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complains of the rest, because none will apply our Saviour's direction to search and reform himself. Intimacies, and what people call friendships, are on the same account perpetually liable to be broken off by disgusts, frequently very groundless ones; and while they last, are very commonly, either insincere and treacherous, or by wrong partialities and compliances, dangerous and pernicious : all which things the plain question, “ Would it be right, that we “ should be treated as we treat others,” might easily prevent. But I proceed to those, who have only occasional intercourse.
In business, every one would think it hard, even to be obstructed and delayed, much more to be overreached or oppressed: whether by taking advantage of law against common justice, or of his necessity, his ignorance, his mistake, his inadvertence, his forgetfulness, or any other way. Every one would be willing to make a reasonable profit of his labour, his goods, or his skill; and unwilling to allow another more than is reasonable. Every one would expect from his creditor all due forbearance; and more than common forbearance, when circumstances required it. Every one would expect, that they should not become his debtors, who have no prospect of paying ; and that they, who, if they will take proper measures for it, can pay, should do it within the time promised. Every one would claim to have proper notice taken of his interests and pretensions, as well as those of other people; nay indeed to have some regard, where there is room for it, paid to his bare inclinations : Therefore all things, whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye unto them. To use even those unfairly, who have used us so, is very bad : but to use any one unfairly, because
another hath used us so, is what, were we to suffer such usage, we should think monstrously wicked. You will say perhaps, We shall be undone, if we confine ourselves to act, as we may indeed reasonably wish, but shall wish to no manner of purpose, that others would act; and therefore we must do as they do, not as we would in vain have them do. But consider. Our blessed Saviour, you may be sure, foresaw this objection: and yet, doth he allow that, to secure ourselves, we should violate the integrity we owe to our fellow-creatures ? No: but only bids us join discretion with it: Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves : be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves *. It is very true, innocence without prudence will not do for this world: but prudence without innocence will not do for the next; nor always even for this; in which probably more men of abilities have ruined themselves by adventuring into crooked paths, than weak men have, by keeping to the straight one. But to proceed;
In common conversation, you certainly expect civility and decent complaisance; be careful to shew it then : you would not be overborne; be not overbearing: you would have what you say or do received with candour ; receive in the same manner what the rest of the company say or do. You would be very unwilling to hear those, whom you respect, unhandsomely spoken of: therefore speak unhandsomely of no one, whom it is possible any other person may respect. And remember there are persons who respect religion and virtue; and feel as much uneasiness at profane or indecent discourse, as you can feel when your best friends are slandered. Again: you would desire, that when any thing is mentioned,
* Matt. x. 6.
which can affect your character, it should be placed in the most favourable light. Place therefore in the same whatever may affect the character of any one else. And even if you are not so tender about reputation; yet recollect, that the people, of whom you are discoursing, may: behave therefore as you would wish them to do, if you had the same sensibility, that they have. You are tempted perhaps to take liberties in talk, because you have a talent for satire and ridicule. But how would you wish. others to exercise this talent with respect to you, if they had it, and you not ? Should you deserve to be made odious or contemptible, merely because they had wit? But your motive, it may be, is of a higher kind. You have a zeal against wickedness and folly. Why, shew it then in promoting virtue and wisdom, and all will be well. But passing hasty censures, and spreading bad reports, possibly with little or no foundation, is a strange method of being zealous for what is good; and a most unrighteous one you would think, were the case your own. Or, supposing that the fault, about which you are so vehement, is but too certain : were you never guilty of any, were you never in danger of any? And would it have been well done to expose you for it to the utmost? Might it not have made you desperate, instead of reforming you ? How much more rational, as well as humane, is the Apostle's injunction, to speak evil of no man, but shew all meekness unto all men; for, saith he, we ourselves were sometimes foolish,disobedient, deceived*. Our religion (and it is greatly to its honour) commands us to be strict in our own conduct, yet gentle in our remarks on that of others : and its professors are too often the reverse ; loose in their principles and practices, bitter
* Tit. iii, 2, 3.
in their reflections. Yet still, such freedoms in discourse, when they are taken, not with design to do harm, but through mere inconsiderateness, ought not to be much resented ; because most men must be conscious, that they are too apt to take the same : for which they would undoubtedly think it hard, not to be pardoned. And, above all, they who know that their behaviour hath given ground for censure, ought to bear it very patiently, as what they have deserved. For so they would judge others under the same circumstances ought to do, both in point of justice and of prudence.
Another occasion, on which dreadful injuries, both in word and deed, are sadly frequent, is that of disputes and contentions, religious and civil. For the mildness and love, which both our common nature and common Christianity dictate, is not only transgressed in these cases by many without perceiving it, but some imagine the utmost vehemence a duty; and defend it, by saying directly, that were it possible for them to be as bad as their adversaries are, they should think no usage too severe.
But must you not think it too severe, to have it taken for granted you were thus bad; to have every random assertion to your disadvantage immediately believed ; and a share of every ill thing, that any one of the same denomination had done, imputed to you: to have men work up their own passions against you to any height without reason, or follow the common cry of their side, or the fashionable one of the times, without consideration? Surely you ought to consider well, how you should like to have the sect or party, the profession or body of men, that you were of, pointed out to be run down thus, right or wrong. And in general it ought to be considered well, by
those who have power, what forbearance and moderation they should claim, were others in power; by those who are weakest, what freedoms they would account unfit to be taken with them, if they were the strongest; and by all persons, what they would reckon allowable and fair in their opposers, what on the contrary dishonourable and criminal.
But I go on from these more public altercations to that with which they are so closely connected, matters of private displeasure and offence. You make no scruple perhaps of doing what must naturally disoblige and provoke others; but without regard to that, pursue your own interest, or indulge your own humour. Now would you indeed be well pleased, that the rest of the world should be as regardless of your inclination or convenience ? You apprehend yourself injured, and resolve instantly on revenge, to the extent of your ability. But could you possibly think it right, that the anger of another (and your own is just as blind) should be left without control to determine, whether and how far you have done wrong, and what return it deserved: that he should be judge and executioner in his own cause, and perhaps not take a moment to cool first? You feel, by having received an injury, how very bad a thing it is to do one. Recollect then: returning one is doing one; is doing it designedly too, with that single mischievous intention : whereas in all likelihood the
person, at whom you are so exasperated, meant much more to serve or gratify himself, than to hurt you, if he meant the latter at all. Or whatever his intentions were, you have both a precept of Scripture to direct you on the occasion, and a promise of Scripture to indemnify you : Say not, I will do to him, as he hath done to me; I will render to the man accord