« AnteriorContinuar »
LESSONS IN SPEAKING.
1.-On Truth and Integrity. TRUTH and integrity have all the advantages of appearance, and many more. If the show of any thing be good for any thing, I am sure the reality is better; for why does any man dissemble, or seem to be that which he is not, but because he thinks it good to have the qualities he pretends to? for, to counterfeit and dissemble, is to put on the appearance of some real excellency. Now, the best way for a man to seem to be any thing, is really to be what he would seem to be. Besides, it is often as troublesome to support the pretence of a good quality, as to have it ; and if a man have it not, it is most likely he will be discovered to want it; and then all his labour to seem to have it is lost. There is something unnatural in painting, which a skilful eye will easily discern from native beauty and complexion.
It is hard to personate and act a part long; for, where truth is not at the bottom, nature will always be endeavouring to return, and will betray herself at one time or other. Therefore, if any man think it convenient to seem good, let him be so indeed; and then his goodness will appear to every one's satisfaction : for truth is convincing, and carries its own light and evidence along with it; and will not only commend us to every man's conscience, but which is much more, to God, who searcheth our hearts. So that, upon all accounts, sincerity is true wisdom. Particularly as to the affairs of this world, integrity hath many advantages over all the artificial modes of dissimulation and deceit. It is much the plainer and easier, much the safer and more secure way of dealing in the world; it hath less of trouble and difficulty, of entanglement and perplexity, of danger and hazard in it; it is the shortest and nearest way to our end, carrying us thither in a straight line; and will hold out, and last longest. The arts of deceit and cunning con
tinually grow weaker and less effectual and serviceable to those that practise them: whereas integrity gains strength by use; and the more and longer any man practiseth it, the greater service it does him, by confirming his reputation, and encouraging those with whom he hath to do, to repose thegreatest confidence in him ; which is an unspeakable advantage in business and the affairs of life.
A dissembler must be always upon his guard, and watch himself carefully that he do not contradict his own pretensions; for he acts an unnatural part, and therefore must put a continual force and restraint upon himself; whereas, he that acts sincerely, hath the easiest task in the world; because he follows nature, and so is put to no trouble and care about his words and actions ; he needs not invent any pretence before hand, nor make excuses afterwards for any thing he hath said or done.
But insincerity is very troublesome to manage. A hy-pocrite hath so many things to attend to, as make his life
a very perplexed and intricate thing. A liar bath need of a good memory, lest he contradict at one time what he said at another. But truth is always consistent with itself, and needs nothing to help it out; it is always near at hand, and sits upon our lips, and is ready to drop out before we are aware ; whereas a lie is troublesome, and one trick needs a great many more to make it good. · Add to all this, that sincerity is the most compendious wisdom, and an excellent instrument for the speedy despatch of business. It creates confidence in those we have to deal with, saves the labour of many inquiries, and brings things to an issue in a few words. It is like travelling in a plain beaten road, which commonly brings a man sooner to his journey's end than by ways, in which men often lose themselves. In a word, whatever convenience may be thought to be in falsehood and dissimulation, it is soon over; but the inconvenience of it is perpetual, because it brings a man under an everlasting jealousy and suspicion, so that he is not believed when he speaks the truth, nor trusted when perhaps he means honestly. When a man hath once forfeited the reputation of his integrity, nothing will then serve his turn, neither truth nor falsehood.
Indeed, if a man were only to deal in the world for a day, and should never have occasion to converse more with mankind, never more need their good opinion or good word, it were then no great matter (as far as respects the affairs of
this world) if he spent his reputation all at once, and ventured it at one throw. But, if he be to continue in the world, and would have the advantage of reputation whilst he is in it, let him make use of sincerity in all his words and actions ; for nothing but this will hold out to the end. All other arts will fail; but truth and integrity will carry a man through, and bear him out to the last. . II.-On Doing as we would be Done unto.
HUMAN laws are often so numerous as to escape our memories ; so darkly sometimes, and inconsistently worded, as to puzzle our understandings; and they are not unfrequently rendered still more obscure by the nice distinctions and subtile reasonings of those who profess to clear them : so that, under these several disadvantages, they lose much of their force and influence; and, in some cases, raise more disputes, than, perhaps, they determine. But here is a law, attended with none of these inconveniences; the grossest minds can scarce misapprehend it; the weakest memories are capable of retaining it; no perplexing comment can easily cloud it; the authority of no man's gloss upon earth can (if we are but sincere) sway us to make a wrong construction of it. What is said of all the gospel precepts by the evangelical prophet, is more eminently true of this : “ It is a highway; and the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein."
It is not enough that a rule, which is to be of general use, is suited to all capacities, so that, wherever it is represented to the mind, it is presently agreed to: it must also be apt to offer itself to our thoughts, and lie ready for present use, upon all exigencies and occasions. And such, remarkably such, is that which our Lord here recommends to us. We can scarce be so far surprised by any immediate necessity of acting, as not to have time for a short recourse to it, room for a sudden glance as it were upon it, in our minds ; where itrests and sparkles always, like the Urim and Thummim on the breast of Aaron. There is no occasion for us to go in search of it to the oracles of law, dead or living; to the code or pandects ; to the volumes of divines or moralists : we need look no further than ourselves for it: for, (to use the opposite expression of Moses,) “ This commandment which I command thee this day, is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou should say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it."
It is, moreover, a precept particularly fitted for practice; as it involves in the very notion of it a motive stirring us up to do what it enjoins. Other moral maxims propose naked truths to the understanding, which operate often but faintly and slowly on the will and passions, the two active principles of the mind of man : but it is the peculiar character of this that it addresseth itself equally to all these powers; imparts both light and heat to us; and at the same time that it informs us certainly and clearly what we are to do, excites us also in the most tender and moving manner to the performance of it. We can often see our neighbour's misfortune, without a sensible degree of concern; which yet we cannot forbear expressing, when we have once made his condition our own, and determined the measure of our obligation towards him, by what we ourselves should, in such a case, expect from him ; our duty grows immediately our interest and pleasure, by means of this powerful principle : the seat of which is, in truth, not more in the brain, than in the heart of man: it appeals to our very senses ; and exerts its secret force in so prevailing a way, that it is even felt, as well as understood by us.
The last recommendation of this rule I shall mention, is its vast and comprehensive influence ; for it extends to all ranks and conditions of men, and to all kinds of action and intercourse between them; to matters of charity, generosity, and civility, as well as justice; to negative no less than positive duties. The ruler and the ruled are alike subject to it; public communities can no more exempt themselves from its obligation than private persons : 66 All persons must fall down before it, all nations must do it service." And with respect to this extent of it, it is that our blessed Lord pronounces it in the text to be 66 the law and the prophets." His meaning is, that whatever rules of the second table are delivered in the law of Moses, or in the larger comments and explanations of that law made by the other writers of the Old Testament (here and elsewhere styled the prophets,) they are all virtually comprised in this one short significant saying, “ Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them.". III.-On Benevolence and Charity. FORM as amiable sentiments as you can, of nations, communities of men, and individuals. If they are true, you do them only justice ; if false, though your opinion does not alter their nature and make them lovely, you yourself are more lovely for entertaining such sentiments. When you feel the bright warmth of a temper thoroughly good in your own breast, you will see something good in every one about you. It is a mark of littleness of spirit to confine yourself to some minute part of a man's character: a man o.. generous, open, extended views, will grasp the whole of it; without which he cannot pass a right judgment on any part. He will not arraign a man's general conduct for two or three particular actions; as knowing that man is a changeable creature, and will not cease to be so, till he is united to that Being, who is 65 the same yesterday, to-day, and forever." He strives to outdo his friends in good offices, and overcomes his enemies by them. He thinks he then receives the greatest injury, when he returns and revenges one : for then he is 66 overcome of evil." is the person young who has injured him ? he will reflect that inexperience of the world, and a warmth of constitution, may betray his unpractised years into several inadvertencies, which a more advanced age, his own good sense, and the advice of a judicious friend, will correct and rectify. Is he old ? the infirmities of age and want of health may have set an edge upon his spirits, and made him 66 speak unadvisedly with his lips.” Is he weak and ignorant ? he considers that it is a duty incumbent upon the wise to bear with those that are not so: 66 Ye suffer fools gladly," says St. Paul, 66 seeing ye yourselves are wise.” In short, he judges of himself, as far as he can, with the strict rigour of justice ; but of others, with the softenings of humanity.
From charitable and benevolent thoughts, the transition is unavoidable to charitable actions. For wherever there is an inexhaustible fund of goodness at the heart, it will, under all the disadvantages of circumstances, exert itself in acts of substantial kindness. He that is substantially good, will be doing good. The man that has a hearty determinate · will to be charitable, will seldom put men off with the mere will for the deed. For a sincere desire to do good, implies some uneasiness till the thing be done : and uneasiness sets the mind at work, and puts it upon the stretch to find out a