Page images
PDF
EPUB

LXIV.

SERM. (not in promoting our own fancies, but) in discharging our plain duties could be justly reproachable, or were not indeed highly commendable.

These things I may hereafter fully declare; in the mean time it is manifest that such a practice is extremely prejudicial to religion and goodness; so that it may be very useful to employ our meditations upon this text of the apostle, which directly doth oppose and prohibit it.

The same text he otherwhere (in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians) doth repeat in the same terms, (only inserting a clause more fully explaining his sense,) backing his precept with his own example; for We, saith he there, did so manage the business 2 Cor. viii. of collecting and dispensing alms, as to avoid that any man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us; providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but in the sight of men.

20, 21.

The words do imply a precept of very large extent, and touching a great part of our duty; even all thereof which is public and visible; for which we are accountable to the world, whereof man can take any cognisance; which concerneth all our speech and conversation, all our dealing and commerce, all our deportment relating to human society, civil or spiritual.

I shall first a little consider its meaning and design; then I shall propose reasons and inducements to its observance; then I shall declare the folly of those principles and pretences which obstruct that observance.

I. The meaning of it is, that we should have a special care of our external demeanour and conver

Phil. ii. 15.

Col. i. 22.

sation, which cometh under the view and observa- SERM. LXIV. tion of men; that it be exempted from any offence or blame; yea, that it be comely and commendable. "A The terms in which it is expressed are notably 'Aviya. emphatical; we are directed πpovoε to provide, to use a providence and forecast in the case: ere we undertake any design, we should deliberate with ourselves, and consider on what theatre we shall act, what persons will be spectators, what conceits our practice may raise in them, and what influence probably it will have on them. We should not rush on into the public view with a precipitant rashness, or blind negligence, or contemptuous disregard, not caring who standeth in our way, who marketh what we do, what consequence our proceeding may have on the score of its being public and visible: we should advise beforehand, lay our business, and on set purpose order our behaviour with a regard to those to whose sight and notice we expose it, foreseeing how our actions may affect or incline them. So we must provide; what things? Kaλà, things fair and handsome; things not only good, innocent, and inoffensive to the sight of men; but goodly, pleasant, and acceptable to well-disposed beholders; such as our apostle doth otherwhere recommend, when he chargeth us to regard, oa oeuvà, whatever Phil. iv. 8. things are venerable, oa poopin, whatever things are lovely, oa epŋμa, whatever things are of good report, et Tis Taivos, whatever things are laudable; and when he doth exhort us to walli εὐσχημόνως, handsomely and decently, in a comely garb and Rom. xiii. fashion of life: this may add an obligation to some, Thess. iv. things not directly prescribed by God, which yet may serve to adorn religion, but it cannot detract

12.

SERM. any thing from what God hath commanded; it doth LXIV. comprehend all instances of piety and virtue practicable before men; it certainly doth exclude all commission of sin, and omission of duty; for that nothing can be fair or handsome which is ugly in God's sight, which doth not suit to his holy will.

Such things we must provide, ἐνώπιον πάντων ἀνθρώ Twv, before all men; not only before some men, to whom we bear a particular respect, of whom we stand in awe, upon whom we have a design; but universally before all men, as having a due consideration of all those upon whom our deportment may have influence; not despising or disregrading the observation of the meanest or most inconsiderable person whatever.

But in this practice, to avoid misapprehensions, we must distinguish; for it is not required that we should do all things openly, nor intended that we should do any thing vainly; but that we should act constantly according to the nature and reason of things, with upright and pure intention: the apostle doth not mean that in our practice we should resemble the Pharisees, whom our Lord reproveth Matt. vi. for doing their alms before men, for loving to pray Matt. xxiii. standing in the synagogues, for doing all their works to be seen of men; performing those acts of piety openly in the corners of the street, which should have been done secretly in the closet; and so doing them out of vanity and ambitious design, to procure the good opinion and praise of men: he doth not intend that we should assume a formal garb of singular virtue; that we should aim to seem better than we are, counterfeiting any point of religion or virtue; that we should affect to appear even

5.

as good as we are, exposing all our piety to common SERM. view that we should sound a trumpet before us, LXIV. making an ostentation of any good deeds, catching Matt. vi. 2. at reputation or applause for them; that we should do any commendable thing chiefly to obtain the good opinion of the world, or to escape its censure: infinitely far it was from the apostle's intention, that we should be like those whited sepulchres, which Matt. xxiii. appear beautiful outward, but are within full of27, 28 dead men's bones and all uncleanness; that is, like those Pharisees, who did outwardly appear righteous, but within were full of hypocrisy and iniquity: No;

good Ant. i. §. 9.

In some cases we must be reserved, and keep our virtue close to ourselves; and ever under a fair To osμvòv àπλάστως show there must be a real substance of good, to- To spo ἀψοφητί. gether with an honest intention of heart; a conscience must always lie at the bottom of a good conversation; the outside must be good, but the best side must be inward; we must endeavour to sanctify our life and conversation, but we must especially labour to purify our hearts and affections.

2. §. 5.

Join the precept with others duly limiting it, and it doth import, that with pure sincerity and unaffected simplicity (void of any sinister or sordid design) we should in all places, upon all occasions, in all matters, carefully discharge that part of our duty which is public, according to its nature, season, and exigency, that is, publicly; not abstaining from the practice of those good deeds, which cannot otherwise than openly be well performed; or the conspicuous performance whereof is absolutely needful in regard to God's law and the satisfaction of our conscience, is plainly serviceable to the glory of God, is

LXIV.

17.

SERM. very conducible to the edification of our neighbour, or which may be useful to good purposes concurrent Matt. vii. with those principal ends: we should as good trees Luke vi. 44. from a deep root of true piety, in due season naturally, as it were, shoot forth good fruits, not only pleasant to the sight, but savoury to the taste, and wholesome for use; as St. Paul, who, as he saith of

Psal. i. 3.

2 Cor. viii. himself, that he did provide things honest in the

21.

2 Cor. i. 12. sight of all men, so he also doth affirm, that his rejoicing was this, the testimony of his conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity-he had his conversation in the world.

There are indeed some duties, or works of piety and virtue, the nature whereof directeth, that in the practice of them we should be reserved; such as those wherein the world is not immediately concerned, and which may with best advantage be transacted between God and our own souls; as private devotion, meditation on God's word and will, the discussion of our consciences, voluntary exercises of penitence, and the like: such also be those wherein the intervention or notice of few persons is required; as deeds of particular charity in dispensing alms, good advice, friendly reproof; the which sort of duties our Lord hath taught us to per'Ev Tu- form in secret, or as closely as we may; studiously Matt. vi. 4, keeping our observance of them from the eyes of men; thereby assuring our sincerity to ourselves, and guarding our practice from any taint of vanity or suspicion of hypocrisy; as also in some cases avoiding to cause prejudice or offence to our neighMatt. vi. 1. bours: Take heed, saith our Lord, that ye do not Matt. vi. 6. your alms before men; and, Thou, when thou Matt. vi. prayest, enter into thy closet; and, Thou, when

πτῷ.

6.

« PreviousContinue »