Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

minds to resentment; and so inveterate, that they will not give up a prejudice once entertained, upon the best reasons offered, or the most condescending steps taken to satisfy them.. They are not to be gained by kindness, but it rather makes them more insolent: the more they discern that you seek peace, they will be at the greater distance from it: every concession emboldens their animosity; and there is no peace to he had, but by ceasing to have any thing to do with them, or by just punishment. The generality, it is to be hoped, are not so abandoned; but whoever converses any time in the world, will hardly fail to meet with some such ill-turned minds. The psalmist had occasion to complain of such in his time, and it was a very uncomfortable circumstance of his life, Psal. cxx. 5, 6, 7- "Woe is me that 1 sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar. My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace. I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war."

Sometimes it is not morally possible, or in our power, to be at peace with men; because they will not be at peace with us, unless we will violate a good conscience. We only can do, what we may do lawfully: Id possumus, quod jure possumus. Men may be displeased for chat wherein we act most conscientiously toward God. This we cannot help, for we must not sacrifice conscience in any instance to peace, though all the world should be angry with us. Peace, though so desirable a blessing, is not to be purchased at any rate, but only pursued, as far as consists with superior obligations, as far as we are left at liberty to seek it, without violating our duty. For instance,

Neither truth nor holiness are to be sacrificed to peace, that would be to sacrifice our peace with God, and with our own consciences, for the sake of peace with men; which for certain would be much too dear a bargain. We are required to "love the truth and peace," Zech. viii. 19. Truth first, and peace only in consistence with the other. We are to "buy the truth, and not to sell it" upon any terms, Prov. xxiii. S3. A regard to peace may justify us in keeping some of our sentiments to ourselves, which are of less importance; but never in denying the least truth. And so we are to "follow peace with all men," but in conjunction with holiness, Heb. xii. 14. For "the wisdom which is from above, is first pure, thea

c c .

peaceable," James iii. 17- Truth and holiness, then, are undoubtedly preferable to peace; and if we cannot procure the favour of others, without "making shipwreck of faith, or of a good conscience," we must be content without it. It should be esteemed by us impossible, what lies not in us, to profess any thing contrary to what we think the doctrine of Christ, or to practise any thing contrary to what we judge the law of Christ, even in the least instance, to gratify the whole world.

Nor should we decline any service we are capable of, to the interest of Christ, or o£ our country, for fear of some people's offence. Christian courage and fortitude should extinguish such fears. To "contend earnestly for" that which we apprehend to be "the faith once delivered to the saints," when it is opposed, will never be construed by God, or equitable men> for the mark of an unpeaceable spirit; as long as we do it only by fair reason and argument, without injurious representations of the sense of those we oppose, or uncharitable reflections upon them; in a word, if we intermix not passion, or injustice, with our zeal. Nor is it a defect of any thing becoming us in order to peace, if we will not sacrifice the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, by complying with impositions in religion, which have no more than human authority.

We may displease some, and occasion their being our enemies, by making head against their vices and immoralities, and by bringing them to deserved punishment for the mischief they do to the community: they may call those the trou• blers of our Israel, and disturbers of the peace, who will not suffer them to proceed with impunity in open profaneness and sensuality, but contribute their utmost to the execution of the laws for reformation of manners. But they may as well impute unpeacebleness to those who endeavour to detect the thief, or the cheat, or any other public nuisance. Attempts against open licentiousness in morals, are as truly conducive to the public tranquillity and welfare, as any other prosecution of crimes against the society. Here peace with particular persons should be out of the question with a Christian, who acts under superior obligations to God, and his country.

Where peace, then, cannot be maintained in full harmony, with truth and duty, it should be esteemed by a man devoted to God an impossibility. But,

2. This addition greatly enforces the precept, when it may consist with higher obligations. We must not venture every thing' for peace, nothing which is more valuable than itself; but we should esteem it worth a great deal of pains and selfdenial. If we can compass it by any means that are fit for us to use, we should endeavour it; and though past endeavours should have failed of success, yet still attempt to reach so valuable an end, as long as any hope of success remains.

3. It is implied farther, that we shall have reason to be content and easy, though we should miss of our aim, if we have. performed our part. Do but what lieth in you, and no more can reasonably be expected: then the breach • of peace may be your affliction, but it will not be your sin. You may entertain comfortable reflections in your own breast, and hope for divine acceptance and reward. You may cast your cares upon God, for protection against the designs and ill offices of the unpeaceable, or for supports under the trial of their illwill; or hope that possibly in time they may be recovered to a better mind; that "when your ways please the Lord, he will make your enemies to be at peace with you," Prov. xvi. 7'

III. The extent prescribed for our aim in this matter, is to be considered: Live peaceably ivith all men. There is a civil peace and concord to be cultivated with all men at large; and there is a more peculiar peace and harmony, which we should endeavour toNmaintain with our fellow Christians as such. These are of distinct consideration.

1. We should endeavour to live peaceably with all men at large, as far as we have any concern with them. Setting aside the consideration of their religion or their virtuous character, we are obliged by the dictates of nature, and of Christianity too, to study peace with them as our fellow-creatures. And to this end,

(1.) We should be careful to behave inoffensively to fill; to " give no offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God," 1 Cor. x. 32. that, if possible, we may prevent any difference from arising.

No man should be treated with insolence and rudeness, with injurious, or reflecting words, with outrageous aml indecent passions; which every man knows to be directly provoking. A peaceable man is not ordinarily a wrathful man, because such a one "slirreth up strife," Prov. xv. 18. nor, "a frowarJ man," for the same reason, for he "sowah strife," chap. xvi. 28. nor "a scorner," for he give* rise to contention, strife, and reproach, chap. xxii. 10. He will not behave with haughtiness, but with humility and meekness. If we are for peace, we shall be so far from allowing ourselves to do our neighbour a. real injury, that we shall endeavour to conciliate and secure his affection by any offices of humanity and friendship within our power.

A lover of peace will observe the tempers of others; and when he knows them to be peculiarly tender, and apt to take exception, instead of reckoning it a pleasure to put them out of humour, he will rather restrain himself from such innocent freedoms with them, as he might use to others without the least offence.

We should not intermeddle unnecessarily in the affairs of others, or act the busy body, which is mentioned in scripture as a very ill character, and is known to be a frequent incendiary. We should not pry into the secret concerns of otter people, that do not concern us, the affaire of families* or the behaviour of relations one to another; much less should we divulge what we hear to the disadvantge of our neighbour, any farther than the honor of God, or the interest of some other persons, make it necessary. There are a set of miscreants, who often bring themselves into briars, and break the peace of neighbourhoods, and/ families, and friends, by making it their business to pick up ill stories of others, to spread them again in conversation; either merely that they may furnish themselves with matter of talk; or for a worse reason, that they may gratify their own vile inclination to detraction and backbiting., Some are thus employed out of idleness: "We hear," says the apostle, "that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busy• bodies," 2. Thess. iii. 11. and, 1 Tim. v. IS. "Theylearn to be idle, wandering about from house to house ; and not only idle, but tatlers also, and busy-bodies, speaking things which they ought not." These are pestilent make-bates in civil aw religious societies: "A tale-bearer revealeth secrets; and, therefore, where he is not, the strife ceaseth," Prov. xxvi. 20. But those who "study to be quiet, will mind their own business," I. Thess. iv. 11. And if people would agree to do this more,, and mind the affairs of others less, it would go » great way to maintain tho peace. of the world.

Another thing necessary to prevent offence, and secure peace, is, that we are careful to give all, in their several stations, the regard and respect due to them: as justice requires this, so it is the way to peace; that we may pay a quiet submission to lawful authority, and give not in to noisy complaints and murmurings against those in power, upon every step in the administration which seems doubtful to us. And surely a little modesty would teach us to be very tender in judging of things much above us. If we make conscience of " rendering to all their dues, tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour," as is our unquestionable duty, Rom. xiii. 7. so we cannot but apprehend how much it would contribute to peace.

(2.) We are equally concerned, in order to peace,, not to be quick in taking offence. Possibly as many quarrels .in the world owe their rise to a temper unduly exceptious in some, as to a provoking humour in others; that is, they proceed from offence taken without ground, or real design. They are founded upon misunderstandings, and wrong interpretations of words or actions: and that is esteemed a great and heinous provocation, which a small share of humility and charity would have passed over in silence, or soon forgot. A man of a peaceable spirit will put the best construction upon things doubtful; and suspend sharp resentment, till facts are ascertained: he will not admit prejudices upon uncertain hearsays; •but examine the truth of them before they make impression. If some reckon it a point of honour to be quick at resenting a provocation, I am sure it is the reverse of Christianity; and can neither be for .the service of the world at present, nor contribute to a comfortable account at last. That which was observed upon meekness, is equally true of a sincere love to peace, that it will restrain from deep resentment of small injuries, though they should be real; and from such passionate expressions of displeasure thereupon, .as serve to no other purpose, but to inflame a difference. Many people .might soon have received proper satisfaction for an injury done them, if they had not themselves overrated it, and carried their resentment beyond all regular bounds, till they made a small breach wide, and most difficult to be healed.

3. We should be desirous to regain peace, as soon as pos* '.,, cc3

« AnteriorContinuar »