Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

for even Christ pleased not himself,' (he adjoineth the great example of our Lord to enforce his own.) Again; Give none offence,' saith he, even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved :'Be ye (herein) followers of me, as I am of Christ :' and again, To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak; I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some :' • Though I be free from all men, (that is, although I have no superior that can command me, or oblige me in these matters,) yet have I made myself servant to all, that I might gain the more.' What this excellent person was in this instance of managing ecclesiastical discipline, and promoting the gospel, that, both in the same cases, and in the prosecution of all other designs, in all our conversation and practice, should we likewise be.

We should in no case indulge our own humor or fancy, but ever look to the reason of the thing, and act accordingly, whatever it requireth.

We should never act without striving with competent application of mind to discern clearly some reason why we act; and from observing the dictates of that reason, no unaccountable cause should pervert us: blind will, headstrong inclination, impetuous passion, should never guide, or draw, or drive us to any thing; for this is not to act like a man, but as a beast, or rather worse than a beast; for beasts operate by a blind instinct indeed, but such as is planted in them by a superior wisdom, unerringly directing them to a pursuit of their true good: but man is left in manu concilii sui, is obliged (under sore penalties) not to follow blind inclinations or instinct; but to act with serious deliberation and choice, to observe explicit rules and resolutions

of reason.

OF SELF-INTEREST. V. Another culpable sort of self-love is that of self-interest; when men inordinately or immoderately do covet and strive to procure for themselves these worldly goods, merely because profitable or pleasant to themselves, not considering or regarding the good of others, according to the rules of justice, of humanity, of Christian charity; when their affections, their cares, their

[ocr errors]

endeavors do mainly tend to the advancement, advantage, or delight of themselves; they little caring what cometh on it, who loseth, who suffereth thereby.

They look on themselves as if they were all the world, and no man beside concerned therein, or considerable to them; that the good state of things is to be measured by their condition; that all is well, if they do prosper and thrive; all is ill, if they are disappointed in their desires and projects.

The good of no man, not of their brethren, not of their friends, not of their country, doth come with them under consideration; what scandals do arise, what disorders are committed, what mischiefs are caused, they matter not, if they get somewhat thereby : what if the church or state be reproached, what if the neighborhood be offended or disturbed, what if the world cry out and complain, if they become richer by it, or have their passion gratified, or find some pleasure in it ?

This is the chief spring of injustice ; for from hence it is that oftentimes men regard not what courses they take, what means they use, (how unjust, how base soever they be,) toward the compassing their designs; hence they trample on right, they violate all laws and rules of conscience, they falsify their trusts, they betray their friends, they supplant their neighbor, they flatter and collogue, they wind about and shuffle any way, they detract from the worth and virtue of any man, they forge and vent odious slanders, they commit any sort of wrong

and outrage, they (without regard or remorse) do any thing which seemeth to further their design.

This is the great source of uncharitableness : for from hence men affect no man otherwise than he seemeth able to serve their turn; the poor therefore is ever slighted and neglected by them as unserviceable; the rich only is minded and respected as capable to promote their ends; they become hardhearted toward others, not considering or commiserating their case; they will part with nothing from themselves to those who need their relief; they delight in nothing which doth not make for their advantage; all their shows of friendship and respect are mercenary, and mere trade; they do nothing gratis, or for love.

This is the great root of all the disorders and mischiefs in the

world : this self-love prompteth men to those turbulent scramblings and scufflings, whereby good order is confounded ; this engageth them to desert their stations, to transgress their bounds, to invade and incroach on others with fraud and vio. lence : did men with any consciopable moderation mind and pursue their own private interest, all those fierce animosities, those fiery contentions, those bitter emulations,'those rancorous grudges, those calumnious supplantings, those perfidious cozenages, those outrageous violences, those factious confederacies, those seditious murmurings and tumultuous clamors, would vanish and cease; self-interest it is that gives life and nourishment to all such practices, the which embroil the world in discord and disorder. It is not out of pure madness or wanton humor that commonly men engage themselves and others in those base and troublesome courses, but out of design to get by it; hope of gain to be raked out of public ruins and disorders is the principle that moveth them, the reward they propound to themselves for their pains in meddling, toward the promoting them ; like those who set fire on the town, that they may get opportunity to rifle and pillage.

He that taketh himself to be as but one man, (naturally like and equal to others,) conceiving that lie ought to consider the interest and right of other men in the same rank with his own, that he in reason should be contented with that share which ariseth to him by fair means; who thence resolveth to be satisfied with his own lot, to abide quiet in his station, to yield the same deference and compliance to others which he can presume or pretend to receive from them; who desires only to enjoy the gifts of providence and the fruits of his industry in a due subordination to the public peace and welfare ; he will not easily strive or struggle for preferments, he will not foment emulations or factions for his advantage, he will never design to cozen or supplant, to detract or calumniate for advancement of his ends; he thence will not contribute to the mischiefs and troubles in the world,

Self-interest therefore is the great enemy to the commonweal; that which perverteth all right, which confoundeth all order, which spoileth all the convenience and comfort of society.

It is a practice indeed (this practice of pursuing self-interest so vehemently, so especially above all things) which is looked on and cried up as a clear and certain point of wisdom; the only solid wisdom ; in comparison whereto those precepts which prescribe the practice of strict justice, ingenuous humanity, free charity, are but pedantical tattles, or notions merely chimerical ; so the world now more than ever seemeth to judge, and accordingly to act; and thence is the state of things visibly so bad and calamitous; thence so little honesty in dealings, thence so little settlement in affairs are discernible. But how false that judgment is will appear if the case be weighed in the balance of pure reason; and most foolish it will appear being scanned according to the principles of religion.

In reason is it not very absurd that any man should look on himself as more than a single person ; that he should prefer himself before another, to whom he is not in any respect superior; that he should advance his own concernment above the public benefit, which comprehendeth his good, and without which his good cannot subsist? Can any man rationally conceive that he can firmly thrive or persist in a quiet and sweet condition, when he graspeth to himself more than is due or fitting, when he provoketh against himself the emulation, the competition, the opposition, the hatred, and obloquy of all or of many other persons ?

May not any man reasonably have the same apprehensions and inclinations as we may have ? may not any man justly proceed in the same manner as we may do? will they not, seeing us mainly to affect our private interest, be induced, and in a man. ner forced, to do the like? Thence what end can there be of progging and scrambling for things ? and in the confusion thence arising, what quiet, what content can we enjoy ?

Again ; Doth not nature, by implanting in our constitution

love of society and aversation from solitude, inclinations to pity and humanity, pleasant complacencies in obliging and doing courtesies to others, appetites of honor and good esteem from others, aptness to approve and like the practices of justice, of fidelity, of courtesy, of beneficence, capacities to yield succor and benefit to our brethren, dictate unto us, that our good is inseparably connected and complicated with the good

of others, so that it cannot without its own impairing subsist alone, or be severed from the good of others; no more than a limb can without suffering and destruction be torn from the whole ?

Is there not to all men in some measure, to some men in a higher degree, a generosity innate, most lovely and laudable to all ; which disposeth men with their own pain, hazard, and detriment to succor and relieve others in distress, to serve the public, and promote the benefit of society; so that inordinately to regard private interest doth thwart the reason and wisdom of nature ?

The frame of our nature indeed speaketh, that we are not born for ourselves; we shall find man, if we contemplate him, to be a nobler thing than to have been designed to serve himself, or to satisfy his single pleasure; his endowments are too excellent, his capacities too large for so mean and narrow purposes. How pitiful a creature were man, if this were all he was made for! how sorry a faculty were reason, if it served not to better uses ! he debaseth himself, he disgraceth his nature, who hath so low conceits, and pursueth so petty designs.

Nay, even a true regard to our own private good will engage us not inordinately to pursue self-interest; it being much hugged will be smothered and destroyed.

As we are all born members of the world, as we are compacted into the commonwealth, as we are incorporated into any society, as we partake in any conversation or company, so by mutual support, aid, defence, comfort, not only the common welfare first, but our particular benefit consequently doth subsist; by hindering or prejudicing them, the public first, in consequence our particular doth suffer; our thriving by the common prejudice will in the end turn to our own loss.

As if one member sucketh too much nourishment to itself, and thence swelleth into an exorbitant bulk, the whole thence incurreth disease, so coming to perish or languish; whence consequently that irregular member will fall into a participation of ruin or decay: so it is in the state of human corporations ; he that in ways unnatural or unjust (for justice is that in human societies, which nature is in the rest of things) draweth unto himself the

« PreviousContinue »