hatred of [Page 71] men toward us, then being pragmati­cal in finding fault, and hasty to cen­sure their doings, causlesly or immode­rately; nothing seeming to them a more certain Argument that we bear them ill-will, or do contemn them; and if we so vex them, they will in requital be as ready by finding or making faults in us, to vex and trouble us; it en­gageth their care, and quickneth their industry, and whetteth their invention to observe, or devise matter of recri­mination. Men think it not only law­ful, but even needful for them, in their own defence, to disparage the Censu­rer, that his judgment may have the less weight to their prejudice: So that it will infalliby come upon us, as our Lord warneth (using it as an Argu­ment to dissuade us from this practice) that,Matt. 7 2. with what judgment we judg, we shall be judged; Luk. 6. 37, 38. and with what measure we mete, it shall be measured to us again: Men take it for allowable to retaliate in this way to the height, and stoutly to load the censorious man with cen­sure.

2. We do by this practice,Vid. Chrys. in Matt. Or▪ 36. p. 249. not on­ly expose our selves to censure, but im­plicitly, and according to ready conse­quence [Page 72] do pass it upon our selves; see­ing we seldom, in kind or equivalent­ly, are our selves clear of that which we charge upon others; with our own weapon of sharp censure, we through another's side do imprudently wound our selves;2 Sam. 12. and often, as David did in his Parley with Nathan, adjudg our selves to capital punishment; so that to any censorious Person, it may be said,Rom. 2. 1. in S. Paul's words, Wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thy self; for thou that judgest, dost the same things.

3. We do by censuring others, aggra­vate our own faults, [...]. Chrys. [...]. Rom. 2. 1, 3. and deprive them of excuse, and render ourselves uncapa­ble of Mercy and Pardon: for of all men, he that is forward and prone to censure, who is rigorous and severe in judging others, deserveth no favour, nor can reasonably pretend thereto. Inexcusable (saith S. Paul) art thou, O man, whosoever thou art, that judgest; for, [...]. Naz. Or. 26. [...]. Chrys. ad Demet. Tom. 6. Or. 52. thinkest thou this, O Man, that judgest them which do such things, and dost the same, that thou shalt escape the Judgment of God? and, [...]. [Page 73] Do not (saith S. James) moanfully complain one against another,Jam. 5. 9. & 2. 13.lest you be condemned; and, He shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy, in his judgment, saith the same Apostle. Which passages im­ply, [...]. Chrys. Ibid. that to be unmerciful in this kind, [...]. Ibid. will expose us to the severity of Judg­ment in regard to our offences; or, that if we deal harshly with our Bre­thren now, God will then proceed the more severely toward us, when our great Cause doth come under trial.

4. Indeed censuring others is an Ar­gument, that we do little mind our own case, or consider to what a dread­ful Judgment we do stand obnoxious: did we think of that, we should see cause rather to employ our leisure and care in stating our own Accompts, then in examining those of others; more adviseable it would appear to mind our own case, then to busy our selves in canvasing and determining the state of our Neighbour; finding what great need our Actions will have in [Page 74] that day of favourable construction, and merciful allowance, we should be­come candid and mild in reflecting up­on the actions of others; we should not be forward to carp at any thing, we should scarce have the heart to con­demn any man; this S. Paul seemeth to imply,Rom. 14. 10. when he thus argueth: Why dost thou judg thy Brother, or why dost thou set at naught thy Brother? We shall all stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ; that is, Why do any of us judge others, seeing we must all be judged our selves? [...]. Chrys. in 2 Tim. Orat. 2. It is not seemly, it is not expedient for those, who soon must be arraigned, and put to answer for them­selves, to be busy in questioning and prejudging others; but rather to spend their care and pains in preparing for their own Accompt.

5. Nothing indeed more causeth us to neglect our own case, nothing more engageth us to leave our own Faults unobserved and uncorrected, [...]. Chrys. [...]. then this humour. It is easy to observe, that as they who are most sparing and gentle in censure, are usually most exempt [Page 75] from blame (for that carefully reflect­ing upon their own infirmities and de­fects, spending their heat and activity of spirit upon amending their own Errors and Faults, they have less time, less concernment, less mind to search out and scan the imperfections and mis­demeanours of others; they do find less reason also,Vid. Chrys. Tom. 2. Or. 42. and therefore have less will to be fierce or severe toward them) so the most censorious are usually the most stupid in discerning, and most careless in retrenching their own faults.Sen. de Vit. B. 27. And needs it must be so, for the Acti­ons of other men devour their leisure, take up the intention of their spirits, employ the keenness of their passions upon them, [...]. Naz. Orat. 8. so that they cannot, and will not attend to themselves; they are so much abroad, they are so very busy otherwhere, that they little know, or care what is done at home; while they are spying and pulling out Motes from their Brothers eye, Mat 7. 3, 4. [...]. Naz. Ep 27. [...]. Naz. Orat. 21. they consider not the Beam that is in their own eye, although never so gross and obvious.

6. Hence, I say, it is that common­ly the best men are the most candid and gentle, and they are most apt to blame others, who deserve worse themselves; [Page 76] that the sharpest tongues, and foulest lives do usually go together; that they who are the strictest Judges of their own, are the fairest Interpreters of other mens actions;Ego mî ignos­co, Maenius in­quit; Stulcus & improbus hîc amor est, dig­nús (que) notari. Hor. Serm. l. 3. and they who will least pardon others, do most excuse themselves; that they who are strange­ly acute in descrying other mens Faults, are stark blind in discerning their own. Our Saviour therefore chargeth such Persons with Hypocrisie, (Thou Hypo­crite; first cast the Beam out of thine own eye) implying, that they do but falsly pretend a respect for goodness and zeal against Sin, seeing in their own practice they indulge it; that it is indeed rather pride, peevishness, idleness, spleen, or selfish design that acteth them.

7. In fine; The censorious humour, as it argueth ill-nature to be predomi­nant, (a vulturous nature, which easi­ly smelleth out, and hastily flieth to­ward, and greedily feedeth on Carri­on) as it signifieth bad Conscience; for he that knoweth evil of himself, is most prone to suspect, and most quick to pronounce ill concerning others; so it breedeth and fostereth such ill di­spositions; it debaucheth the minds of men, rendring them dim, and doltish [Page 77] in apprehending their own Faults, neg­ligent and heedless in regard to their own hearts and ways; apt to please and comfort themselves in the evils, real or imaginary, of their Neighbours; which to do, is a very barbarous and brutish practice.

These Considerations may, I hope, suffice to persuade the observance of this Precept, by the help of God's Grace, to which I commend you, and conclude.

Now the God of Peace—make you per­fect in every good Work to do his Will, working in you that which is well-plea­sing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom [...] be glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Ninth Sermon.

1 THESS. 4. 11.‘And that ye study to be quiet,Chrys. in 2 Cor. Orat. 19. and to do your own Business.’

AS frequently between neigh­bouring States there do rise Dissentions and Contests about the just limits of their Territories; so doth it frequently happen between Vertue and Vice, Right and Wrong, Duty and Miscarriage in Practice: for although the extream Degrees; and even the middle Regions of these things are very distant, yet the Borders of them do lie very close together, and are in a manner contiguous; a certain ridg of separation running between them, which commonly (being very narrow, thin, and obscure) it is not [Page 80] easy to discern. So it particularly fal­leth out in the matter before us, where­in our Text is concerned. Duty and Offence do neerly confine, and almost indiscernibly differ one from the other; for there are about this Case Precepts which seem to contradict; there are Duties appearing to thwart one ano­ther.

S. Paul here biddeth us to be studi­ous, or ambitious of quiet; other­where he enjoineth us to be earnestly active, (to be [...], not slothful in business); Rom. 12. 11. Here he would have us to mind our own Affairs; otherwhere he prescribeth, that we should not look every man to his own things, Phil. 2. 4. but every man also to the things of others.

According to the general drift of Scripture, and the tenour of our Re­ligion, we are in charity obliged to concern our selves heartily for the good of our Neighbour, and to strive earnestly in promoting it; we are en­joined so far to interpose and meddle in the Affairs of others, as to watch over them for their good; to instruct and advise them, to admonish and ex­cite them, to check and reprove them [Page 81] upon occasion; to offer and yield them succour, to compose Differences be­tween them; to promote their Edifi­cation and Peace; [...]. Let us (saith the Apostle to the Hebrews) consider one another to provoke unto love, Heb. 10. 24. and to good works: Let us (saith S. Paul to the Romans) follow after the things which make for peace, Rom. 14. 19. & 15. 2. and things where­with one may edifie another; 1 Thess. 5. 11, 14. and, exhort your selves together, and edifie one ano­ther; warn them that are unruly, com­fort the feeble-minded, support the weak, saith he to the Thessalonians in this Epistle.

To be zealous and earnest in the maintenance and propagation of Truth, of Vertue, of Piety, is a Duty incum­bent on us, which implieth care and activity concerning others; that we of­fer to instruct them;Tit. 11. 11. that we enter in­to contest with them; that we exa­mine their words and actions; that we presume to tax and oppose them.

In fine; Our Religion doth seem, by the bands of mutual Relation, and obligations of Charity so to unite us together, so to endear us to one ano­ther, and to all men; that all things belonging to our Brethren do nearly [Page 82] touch us, and should answerably affect us; so that by intermedling with any thing relating to their welfare, we can hardly be said to meddle with what doth not concern us.

The condition of things also may seem to require, that we so intermed­dle; for the Duties and Affairs of Men are so entangled or interwoven, that we can hardly prosecute any Con­cernments of our own, without being engaged in the Matters of others: In discharging all Offices of Society, in pursuance of any Traffick or Com­merce, in all entercourse and conversa­tion, while we transact our own Busi­ness, we cannot avoid the furthering, or obstructing the Business of others, who are engaged in the same, or con­trary Designs: Society doth subsist by combinations of Care and Pain, re­garding common Interests, so that it seemeth impossible so to mind our own Business, as not to meddle with the Bu­siness of others.

Yet notwithstanding S. Paul injoin­eth us so to affect Quiet, as simply to mind our own Business, or not to be meddlesome in the concernments of others; for that doing our own Busi­ness, [Page 83] is meant exclusively to medling with the Affairs of others is plain enough, by the importance of [...]; which is emphatical, and signifieth on­ly our own, or our proper Business; and because it is joined with being quiet, which respecteth others, and im­porteth not stirring beyond our own bounds; to be so meddlesome, being also a practice expresly condemned by S. Peter, 1 Pet. 4. 16. in that prohibition, But let none of you suffer as a Murderer, or as a Thief, or as a Malefactor, or as a busy-body in other mens matters; where Prag­maticalness is we see not only forbid­den, but is coupled with the most hei­nous Offences.

How then shall we reconcile these things? how shall we in the case sever between the bounds of Duty and Blame? It is indeed somewhat difficult to do it precisely, and with distincti­ons which shall reach all cases: But somewhat I shall endeavour toward it; by propounding some Rules and Di­rections, which should commonly be observed in our dealing and enter­course with others; but first let us a little reflect upon the terms in which the Precept is couched.

[Page 84] Study to be quiet: Study; the word is [...], which signifieth to be ambitious, that is, to affect quiet with the like vehemency of desire and care, as men are wont to pursue Reputation, Dignity, and Power, the Objects of Ambition: the expression containeth a remarkable emphasis, or a grave acu­men; for whereas Ambition common­ly doth prompt men to be restlesly bu­sy, and engageth them in the Con­cernments proper to others, S. Paul biddeth them to be ambitious the con­trary way, in affecting quiet, and absti­nence from other Affairs beside their own.

To be quiet; This doth signifie not a Physical, but a Moral Rest; not a to­tal forbearance of Action; not a fasti­dious or drowsy listlessness to do any thing; not a sensless indifferency con­cerning the Matters of others; not an absolute sequestring our selves from common Affairs; this is not quiet, or tranquillity, the [...] here, but a naughty sloth, stupidity, or savage­ness; the Quiet here meant is opposed to disorderly motion, to turbulency, to contention, to pragmatical curiosi­ty, to all such exorbitant behaviour, [Page 85] whereby the Right of others is infrin­ged, their Peace disturbed, their just Interest or Welfare any-wise prejudi­ced: This Quiet is a calm, steady, re­gular way of proceeding, within the bounds and measures prescribed by Reason, Justice, and Charity, Mode­sty, and Sobriety; such a motion as the Heavenly Bodies do keep, which so move that they seem ever to stand still, and never disturb one another; in fine, what a Quiet is meant, the sub­sequent words, and the context do shew; it followeth.

And [...], to do our own Business, or to act things proper and pertinent to us; things which sute to our Condition, our Station, our Vo­cation; whereby we may discharge our own Duties, and supply our own Needs; may work benefit to others, or however avoid being any-wise bur­thensome or troublesome to them; an instance of which practice is immedi­ately subjoined; to work with our own hands—that we may have lack of no­thing; 1 Thess 3. 12. in another place S. Paul calleth it [...], to work with quiet, opposing it [...], being over-busy, or pragmatically curious, [Page 86] and to walking disorderly; that is, be­yond the Bounds of our Calling, or the Rules of our Duty; so as to en­croach upon the Rights, or molest the Quiet of others.

The words then as they do imply an Obligation lying upon us to be indu­strious in our own Business, so they chiefly design to prohibit our medling with the Concernments of others; but how to settle the limits between this Quiet minding our own Business, and a culpable neglect of the Duties con­cerning others; how to distinguish be­tween medling innocently, from being blameably meddlesome, hic labor, hoc opus est; this is that hard task which I am to undertake, but cannot hope tho­roughly to perform. However the method toward it, which I shall ob­serve, is this: First, I shall touch some cases in which it is allowable or com­mendable to meddle with the Affairs of others; then I shall propound some general Rules, according to which such meddlesomeness is commonly blame­able; in the next place I shall assign some Directions proper to some chief and most obvious kinds of medling; and lastly, offer some Considerations [Page 87] to dissuade men from this pragmatical humour.

1. Superiors may intermeddle with I the Business of their Inferiors, (that is, of such as are subject to their care and charge) in all matters relating to the needful execution of their Office. Magistrates may inspect the carriage, may examine the doings, may repre­hend and punish the Offences of their Subjects: Parents may advise, rebuke, and correct their Children; Spiritual Guides and Pastors may admonish and reprove their Flock: These things while (with due prudence, equity, and moderation) they perform, they do indeed [...], do their own Business; it is their proper work, to which God hath designed them, and which Reason exacteth of them; they are appointed (to use S. Paul's expres­sion) to attend continually upon this very thing; Rom. 13. 6. their proceedings therefore are not to be charged with culpable Prag­maticalness.

2. In any case, wherein the Honour and Interest of God is much concern­ed, we may interpose in vindication and maintenance of them. If any man [Page 88] dareth to blaspheme God's Name, we may and ought to stand up in its de­fence; if any man disparageth Religi­on, we should strive to clear its re­pute; if any man impugneth any Di­vine Truth of moment, [...]. Chrys. [...]. we should en­deavour to assert it; if any man noto­riously transgresseth God's Law, we may discountenance his presumption, and reprove him for it: Every man in such cases, as God's Subject, hath not only a Commission, [...]. &c. Chrys. [...]id. but an Obligation; is in­deed by his Allegiance bound to serve God, in maintaining the honour and interest of his Empire; 'tis foul dis­loyalty, 'tis pittiful baseness to forbear medling in such cases. Thus have good Men, without fear or shame, de­fended Religion, and Truth, against the mightiest Powers, and most dange­rous oppositions that could be; Thus stood up Phineas and executed Judg­ment, Psal. 106. 30. not only check­ing, but avenging that heinous scan­dal: Thus Elias maintained the true Worship of God against all the Cor­rupters of it, the Kings and whole Na­tion of Israel: Thus the Prophets did not forbear to tax the wicked manners of the Princes, the Priests, and the [Page 89] People in their Times: Thus St. John Baptist did not stick to reprove King Herod for his unlawful practice: So our Saviour censured the superstitious and hypocritical Scribes, and he cha­stised the profaners of God's House: So, in sine, the Holy Apostles resolutely did assert God's Truth against all the World.

3. When the Publick Weal and Safety are manifestly concerned, we may also intermeddle to support or se­cure them: So may we rebuke him that slandereth or reproacheth our Prince; we may check him, that would break the Peace; we may impeach him that violateth the Laws, conducing to publick welfare:Tertull. Every Man is a Souldier against Traitors and Enemies of his Country: Every Man is born with a Commission to defend the Pub­lick against those which plot its ruin or harm: Every Man is a Party for his Prince against Rebels, for the Church against Schismaticks, for the Law against lawless Transgressors, for common Peace, against those who outragiously disturb it: Duty to our Superiors, Ju­stice and Charity to Mankind, just re­gard to our own welfare, allow and [Page 90] oblige us to such medling.

4. We may also meddle for the suc­cour of Right, against palpable wrong and outrage: We may help an honest Man against a Thief assaulting him; we may guard the life of any Man against an Assassine; we may vindicate the Reputation of an innocent Person aspersed by a slanderous Tongue; as Moses—seeing one of his Brethren suffer wrong, Acts 7. 24. defended him; and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyp­tian; Luke 23. 40. as the penitent Thief rebuked his Companion, unjustly railing upon our Saviour; the common Interest of Ju­stice and Charity do not only ex­cuse, but commend medling in such cases.

5. We may likewise meddle with the proceedings of others, when our own just defence requireth it; we may Cum mode­ramine in cul­patae t [...]telae. repel those who attaque our safety or peace, who invade or rifle our Goods, who traduce our good Name; we may endevour to defeat their Plots, and to restrain their Violence: This is in­deed doing our own Business, for to preserve our Life with its convenien­cies and comforts, to maintain our Right and just Interest, to keep our [Page 91] Honour and Reputation clear from scandal, is incumbent upon us; we are naturally the Patrons, Advocates, and Guards of those considerable Goods assigned or entrusted to us by Provi­dence.

6. When the life or welfare (either Spiritual or Temporal) of our Neigh­bour is deeply concerned, and cannot otherwise then by our aid be supported or relieved, we may lawfully inter­pose to yield it: If we see him expo­sing his Life to any great hazard, or engaging his Soul into any great sin, we may in any fair way, (by Admo­nition, Advice, Reproof, politick De­vice, harmless Force) without any in­vitation or licence, with or against his will, presume to reclaim or restrain him. We may stop him in his carier to ruin, or grievous mischief; we may with-hold him from running into a Snare, or tumbling down a Precipice, or drinking in Poison; we may (as S. Jude speaketh) snatch him out of the Fire. Jud. 23. [...]. In such cases we may reasona­bly suppose, that our Neighbour be­ing himself, will allow us to meddle, or will not be displeased therewith; if he hath not his wits about him, we [Page 92] may supply him with ours in such exi­gence;Invito non tri­buitur quod­cun (que) pro [...]o praestatur. Reg. I. his present consent and appro­bation are not then requisite, he not being in condition to yield them;Furiosis nul­la voluntas est. R. I. he needeth Guardians, and opportunity constituteth us in that Office: Extreme and evident need will not only excuse the liberty we shall assume, but it ob­ligeth us to use our power to save him; in case of neglect, that surly answer, Am I my Brothers keeper? Gen. 4. 9. [...], &c. Vid. Chrys. [...]. 1. & Tom. 2. Or. 59. in Mat. O­rat. 77, 78. in Joh. Or. 15. in Eph. Or. 19. Chrys. in Tit. Or. 5. in Hebr. Or. 30. will not serve our turn. We may, we should, it is not only innocent, but just and laudable for us to be watchful over our Neighbour's concernment and deport­ment, if we do it out of pure charity, in a discreet, quiet, and gentle man­ner.

7. In fine; If any signal opportu­nity of doing our Neighbour conside­rable good, especially to his Soul, doth offer it self, we may lawfully, we should in charity embrace it; we may then even obtrude upon him our direction and succour; if he be so blind as not to discern our good will, so peevish as to dislike our proceeding, so ingrateful as not to thank us for our pains, yet our good [Page 93] intent will justifie us before God, and at the Bar of Reason; and we have to countenance us therein, the common example of good Men, who for doing thus, have worthily been accompted the Friends and Benefactors of Man­kind.

In these and the like cases we may, without offending, intermeddle; in doing so, we may indeed truly be said to be quiet, and to do our own Busi­ness; because there is no exorbitancy or disorder in such proceeding, because God's Law and sound Reason have ap­propriated these things to us, and made them our concernment: There is no Business more proper or pertinent to us, then that wherein we labour to promote the Glory of God, or to pro­cure the good of Men; this is the principal design of our Being, and there­fore Emploiment therein cannot mis­become us: but we must however in such Cases take heed that our Preten­ces are real and well-grounded, that our Proceedings are regular and fair; we must not take or use such liberty maliciously; we must never out of hypocritical pretence to the mainte­nance of God's Honour, of publick [Page 94] Good, of Justice, Truth, or Peace, be irregularly pragmatical or turbu­lent; this is to be doubly bad, adding to the irregularity of Offence, the wickedness of Fraud and Malice.

II I. We should never (out of ambi­tion, covetous desire, or self-conceit) so meddle as to invade any Man's Of­fice; or to assume the exercise of it. A private Man should not presume to act the Prince or the Statesman; offer­ing to control those who are not un­der him, to deliberate, debate, deter­mine, or pass censure about political Affairs or Occurrences: A Lay-man should not intrude himself to admini­ster the Sacred Functions of Authori­tative Teaching, of dispensing the Sa­craments, of exercising Spiritual Cen­sures, of defining Theological Con­troversies, which are committed to the Guides and Pastors of the Church. No Man should set himself upon the Tribunal to judg, or undertake with­out licence or invitation to arbitrate the Causes of others: Doing thus, is to encroach upon God, and to usurp upon Man; We encroach upon God, assuming to our selves Powers not de­rived [Page 95] from his Order, and deserting the Station assigned us by his Provi­dence; we usurp upon Man, exerci­sing authority over him, which he is not bound to stoop unto.

2. We should not (without Call, or Allowance) meddle with our Supe­riors, so as to advise them, to repre­hend them, to blame or inveigh against their Proceedings; for this is to con­found the right order of things, to trespass beyond the bounds of our Cal­ling and Station; to do wrong, not only to them, but to the Publick, which is concerned in the upholding their Power and Respect: It is indeed a worse fault then assuming the Ensigns of their Dignity, or counterfeiting their Stamps; for that is but to borrow the Semblance, this is to enjoy the Sub­stance of their Authority.

Nothing in this busy and licentious Age is more usual, then for private Men to invade the Office, to exercise the Duties, to canvas and control the Actions of their Superiors; discussing what they ought to do, and prescribing Laws to them; taxing what is done by them; murmuring at their Decrees, and inveighing against their Proceed­ings: [Page 94] [...] [Page 95] [...] [Page 96] Every one is finding holes in the State, and picking quarrels with the conduct of Political Affairs: Eve­ry one is reforming and setling the Pub­lick according to Models framed in his own Conceit: Things (saith one) are out of order, the Constituti­on is very defective, and ought to be corrected; such a Law in all reason should be repealed, and such an one enacted: Here our States-men were out of their Politicks, and there our Law-givers failed in point of equity or prudence: No, clamours another no less eagerly, all things stand as well as can be, nothing can be amended, or ought to be altered; our establishment in all respects is more perfect then Pla­to's Common-wealth, or the State of Eutopia: Thus doth each Man appoint himself Counsellor of State, and turns Legislator without any Call from the King, or Choice of the Country; every one snatches at the Scepter, and invests himself with the Senator's Robe; Every one acteth a Prince and a Bishop, or indeed is rather a Censor and Con­troller of both Orders; not consider­ing the wrong he committeth, nor the arrogance he practiseth, nor the mis­chiefs [Page 97] which naturally ensue upon such demeanour; for to direct, or to check Governours, is in effect to exauctorate or depose them, substituting our selves in their room; and what greater inju­ry can we do them, or the Publick? to fix or reverse Laws, belongeth to the highest Authority and deepest Wis­dom, which 'tis enormous presumption for us to arrogate to our selves; by attempting such things, we confound the ranks of Men, and course of things; we ruffle the World, we sup­plant Publick Tranquillity; and what greater mischief then this can we do among Men?

It is the business and duty of those whom God hath constituted his Repre­sentatives and Ministers to deliberate and conclude what is to be done; and for the due performance of their Charge, they are accomptable to their Master,Tibi summum rerum judici­um dii dedere; nobis obsequii gloria relicta est. M. Terent. apud Tac. [...]nn. V. C. not to us; Nobis obsequii glo­ria relicta est; our Duty and our Pri­viledg, (for so it is, if we could un­derstand it, it being far more easy and safe) it is to submit and obey with quiet and patience; if we do more, we are therein irregular, and no less undutiful to God, then to our superi­ours; [Page 98] We forget those Divine Rules and Precepts;Eccles 8. 4. Where the Word of a King is, there is Power; and who may say to him, 1 Pet. 2. 13, 18. What dost thou? Submit your selves to every Ordinance of Man for the Lord's sake? Phil. 2. 14. Do all things without mur­murings, and disputings: We consider not what Judgments are denounced upon those,2 Pet. 2. 11. whose Character it is, to despise Government, to be presumptuous, and self-willed, not to be afraid to speak evil of Dignities.

We do not weigh the nature of the things we meddle with, nor the advan­tages of the Persons, whom we tax; nor our own incapacity to judg right­ly about them. There is a kind of sa­credness in the Mysteries of State; as the Mysteries of Faith do surpass natu­ral Reason, so do those of State trans­cend vulgar Capacity: as Priests by special Grace are qualified best to un­derstand the one; so are Princes by like peculiar assistance enabled to pe­netrate the former. He that employ­eth them in that great Work of go­verning the World, and maketh them Instruments of his Providence, is not wanting in affording to them direction, and aid needful for the discharge of [Page 99] their Duty; whence their Judgments of things are somewhat more then hu­mane, and their words may with us pass for Oracular;Prov. 16. 10. A divine Sentence (the wise King said) is in the Lips of the King; his Mouth transgresseth not in Judgment: According to the ordina­ry reason of things they are best able to judg of such things, being, by rea­son of their eminent station, able to discern more, and farther then others; having by experience and constant practice acquired a truer insight into things, and a better skill to manage them: whereas we being placed be­neath in a Valley, can have no good prospect upon the grounds and causes of their resolutions and proceedings; we for want of sufficient use and exer­cise, cannot skill to ballance the con­trary weights and reasons of things; to surmount the difficulties and rubs, to unfold the knots and intrigues, which occur in Affairs of that kind; we can­not expect those special influences of light and strength from Heaven, to­ward judging of Affairs, which do not properly concern us: wherefore we are altogether incompetent Judges, and impertinent Dealers about those [Page 100] things; it is great odds, that in doing so, we shall mistake, and misbehave our selves; we consequently do vain­ly and naughtily to meddle with them. If the love of Publick Good doth transport us, let us restrain our selves.

3. We should not indeed so much as meddle with the Affairs of our Equals, (those I mean not who do equal us in dignity or worth, but all such who are not subject to our command or charge, however otherwise inferior to us; those I say we should not meddle with) so as to control or cross them; to di­rect, or check, or censure their pro­ceedings against their will, or without special reason engaging us thereto: for this is also to usurp an undue au­thority; this argueth self-conceit; this containeth immodesty and arrogance.

4. We should not, without the de­sire or leave of Parties concerned, in­termeddle in the smaller Temporal In­terests of others, upon pretence to fur­ther them, or with design to cross them, for every man should be left to himself to chuse, a [...]d to manage his own Busi­ness, prosecuting it in the method he best liketh (consistent with Law and Justice towards others) without inter­ruption [Page 101] or control: Every man hath a right to do so, every man desireth it, every man commonly hath a capacity sufficient for it; for each man is apt to study his own Business, to weigh his Case, to poise his Abilities, with the Circumstances in which he standeth; and thence is likely to get righter noti­ons concerning the state of his Affairs, to descry better ways of accomplishing them, then others less regarding them can do: Every man is best acquainted with his own humour and temper, and thence can pick his Business, and wind the management of it, so that it shall comply with them, or not grate upon them. However, as every man in point of interest and honour is most concerned in the success, and suffereth most by frustration of his endeavours, so it is equal that a free choice of his proceedings should be allowed him, without impediment or disturbance; which enjoying, he will more conten­tedly bear any disappointment that shall happen. This especially we say, in re­spect to matters of lesser consequence, such as most worldly Interests are) by the ill success whereof our Neigh­bour is not extreamly dammaged or [Page 102] hurt; for in such cases the immodesty and arrogancy of medling, with the vexation and trouble it is apt to work, do commonly much outweigh any benefit we can presume by our medling to procure.

5. We should not indeed ever in matters of indifferent and innocent nature so far meddle, as without consi­derable reason or need, to infringe any mans liberty, to cross his humour, to obstruct his pleasure, however discor­dant these may be to our Judgment and Palate: Every man hath a parti­cular gust for Diet, for Garb, for Di­vertisements, and Disports, (arising from particular Complexion, or other unaccomptable Causes) and fit it is that he should satisfy it; it is enough, that what he doth seemeth good, and relisheth to himself; if we check him therein, we shall seem impertinent and troublesom, and therefore we shall re­ally be so; for it is not our Office to be Tasters, to be Dressers, to be Ma­sters of the Sports to all Men: we in such Matters would please our own fancy, and therefore we should not about them offend others; 'tis incivili­ty, 'tis injustice to do it.

[Page 103] 6. We should never offer to put a force upon any mans inclination, or strive to bend it unto a compliance with ours; in attempting that we shall commonly be disappointed, and we shall never come fairly off: for some are so tough, they will never yield to us, none will comply against the grain, without regret and displeasure; if you extort a compliance with your desire, you thereby do lose their good-opini­on and good-will; for no man liketh to be over-born with violence or im­portunity.

7. We should not in Conversation meddle so as impose our Opinions and Conceits upon others: In conversation with our Equals, we have a liberty to propound our Judgment, and declare our Reasons for it; but if our Judg­ment doth not take, nor our Reasons persuade, we should have done; to press farther is rude, to be displeased for it is vain, to be angry or violent is unjust; for by the Law of Conversa­tion every man taketh himself to have an absolute right to use and follow his own Reason; and he that affects to de­prive any man thereof, will pass for a petty Tyrant, a Clown, or an Idiot; [Page 104] to retain the satisfaction, which our own perswasion affordeth, is enough to con­tent a just and sober Mind, without triumphing over the understandings of others.

8. We should not ordinarily in con­verse affect, or undertake to teach; for this implies a pretence to a kind of superiority, and a preferring our selves to others in wisdom; which argueth vanity, and is offensive to those with whom we converse; who care not to be dealt with as Disciples, or Under­lings. We may with our Equals mo­destly dispute the Case, upon even ground, as fellow Students of Know­ledg, or Advocates of Truth; but we must not peremptorily dictate, or pronounce with Authority, like Masters or Judges.

9. We should indeed be cautious of interrupting any Man's Discourse,Nec quid aga­tur in aliâ do­mus alia per [...]te noverit. Hier. Ep. 2. or of taking his words out of his Mouth: for this is a rude way of dispossessing men of that, which by common Law of society they suppose themselves to enjoy, speaking their mind through, and perfecting their Discourse; 'tis an implicit accusation of impertinency or weakness in their speech; 'tis an Argu­ment, [Page 105] that we deem our selves wiser then they, or able to speak more to the purpose; it is therefore an unsoci­able and distastful practice.

10. We should be careful of in­trenching upon any mans modesty, in any way, either of commendation or dispraise; so as to put him to the blush, or to expose him unto scorn: Sober Men care not to be the Subjects of Talk; no Man can endure to be the Object of Sport; we should not therefore thrust any Man upon the Stage; 'tis vexatious, and therefore al­ways discourteous, sometimes very inju­rious.

11. It is good to be very staunch and cautious of talking about other Men, and their Concernments, in way of passing Characters on them, or des­canting upon their Proceedings for want of other Discourse: This is the common refuge of Idleness, and the practice of fidling Gossips, who be­cause they will do nothing themselves, must be reflecting upon the doings of others; and that they may not say nothing, will talk impertinently: [...], S. Paul well cou­pleth [Page 106] together, that is, frivolous Tat­lers and Busy-bodies; And withal (saith he of such gossiping Women, 1 Tim. 5. 13.) they learn to be idle, wandring about from House to House; and not only idle, but Tatlers also, and Busy-bodies, speaking things which they ought not: To affect talking about others, is indeed a great temptation to speaking things which we ought not to speak;Vid. Chrysost. in Heb. 31. 3. Orat. 21. words of unjust and uncha­ritable obloquy.

12. Further; we should not be in­quisitive into the Designs of Men; for this (beside the vain curiosity and impertinency of so doing) is to assail their modesty, and an adventure to vex both them and our selves: Thy Neighbour perhaps (as most advised Men are) is desirous to keep his pur­pose close to himself;Percontatorem fugito. then by inquiry thou either forcest him unwillingly to disclose what he would not, or to give thee a repulse, which he liketh not to do; and which when-ever he doth, he is displeased; [...]. what is pumped out, comes up against nature, and bringeth regret with it; and if we cannot get any thing out, we yet cause disturbance [Page 107] within; and our selves are not well sa­tisfied in the disappointment.

13. We should not press into the Retirements of Men; to do so, is not only immodest, and rude, but injust: 'tis immodest to desire to know from any Man, what he is ashamed or un­willing to shew: 'tis rude to disturb any Man in the enjoiment of his law­ful freedom,Arcanum ne (que) tu scrutaberis ullius unquam, Comissium (que) teges, & vino tortus & irâ. to interrupt him in his conversation with himself, to obstruct his private satisfactions: 'tis unjust to bereave a Man of that leisure and op­portunity which he possesseth, of do­ing that which he best liketh, and per­haps is greatly concerned in; of en­joying his own Thoughts, of medita­ting upon his Concerns, of examining his ways, of composing his Passions, of studying Truth, of devotion and entercourse with his God; of contri­ving and carrying on in any wise the welfare of his own Soul. Why doth he retire, but to shun diversion, or that he may be master of his time and thoughts? why then are we so unkind, or so unjust, as to deprive him of those contents and advantages.

[Page 108] 14. We should not pry, or peep in­to mens secrets; it is a practice upon many accompts blameable.

It is commonly impertinent curiosi­ty; for men hide things, because they do not think others concerned to know them; the concealment argu­eth their Opinion to be such; and consequently that he is fondly curious who would search into them: [...]. Plut. [...]. Why (said he well to one, who seeing him carry a Basket covered, did ask what was in it) dost thou seek to know, when thou seest it covered, that thou mayest not know?

It is fouly discourteous, because of­fensively depriving men of the satis­faction they take in concealing their matters; encroaching upon the inno­cent freedoms which they would en­joy, without rendring accompt to any; trespassing upon their bashfulness, or frustrating their discretion; for there­fore men chuse to keep things close, because they like not, or judg it not expedient to declare them. Eccles. 7. 21. Take no heed unto all words that are spoken, lest thou hear thy Servant curse thee.

[Page 109] It is also grosly injurious to deal thus; for it is a robbery of what is most dear to men; which they with more care reserve and guard, then they do their Gold, or their Jewels; so that to break open the Closet of a Man's Breast, to ransack his Mind, to pilfer away his Thoughts, his Affecti­ons, his Purposes, may well be deemed a worse sort of Burglary or Theft, then to break open Doors, to rifle Trunks, or to pick Pockets.

It is a practice in the common opini­on of Men worthily esteemed very dis­honest and treacherous; for Men ge­nerally do suppose each other to be under a tacit, but well understood compact, obliged mutually (as they ten­der greatly the retaining their own Se­crets, so) to abstain from attempting to discover the Secrets of others; to do otherwise, is therefore taken for an act of perfidious enmity, and a viola­tion of mutual confidence.

In fine; to peep into Chinks, to li­sten at Doors, or Windows, to mind Whispers, to dive into Letters and Pa­pers, and the like practices, are the practices of insiduous Evesdroppers, Spies, and Sycophants, which common [Page 110] humanity will not endure.

Yea, if the knowledg of what our Neighbour would conceal, doth casually arrive to us, it is adviseable to smother it, 'tis inhumanity to reveal it to his pre­judice. To reveal Secrets, is a practice condemned in Scripture as odious and base; Prov. 20. 9. He that goeth about as a Tale-bearer, revealeth Secrets. Prov. 11. 13. A Tale-bearer revealeth Se­crets; but he that is of a faithful Spirit concealeth the matter.

Not to take up, or scatter reports prejudicial, Ecclus 19. 7, 10.

A wise Man would not willingly any­wise know the secrets of others, [...] [...]. but gladly would shun them, although of­fering themselves to his knowledg; that he may be freed from the burthen of keeping them, and the danger of venting them, to the distaste, wrong or prejudice of others;Philippides a­pud Plut. in Apopth▪ ad Lysimachum: [...]. and he is com­mended for his discretion, who to a Prince asking him what of his he should impart to him? replied, What-ever you please, except your Secrets; them he well thought unsafe to keep, and dangerous to utter; How foolish then is it vo­luntarily to intrude, or carefully to search into them.

[Page 111] 15. We should not lie in wait to surprize, or catch any Man at advan­tage, to overthrow him when he trips, to insult upon his mistake, or his disa­ster; to do thus, is always ill manners, 'tis sometimes barbarous inhumanity. Goodness in such cases would dispose a Man to support, relieve, and comfort another, if he demandeth, or his case needeth such medling.

16. Lastly; We should never, at least with much earnestness, meddle with Affairs, more properly belonging to others, and which we do not, or may not handsomly pretend to understand so well as others: such are Affairs be­side our Profession, which if we un­derstand not, 'tis a folly, in a peremp­tory manner, to treat of them; if we do understand them, 'tis yet undecent to contest or dictate about them, in the presence at least of those who profess them: thus should private men beware (at least in that magisterial or eager way) to meddle with Political Affairs, illiterate Men with Scholastical, Lay­men with Theological, unexperienced Men with any such matters, the com­prehension whereof dependeth upon Skill and Exercise; no Man should be [Page 112] forward to meddle with things extra­neous to his way and calling: doing so, is wont to create much offence, it hath usually much immodesty and much fol­ly in it, often it containeth much in­justice.

These are some more general Rules concerning the matter in hand, I should now (if time did permit) insist upon some particular kinds of Medling, (Advice, Reproof, Interposing in Con­tests) but in regard to your patience, I shall proceed no further at present.

The Tenth Sermon.

1 THESS. 4. 11.‘And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own Business.’

IN a former Discourse upon these words, I have already shewed,

  • I. In what cases it is allowable or com­mendable to meddle with the Affairs of others.
  • II. Next▪ I propounded some general Rules concerning this matter, ac­cording to which we may discern in what cases medling with the Affairs of others is commonly blameable. Thus far I have proceeded;
  • [Page 114] III. I shall now give some Directions concerning particular kinds of med­ling. And because they are many, I shall at present only insist upon three, (referring others to other occasions) they are, Advice, Reproof, Interposing in Contests, and Conten­tions.

I. As to medling in Advice, we may do well to observe these Directi­ons.

1. Advise not (except upon Call) a Superior, or one more eminent then thy self in Authority, in Dignity, or in Age: for he that offereth to advise, doth thereby claim to himself a kind of superiority, or excellence, above ano­ther; and it is not well consistent with the reverence and respect due to our betters to seem to do so: they should be wiser then we, at least it becometh us not to declare we think they are not; If they ask Advice, we may without presumption give it, supposing it to be not so much their defect of Knowledg, as prudent Caution, which maketh them willing to hear what any man can say to the Case; but to obtrude it [Page 115] on them, argueth we think them to need it, and our selves able to direct them, which is presumption, and will pass for arrogance.

2. We should not indeed, with any violence or importunity, thrust Advice upon our Equals, or upon any Man not subject to our charge, who is un­willing to receive it; for this is also an exalting our selves in skill and wisdom above him, and implieth a contemptu­ous opinion concerning his Knowledg; that he is so weak as to need Advice, and yet more weak in not seeking it when needful from us; which practice consisteth not with modesty, and needs must breed offence, it is indeed injust; for every Man of right is to be allowed to act by his own Advice, and to chuse his own Counsellors.

3. Be not obstinate in pressing Ad­vice; if he that asketh thy counsel, do not like it, desist from urging farther, and rest content: If thou hast per­formed the part of a faithful Friend, of a good Man, of a charitable Christian in advising what seemed best to thee, that may abundantly satisfie thee; for the rest ipse viderit, 'tis his concern­ment more then thine: If thou pre­tendest [Page 116] that he must follow thy Ad­vice, or art displeased because he doth not so, thou makest thy self a Com­mander, not a Counsellor; the which to appoint thee, was beside his intenti­on; he meant to seek thy help, not to forfeit his own liberty; and thou art not just in pretending to so much.

4. Affect not to be a Counsellor, nor let any Considerations (except of Friendship, Humanity, or Charity) easily dispose thee to accept the Office; it is not worth the while to undertake it as a matter of Reputation, or because it seemeth to argue a good opinion concerning thy skill and ability; for it is a critical and dangerous thing to ad­vise; because if the Business succeed­eth well according to thy Advice, the Principal usually carrieth away the Profit, and the Praise; his Judgment, his Industry, his Fortune, are applaud­ed; little commendation or benefit ac­crueth to the Counsellor; but if it prosper not, the main weight of blame is surely laid upon him that advised the course; If you (saith the Party, and say the lookers on) had not thus directed, it had not thus fallen out.

[Page 117] 5. Wherefore it is commonly expe­dient not to advise otherwise then with reservation and diffidence: 'Tis, 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, what-ever 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 upon for his rashness; if Success favoureth, 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, then to determine that which is certain. So much for medling about Advice.

II. For Reproof, (which is necessary, and a Duty upon some Occasions) we may do well to follow these Directi­ons.

1. Reprove not a Superior;Levit. 19. 17. for 'tis exercising a power over him,Ephes. 5 11. and a [Page 118] punishing him; we thereby therefore do soar above our pitch, we confound Ranks, and pervert the Order setled 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,Heb. 13. 17. being set over us for that pur­pose, and watching for our Souls, for which they must render an accompt; yet they must do it with great moderation and discretion: [...], Rebuke not an Elder, 1 Tim. 5. 1. (or one more aged then thy self) but entreat him as a Father, (that is, advise him in the most respectful and gentle manner) is the charge of S. 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 cognizance of the Fact; for to re­prove [Page 119] for things not done, or (which in moral reckoning is the same) for things not apparent, is both unjust, and ar­gueth a malignant disposition: 'tis un­just to punish so much as the modesty of any Man without clear evidence and proof; 'tis malignity to suspect a Man of ill, 'tis calumny to charge blame on him upon 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: 'tis unjust any-wise to punish a Man, without clear warrant of Law; 'tis ty­rannical to impose upon Men our con­ceit, or to persecute them for using their Liberty, following their Judg­ment, or enjoying their Humour; which in effect we do, when we re­prove them for that, which we cannot prove blameable: 'Tis (S. James saith) a judging the Law, James 4. 11. or charging it with defect, when we condemn Persons for things not prohibited by it: He (saith [Page 120] 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 who-ever 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 stroak 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 worst brook to be causlesly 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:Mitem ani­mum, & mores modicis erro­ribus aequos. Iuv. Sat. 14. 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 upon such occasi­ons; 'tis not worth the while, 'tis not handsome to seem displeased with such [Page 121] little things; 'tis spending our Artille­ry upon a Game not worth the killing: Reproof is too grave and stately a thing to be prostituted upon so mean things; to use it upon 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 thy self. Reproof is a thing of it self not good or pleasant, but sometimes needful, be­cause wholesome, and good in order to the end; it should therefore be ad­ministred as Physick; 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.

[Page 122] 'Tis 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, Prov. 9. 7, 8. & 15. 12. 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 ones self to mischief; as our Sa­viour intimateth in that prohibition; Give not that which is Holy unto Dogs, Matt. 7. 6. neither cast your Pearls before Swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rent 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, then encreased and exasperated by blame; so are Men in a passion, who have no Ears to hear, no Reason to judg, no Will to comply with Advice: Reproof is apt to produce rather an­ger and ill-blood, then any contriti­on [Page 123] or kindly remorse in Persons so af­fected.

It is also usually not seasonable to reprove Men publickly, when their modesty is highly put to it, and their re­putation grievously suffereth; for this is an extream sort of punishment, and is taken for needless; 'tis extream, be­cause men had rather suffer any way, then in their honour; 'tis deemed needless, because it may be ministred 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 sowr looks, or in bitter Language; for these ways do beget all the evil, and hinder the best Effects of Reproof: They do certainly enflame 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 sence of his miscarri­age, or dispose him to correct his Fault; such Reproofs look rather like the Wounds and Persecutions of En­mity, then as Remedies ministred by a friendly hand; they harden Men with [Page 124] stomach and scorn to mend upon such occasion. If Reproof doth not savour of Humanity, it signifieth nothing; it must be like a bitter Pill wrapt 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 meer­ly drawn thereto by sence 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 upon the Infirmities and Infelicities of other Men; which is the part of a do­mineering and cruel humour. 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 Mens Sores, and causing smart to his Neighbours; far more gladly would he be commending their good Deeds, and cherishing their Vertue; nothing therefore but Conscience and Charity can put him on this Emploi­ment. But so much for medling in Re­proof.

[Page 125] III. Another kind of medling 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 Dissentions, or to do such things which breed them; we should by no means create misunderstandings, or di­stasts between our Neighbours; we should not instil Jealousies, or Surmi­ses; we should not misconstrue Words or Actions, to an offensive sence or con­sequence; we should not conveigh spightful Tales; we should not disclose the Secrets of one to another: these practices engender enmity and strife among Men; and are therefore in­humane, or rather Diabolical; for the Devil is the great Make-bate in the World.

2. We should not foment Dissenti­ons 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 [Page 126] or abused; in such a case indeed, when Justice calling 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 succoured his Brother that suffered wrong; other­wise 'tis adviseable to keep our selves out of the Fray; that we do not en­courage it by our taking part, and in­volve our selves in the mischiefs of it.

3. Especially we should not make our selves 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 'tis hard for any Man engaged not to have share, at least not to under­go the imputation of them: 'tis wis­dom therefore in such cases to hold off, and to retain a kind of indifferency; to meddle in them is, (as the Wise Man saith) to take a Dog by the Ears; Prov. 26. 7. which he that doth, can hardly take care enough of his Fingers.

4. We should not interpose our selves (without invitation) to be Ar­bitrators in Points of Difference: We may cautiously mediate perhaps, or [Page 127] advise to Agreement; but not pretend as Judges with Authority to decide the Controversy; this savoureth of arro­gance; [...]. Arist. this will work trouble to us, and bring the displeasure of both sides upon 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 Judg between you?

5. If we would at all meddle in these Cases, it should be only in endeavour­ing, 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 handsomly, by mitigating their passions, bring them to good terms; this is a laudable medling, this is a blessed practice. So I leave this par­ticular, and finish the directive part of my Discourse.

IV. I shall now further only briefly propose some Considerations inducing to Quietness, and dissuasive from Prag­maticalness; such as arise from the Na­ture, Properties, Causes, and Effects [Page 128] of each; serving to commend the one, and disparage the other.

1. Consider that Quietness is just and equal, Pragmaticalness is injuri­ous. When we contain our selves quiet, and mind only our own Busi­ness, we allow every Man his Right, we harm no Man's Repute; we keep our selves within our bounds, and tres­pass not on the Place or Interest of our Neighbour; we disturb not the right order and course of things: but in be­ing pragmatical, we do wrongfully de­prive others of their right and liberty to manage their Business; we preju­dice their Credit, implicitly charging them with weakness, and incapacity to dispatch their Affairs without our di­rection; we therefore upon our own unequal and partial Judgment, do pre­fer and advance our selves above them; we assume to our selves in many re­spects more then our due, withdraw­ing it from others. In fine; No Man loveth that others should invade his Office, or intrude into his Business; therefore in justice every Man should forbear doing so toward others.

[Page 129] 2. Quietness signifieth Humility, modesty, and Sobriety of Mind; that we conceit not our selves more wise then our Neighbour, that we allow every Man his share of discretion; that we take others for able and skilful enough to understand and manage their own Affairs, but pragmaticalness argueth much over-weaning and ar­rogance; that we take our selves for the only Men of Wisdom, at least for more wise then those, into whose Busi­ness we thrust our selves.

3. Quietness is beneficial to the World, preserving the general order of things, disposing Men to keep within their rank and station; and within the sphere of their power and ability▪ re­gularly attending to the Work and Business proper to them; whereby as themselves do well, so the Publick doth thrive; but pragmaticalness disturbeth the World, confounding things; re­moving the distinction between Supe­rior, Inferior, and Equal rendring each Man's Business uncertain; while some undertake that which belongeth [Page 130] not to them: One busy-body often (as we find by experience) is able to disturb and pester a whole Socie­ty.

4. Quietness preserveth Concord and Amity▪ for no Man is thereby provoked, being suffered undistur­bedly to proceed in his course, accor­ding to his mind and pleasure: but Pragmaticalness breedeth Dissentions and Fewds; for all Men are ready to quarrel with those, who offer to con­trol them, or cross them in their way; every Man will be zealous in main­taining his priviledg of chusing and acting according to his choice; and cannot but oppose those, who attempt to bereave him of it; whence between the busy-body assailing, and others de­fending their Liberty, Combustions must arise.

5. Quietness to the Person endued with it, or practising it, begetteth tranquillity and peace; for he that let­teth others alone, and cometh in no Man's way, no Man will be apt to dis­quiet or cross him; he keepeth him­self [Page 131] out of Broils and Factions; but the Busy-body createth vexation and trouble to himself; others will be rea­dy to molest him in his proceedings, because he disturbeth them in theirs: He that will have a Sickle in anothers Corn, or an Oar in every Man's Boat, no wonder if his Fingers be rapped; Men do not more naturally brush off Flies, which buz about their Ears, sit upon their Faces or Hands, and sting or tickle them; then they strive to drive away clamourous, and encroaching Busy-bodies.1 Pet. 4. 15. Let (saith S. Peter) none of you suffer as a Busy-body in other mens matters; it is, he intimateth, a pra­ctice whereby a Man becometh liable to suffer, or which Men are apt to pu­nish soundly: and so the Wise Man, implying the fondness and danger of it;Prov. 26. 17. He (saith he) that passeth by, and medleth with strife not belonging to him, is like one that taketh a Dog by the Ears; that is, without any probable good effect, he provoketh a Creature that will snarl at him, and bite him.

6. Quietness is a decent and lovely thing, as signifying good disposition, [Page 132] and producing good effects; but Prag­maticalness is ugly and odious. Eve­ry Man gladly would be Neighbour to a quiet Person, as who by the steady calmness and smoothness of his hu­mour, the inoffensive stillness and sweetness of his demeanour, doth af­ford all the pleasure of Conversation, without any cross or trouble. But no Man willingly would dwell by him, who is apt ever to be infesting him by his turbulent humour, his obstrepe­rous talk, his tumultuous and furious carriage; who upon all occasions, without invitation or consent, will be thrusting in his Eyes, his Tongue, his Hand; prying into all that is done, dictating this or that course, taxing all proceeding, usurping a kind of juris­diction over him and his actions; no Man will like, or can well endure such a Neighbour. It is commonly obser­ved, that Pride is not only abomina­ble to God, but loathsome to Man; and of all Prides, this is the most of­fensive and odious: for the Pride which keepeth at home, within a Man's heart or fancy, not issuing forth to trouble others, may indeed well be [Page 133] despised, as hugely silly and vain; but that which breaketh out to the distur­bance and vexation of others, is hated, as molestful and mischievous.

7. Quietness adorneth any Profes­sion, bringing credit, respect, and love thereto; but Pragmaticalness is scandalous, and procureth odium to any Party or Cause: Men usually do cloak their pragmatical behaviour with pretences of Zeal for publick Good, or of kindness to some Party, which they have espoused; but thereby they do really cast reproach, and draw preju­dice upon their side; if it be a good Cause, they do thereby wrong it, making it to partake of the blame, in­cident to such carriage, as if it did pro­duce or allow disorder; if it be a bad Cause, they wrong themselves, aggra­vating the guilt of their adherence thereto; for it is a less fault to be calm and remiss in an ill-way, then busy or violent in promoting it. Nothing hath wrought more prejudice to Reli­gion, or hath brought more dispa­ragement upon Truth, then boisterous and unseasonable Zeal; pretending in [Page 134] ways of passion, of fierceness, of rude­ness, to advance them: A quiet Secta­ry doth to most Mens fancy appear more lovely, then he that is furiously and factiously Orthodox: The Orna­ment of a meek and quiet Spirit, 1 Pet. 3. 4. is (saith S. Peter) in God's sight of great price; and it is also very estimable in the Opinion of Men.

8. Quiet is a safe practice; [...]. Chrys. apud Plut. de Stoic. contr. keeping Men not only from needless encum­brances of Business, but from the ha­zards of it, or being charged with its bad success: but Pragmaticalness is dangerous; for if things go ill, the Medler surely will be loaded with the blame; the profit, and commendation of Prosperities will accrue to the Per­sons immediately concerned; but the disaster and dammage will be imputed to those who meddled in the Business; to excuse or ease themselves, Men will cast the disgrace on those who did project, or further the undertaking: He therefore that would be secure, let him be quiet; he that loveth peril and trouble, let him be pragmati­cal.

[Page 135] 9. It is consequently a great point of discretion to be quiet, it yielding a Man peace and safety, without any trouble; and it is a manifest folly to be Pragmatical, it being only with care, pains, and trouble to seek dissa­tisfaction to others, and danger to him­self; it being also to affect many not only inconveniencies, but impossibili­ties.

Is it possible for any Man to grasp, or compass an infinity of Business? yet this the Pragmatical Man seemeth to drive at; for the Businesses of other Men are infinite; and into that Abyss he plungeth himself, who passeth be­yond his own bounds; by the same reason that he medleth with any beside his own, he may undertake all the Af­fairs in the World; so he is sure to have work enough; but Fruit surely little enough of his pains.

Is it imaginable, that we can easily bring others to our bent, or induce Men to submit their Business to our judgement and humour? Will not he that attempteth such things, assu­redly expose himself to disappoint­ment [Page 136] and regret? Is it not therefore wisdom to let every Man have his own way, and pursue his Concern­ments without any check or control from us?

10. We may also consider, that eve­ry Man hath Business of his own suffi­cient to employ him; to exercise his mind, [...]. Eurip. to exhaust his care and pains, to take up all his time and leasure: To study his own near Concernments, to provide for the necessities and conve­niencies of his Life, to look to the In­terests of his Soul, to be diligent in his Calling, to discharge faithfully and carefully all his Duties relating to God and Man, will abundantly employ a Man; [...]. Zenon. apud Laert. Chrys. Tom. 2. Eth. 64. well it is if some of them do not encumber and distract him; he that will set himself with all his might to perform these things, will find e­nough to do; he need not seek farther for work, he need not draw more trouble on him.

Seeing then every Man hath bur­then enough on his shoulders, imposed by God and Nature, it is vain to take on him more load, by engaging him­self [Page 137] in the Affairs of others; he will thence be forced, either to shake off his own Business, or to become over­burthened and oppressed with more then he can bear. It is indeed hence observable, and it needs must happen, that those who meddle with the Busi­ness of others, are wont to neglect their own; they that are much abroad, can seldom be at home; they that know others most, are least acquain­ted with themselves; And the wise Hebrew, Eccl. 38. 26. The wisdom of a learned man comes by opportunity of leisure, ( [...]) and he that hath little Business shall be wise; ( [...].) Whence it is scarce possible that a pragmatical Man should be a good Man; [...]. Democr. that is, such an one, who honestly and carefully performeth the Duties incumbent on him.

Philosophers therefore generally have advised Men to shun needless Occupations,Sen. Ep. 72, 2 [...]. as the certain impedi­ments of a good and happy Life;Tertullian calleth Stoicis­me, quietis Magisterium. de pall. 5. they bid us endeavour [...], to simplifie our selves, or to get into a condition requiring of us the least [Page 138] that can be to do;2 Tim. 2. 4. S. Paul intended the same, when he advised us [...], not to be entangled in the negotiations of Life; Luk. 10. 41. [...]. and our Saviour, when he touch­ed Martha for being troubled about many things: Omnium oc­cupatorum conditio mise­ra est, eorum tamen miser­rima, qui nè suis quidem occupationi­bus laborant. Sen. de Brev. Vitae. 19. So far therefore we should be from taking in hand the Affairs of other Men, that we should labour to contract our own, and reduce them to the fewest that we can; otherwise we shall hardly attain Wisdom, or be able to perform our Duty.

II. But suppose us to have much spare time,Tacitus saith of the Stoicks Sect,—quae turbidos & negotiorum appetentes fa­cit. and to want Business; so that we are to seek for divertisement, and must for relief fly to curiosity; yet is it not adviseable to meddle with the Affairs of other Men; there are divers other ways more innocent, more safe, more pleasant, more advantagi­ous to divert our selves, and satisfie curiosity.

Nature offereth her self, and her in­exhaustible store of appearances to our contemplation; we may, without any harm, and with much delight, sur­vey her rich Varieties, examine her [Page 139] Proceedings, pierce into her Secrets; Every kind of Animals, of Plants, of Minerals, of Meteors presenteth Mat­ter, wherewith innocently, pleasantly, and profitably to entertain our minds: There are many noble Sciences, by applying our minds to the study where­of, we may not only divert them, but improve and cultivate them: The Hi­stories of Ages past, or relations con­cerning Forreign Countries, wherein the manners of men are described, and their Actions reported, may afford us useful pleasure and pastime; thereby we may learn as much, and understand the World as well, as by the most cu­rious inquiry into the present Actions of men; there we may observe, we may scan, we may tax the proceedings of whom we please without any dan­ger or offence: There are extant num­berless Books, wherein the wisest and most ingenious of men have laid open their hearts, and exposed their most se­cret Cogitations unto us; in perusing them we may sufficiently busy our selves, and let our idle hours pass grate­fully, we may meddle with our selves, studying our own dispositions, exa­mining [Page 140] our principles and purposes, re­flecting on our thoughts, words, and actions; striving thoroughly to under­stand our selves; to do this, we have an unquestionable right, and by it we shall obtain vast benefit, much greater then we can hope to get by puddering in the designs or doings of others. Pragmaticalness then, as it is very dan­gerous and troublesome, so it is per­fectly needless; it is a kind of idleness, but of all idleness the most unreasona­ble: It is at least worse then idleness, in S. Gregory Nazianzen's Opinion: [...]. Adag. apud Suidam. [...]. Greg. Naz. Or. 26. for, I had rather, said he, be idle more then I should, then over-busy. Other Considerations might be added, but these I hope may be sufficient to restrain this practice, so unprofitable and un­easy to our selves, and for the most part so injurious and troublesome to others.

Now the God of Peace, make us perfect in every good word and work, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever. Amen.


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TWelve Sermons preached upon several Occasions, by Isaac Barrow, D. D. late Master of Trinity Colledg in Cambridg, and one of His Majesties Chaplains in Ordinary. In Octavo.

The Duty and Reward of Bounty to the Poor: In a Sermon, much enlarged, preach­ed at the Spittal, upon Wednesday in Easter­week, Anno Dom. 1671. The Second Edi­tion. By Isaac Barrow, D. D. In Octavo.

A Sermon upon the Passion of our Blessed Saviour; Preached at Guild-Hall Chappel, on Good-Friday the 13 day of April, 1677. The Second Edition. By Isaac Barrow, D. D. In Octavo.

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The Harmony of the Divine Attributes, in the Accomplishment of Man's Redempti­on by the Lord Jesus Christ: Or Discourses wherein is shewed how the Wisdom, Mercy, Justice, Holiness, Power and Truth of God, are glorified in that great and blessed Work. In Quarto. By William Bate [...], D. D.

[Page] Considerations of the Existence of God, and of the Immortality of the Soul, with the Recompences of the future State. To which is now added, The Divinity of the Christian Religion proved by the Evidence of Reason, and Divine Revelation: for the Cure of Infidelity, the Hectick Evil of the Times. The Second Edition, inlarged. By William Bates. D. D. In Octavo.

The Reconcileableness of God's Presci­ence of the Sins of Men, with the Wisdom and Sincerity of his Counsels, Exhortati­ons, and whatsoever means he uses to pre­vent them. In a Letter to the Honourable Robert Boyl Esq. To which is now added a Postscript in Defence of the said Letter. By John Howe, M. A. sometime Fellow of Magdalen Colledg, Oxon.

Forty Sermons upon several Occasions, by the late Reverend and Learned Anthony Tuckney, D. D. sometime Master of Emanuel and S. John's Colledg (successively) and Regius Professor of Divinity in the Univer­sity of Cambridg. Published according to his own Copies; By his Son Jonathan Tuck­ney, M. A. sometimes Fellow of S. John's Colledg in Cambridg. In Quarto.

Sermons preached by the late Reverend and Learned Divine, Thomas Manton, D. D. In Quarto.

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