« 上一页继续 »
influence. To do this will be great prudence, and to imrove it, as occasions offer, or to hazard and lay it all out for the good of the public, in a case of emergency, will be both prudent and generous. The other branch of usefulness is promoting the interest of truth and religion. There are three or four rules to be observed here, which may be collected from some directions, and the example of our blessed Lord and his apostles. “Cast not your pearls before swine: if they persecute you in one city, flee into another: instruct men, as they are able to bear it: use mildness of speech, and meekness of behaviour.” These rules partly regard our own safety, and partly the best way of obtaining the end aimed at. F. as every good man ought to have a zeal for the happiness of others, and particularly for promoting truth and virtue; so it is a point of prudence to pursue such good ends in the use of those means, which are most likely to obtain them, and with as little danger or damage to ourselves as may be. The first is a rule delivered by our Saviour: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pear's before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you,” Matt. vii. 6. There is a rule of like import in the Proverbs: “Speak not in the ear of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.” Prov. xxiii. 9. This too is partly the design of that direction which St. Paul gives to Timothy : describing some men, that they had a “ form of godliness, denying the power of it; from such,” says he, “turn away,” 2 Tim. iii. 3. Leave them, as men whom you have no prospect of doing any good to. Our Lord himself ...]" this rule: for he rarely addressed himself directly to the Pharisees, but rather taught the people: and his disciples afterwards havin made a tender of the gospel to the |. when they o it, went from them to the Gentiles. Acts xiii. 46. The true character of those men who are not the subjects of instruction is this; they “trust in themselves, that they are righteous, and despise others,” Luke xviii. 9. Again: “Their heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, ...}should be converted and healed,” Matt. xiii. 15. These are not to be instructed. Nor would they admit a direct address and application to be made to them. You may warn others against them, you may weep over them, you may pray for them, but you cannot teach them. It is WOL. IX. C
a dangerous thing to offer them any service to enlighten them. If they are not under some external restraints, they turn again and rend you. If therefore upon trial you meet with men of this character and disposition, you are to retreat as well as you can. The most that can be thought of is to wait for a better opportunity.
However, our .." Lord gives this charge to his disciples: “What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light; and what ye hear in the ear, that !. ye upon the house-top,” Matt. x. 27. Proclaim the doctrine you have heard from me publicly wherever you go, and do all that lies in your power to recommend it to all men. And it must be owned, that they who have an opportunity of applying to great numbers of men, either by discourse or writing, have a vast advantage; and they are bound by their fidelity to Christ, and by all that is dear and sacred in truth, religion, and virtue, to improve this advantage to the utmost of their ability. If they scatter abroad the principles of religion, some will fall upon good ground, whence may be expected a plentiful harvest.
The second rule relating to this matter is, “If they persecute you in one city, flee into another,” Matt. x. 23. You may decline the heat of men's rage and displeasure, and reserve yourselves for better times, or for more teachable and better disposed persons. Of the first believers after our Lord's ascension it is said : “And at that time there was a great persecution against the church that was at Jerusalem, and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles,” Acts viii. 1. It is likely, the apostles had some special directions from the Holy Ghost, not to depart from Jerusalem, and they there ..". accordingly a special protection: but the rest of the believers left Jerusalem for the present, and shifted for themselves, as they could, in other parts. Nay we afterwards find apostles also observing this rule. Peter having been delivered out of prison by an angel, after he had been put in custody by I}. “departed and went to another place,” Acts xii. 17. Of Paul and Barnabas it is related, that when at Iconium “there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews, to use them despitefully; they were aware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lies round about,” chap. xiv. 5, 6.
Thirdly, Teach men as they are able to bear it. So did our blessed Lord. Says the evangelist: “And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it,” Mark iv. 33. So he taught the disciples also, delivering some things with some obscurity, because they were not able to bear a plain and full revelation of them : “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now,” John xvi. 12. This may be the fault of men, that they are not able to hear every truth plainly spoken : but yet there must be some compliance and condescension in this respect. “And I, brethren,” says St. Paul to the Corinthians, “could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ Jesus. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat, for hitherto ye were not able to bear it,” I Cor. iii. 1, 2. You must therefore, as the apostles did, “become all things to all men, that by all means you may save some,” 1 Cor. ix. 22. You are not to depart from your own integrity, nor your proper character: but so far as can be done consistent with these, you are to suit your instructions to men's abilities and conditions. Fourthly, In this work use great mildness of speech, and meekness of behaviour. You are not to provoke any that are teachable by reflecting on their want of understanding, nor to suffer your zeal to degenerate into rudeness. It has been observed by some, that the apostles of Christ were eminent examples of an excellent decorum in their discourses, and in their whole behaviour. And among other directions to Timothy, St. Paul has not failed to recommend particularly meekness of behaviour, as the most likely method of reclaiming men from their errors. “The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle to all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing them that oppose themselves, if God peradventure ...; give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth,” 2 Tim. ii. 24, 25. That you may gain men to truth and virtue, apply the strongest arguments to their reason and conscience, without a contemptuous treatment of their persons or prejudices. These gentle methods of reformation will be generally preferred by good men, and may be reckoned the most probable means of conviction: but I do not deny, that some faults and follies of men may fitly be ridiculed ; and some men may be rebuked sharply by proper persons, and with all authority. All which is no more than putting in practice the direction of Solomon: “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit,” Prov. xxvi. 5. I have now set before you some general rules of prudence, and some particular directions concerning divers branches of conduct. But you are not o suppose, that prudence is C
to be learned by rules only. It is rather a habit, which must be gained by observation, action, and experience. Suffer not yourselves to be embarrassed and perplexed with a great multitude and variety of rules, nor be over solicitous about a proper decorum; for too great anxiety always o the performance. In a word, be but full master of your own character, and possessed of an habitual desire of pleasing, together with a modest persuasion that you shall #. well, and you will do so. There can be no occasion for me to add a particular recommendation of the study of prudence, having before shown the necessity, and the grounds and reasons of it. The text itself demonstrates the lawfulness and expedience of prudent conduct. Nor can any be altogether insensible of the im|. of it to success in life. Virtue, learning, the nowledge of arts and sciences, are like diamonds, that have an intrinsic value, but must be set and polished, before they are fit for show or use. Though divers other natural and acquired accomplishments may procure affection and esteem, it is discretion only that can preserve them. I am not apprehensive of any abuse of the directions here laid down. W. have no tendency to make men selfish or cunning. They are designed for the young and unexperienced; as likewise for the honest, the good natured, and the generous, of any age and condition. Though you oft be simple, they who are designing will practise o: arts of subtilty and mischief. By a prudent behaviour you will not encourage their evil practices, but only secure yourselves against them, and be better qualified for success and usefulness in the world. After all, you are not to depend upon your own care and prudence, but to recommend yourselves and your honest well laid designs to the divine protection and blessing. It has been seen by those who have diligently observed human counsels and events, “ that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill, but time and chance happeneth to them all,” Ecc. ix. l I. As all human affairs are liable to accidents and disasters, a firm persuasion, and serious regard to the overruling providence of God, which is not limited by the present scene of things, cannot but contribute to your happiness, by |...}; your minds for all events, and enabling you to bear afflictions and disappointments with patience. It may likewise be one good foundation of happiness, to admit but moderate affections for the great things of this world. If you are truly religious, you may be content with a little, and will manage that well. Without a great estate, by frugal and prudent conduct, you may have enough for yourselves, and your immediate dependents; and be able to do good to others also. Happy had it been for some men, as well as for the public, if from the very first, and all their days, they had oil. aimed to be wise and good, than rich or great. Finally, if you do good for the sake of doing good, which is a noble principle; and with a view to future rewards, which are incomparably great and certain : you will not be much concerned, though you miss of present rewards, which you know to be but trifles, and never were your principal aim. May you then add to virtue prudence, and abound in both yet more and more; that you may escape the snares of the wicked, and the misapprehensions of the weak; may have success in business, acceptance with mankind, happiness in friendship and every private relation; may be useful members of civil society, and of the church of God; ...} enjoy contentment, and peace of mind in all events: and at length obtain the distinguished recompenses, which God, who is infinitely wise and holy, will bestow upon those who have not only been “undefiled in the way,” Psal. cxix. 1, but have also advanced the welfare of their fellowcreatures, and the honour of his name in the world.
A CAUTION AGAINST
CONFORMITY TO THIS WORLD :
TWO DISCOURSES ON ROMANS xii. 2.
And be not conformed to this world. Rom. xii. 2.
THIS chapter contains directions for the practice of many virtues. It begins with exhortations of a general nature, recommended with great earnestness : “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present