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want of love to others, causeth all the contentions in the world. You can bear with great faults in yourselves, and never fall out with yourselves for them; but with your neighbours you are quarrelling for those that are less! Do you fall out with another because he hath spoken dishonourably or slightly of you, or slandered you, or some way done you wrong 2 You have done a thousand times worse than all that against yourselves, and yet can bear too patiently with yourselves | . If another speak evil of you, he doth not make you evil: it is worse to make you bad than to call you so : and this you do against yourselves. Doth your neighbour wrong you in your honour or estate 2 But he endangereth not your soul he doth not forfeit your salvation he doth not deserve damnation for you, nor make your soul displeasing to God! But all this you do against yourselves (even more than all the devils in hell do), and yet you are too little offended with yourselves. See here the power of blind self-love | If you loved your neighbours as yourselves, you would agree as peaceably with your neighbours almost as with yourselves. Love them more and you will bear more with them, and provoke them less. Direct. 1 v. ‘Compose your minds to Christian gentleness and meekness, and suffer not passion to make you either turbulent and unquiet to others, or impatient and troublesome to yourselves.” A gentle and quiet mind hath a gentle, quiet tongue. It can bear as much wrong as another can do (according to its measure); it is not in the power of satan; he cannot at his pleasure send his emissary, and by injuries or foul words, procure it to sin; but a passionate person is frequently provoking or provoked. A little thing maketh him injurious to others; and a little injury from others, disquieteth himself. He is daily troubling others or himself, or both. Coals of fire go from his lips: it is his very desire to provoke and vex those that he is angry with : his neighbour's peace and his own are the fuel of his anger, which he consumeth in a moment. To converse with him and not provoke him, is a task for such as are eminently meek and self-denying: he is as the leaves of the asp tree, that never rest, unless the day be very calm. The smallest breath of an angry tongue, can shake him out of his tranquillity, and turn him into an ague of disquietness.
The sails of the wind-mill are scarce more at the wind's command, than his heart and tongue are at the command of satan; he can move him almost when he please. Bid but a neighbour speak some hard speeches of him, or one of his family neglect or cross him, and he is presently like the raging sea, whose waves cast up the mire and dirt. An impatient man hath no security of his own peace for an hour: any enemy or angry person, can take it from him when they please. And being troubled, he is troublesome to all about him. If you do not in patience possess your souls, they will be at the mercy of every one that hath a mind to vex you. Remember then that no peace can be expected without patience; nor patience without a meek and gentle mind. Remember “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, is of great price in the sight of God".” And that “ the wisdom from above is first pure, and then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated “.” And that the Eternal “Wisdom from above, hath bid you learn of him to be meek and lowly in spirit as ever you would find rest to your souls".” And he that loseth his own peace is most likely to break the peace of others. Direct. v. ‘Be careful to maintain that order of government and obedience, which is appointed of God for the preservation of peace, in families, churches, and commonwealths.” If you will break this vessel, peace will flow out and be quickly spilt. What peace in schools, but by the authority of the schoolmaster Or in armies, but by the authority of the general 2 If an unwise and ungodly governor, do himself violate the foundations and boundaries of peace, and either weakly or wilfully make dividing laws, no wonder if such wounds do spend the vital blood and spirits of that society: it being more in the power of the governors than of the subject, to destroy peace or to preserve it. And if the subjects make not conscience of their duty to their superiors, the banks of peace will soon be broken down, and all will be overwhelmed in tumult and confusion. Take heed therefore of any thing that tendeth to subvert government; disobedience or rebellion seldom wanteth a fair pretence; but it more seldom answereth the agent's expectation. It usually pretendeth the weaknesses, miscarriages, or in* 1 Pet. iii. 4. e James iii. 17. d Matt. xi. 28, 29.
jurious dealings of superiors; but it as usually mendeth an inconvenience with a mischief. It setteth the house on fire to burn up the rats and mice that troubled it. It must be indeed a grievous malady that shall need such a mischief for its remedy. Certainly it is no means of God's appointment. Take heed therefore of any thing which would dissolve these bonds. Entertain not dishonourable thoughts of your governors, and receive not, nor utter any dishonourable words against them, if they be faulty open not their shame: their honour is their interest, and the people's too : without it they will be disabled for effectual government. When subjects, or servants, or children are saucily censorious of superiors, and make themselves judges of all their actions, even those which they do not understand, and when they presume to defame them, and with petulant tongues to cast contempt upon them, the fire is begun, and the sacred bonds of peace are loosed. When superiors rule with piety, justice, and true love to their subjects, and inferiors keep their place and rank, and all conspire the public good, then peace will flourish, and not till then. Direct. vi. “Avoid all revengeful and provoking words.” When the poison of asps is under men's lips *, no wonder if the hearers' minds that are not sufficiently antidoted against it, fester. Death and life are in the power of the tongue". When the tongue is as a sword, yea, a sharp swords, and when it is purposely whetted ", no marvel if it pierce and wound them that are unarmed. But “by long forbearing a prince is persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone".” A railer is numbered with those that a Christian must not eat with *. For Christianity is so much for peace, that it abhorreth all that is against it. Our Lord when he was reviled, reviled not again, and in this was our example). A scorning, railing, reproachful tongue, “is set (as James saith) on fire of hell, and it setteth on fire the course of nature"; even persons, families, churches, and commonwealths. Many a ruined society may say by experience, “Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth ".” Direct. vii. “Engage not yourselves too forwardly or
* Ronn. iii. 13. | Prov. xviii. 21. & Psal. lvii. 4. h Psal. lxiv. 3 * Prov. xxv. 15. * 1 Cor. v. 1 1 Pet. ii. 21. 23. * James iii. 6. - ~ " James iii 5.
eagerly in disputes, nor at any time without necessity: and when necessity calleth you, set an extraordinary watch upon your passions.” Though disputing is lawful, and sometimes necessary to defend the truth, yet it is seldom the way of doing good to those whom you dispute with : it engageth men in partiality, and passionate, provoking words before they are aware : and while they think they are only pleading for the truth, they are militating for the honour of their own understandings. They that will not stoop to hear you as learners, while you orderly open the truth in its coherent parts, will hardly ever profit by your contendings; when you engage a proud person, to bend all his wit and words against you. The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle to all men, apt to teach *, &c. Direct. vi.11. ‘Have as little to do with men, in matters which their commodity is concerned in, as you can.” As in chaffering, or in any other thing where mine and thine is much concerned : for few men are so just as not to expect that which others account unjust ; and the nearest friends have been alienated hereby. Direct. 1x. “Buy peace at the price of any thing which is not better than it.” Not with the loss of the favour of God, or of our innocency, or true peace of conscience, or with the loss of the Gospel, or ruin of men's souls; but you must often part with your right for peace, and put up wrongs in word or deed. Money must not be thought too dear to buy it, when the loss of it will be worse than the loss of money, to yourselves or those that you contend with. If a soul be endangered by it, or societies ruined by it, it will be dear bought money which is got or saved by such means. He is no true friend of peace, that will not have it, except when it is cheap. Direct. x. “Avoid censoriousness:’ which is the judging of men or matters that you have no call to meddle with, and the making of matters worse than sufficient proof will warrant you. Be neither busy-bodies, meddling with other men's matters, nor peevish aggravaters of all men's faults. “Judge not, that ye be not judged; for with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again "..” You shall be censured, if you will censure: and if Christ be a true • 2 Tim. ii. 24. 1 Tim. vi. 4-6. * Matt. vii. 1, 2.
discerner of minds, it is they that have beams in their own eyes, who are the quickest perceivers of the motes in others. Censorious persons are the great dividers of the church, and every where adversaries to peace; while they open their mouths wide against their neighbour, to make the worst of all that they say and do, and thus sow the seeds of discord amongst all. Direct. x 1. “Neither talk against men behind their backs, nor patiently hearken to them that use it.’ Though the detecting of a dangerous enemy, or the prevention of another's hurt, may sometimes make it a duty to blame them that are absent; yet this case, which is rare, is no excuse to the backbiter's sin. If you have any thing to say against your neighbour, tell it him in a friendly manner to his face, that he may be the better for it: if you tell it only to another, to make him odious, or hearken to backbiters that defame men secretly, you shew that your business is not to do good, but to diminish love and peace. Direct. x 11. “Speak more of the good than of the evil, which is in others.’ There are none so bad, as to have no good in them : why mention you not that ? which is more useful to the hearer, than to hear of men's faults. But of this more afterwards. Direct. x 111. ‘Be not strange, but lovingly familiar with your neighbours.' Backbiters and slanders, and unjust suspicions, do make men seem that to one another, which when they are acquainted, they find is nothing so; among any honest, well-meaning persons, familiarity greatly reconcileth. Though indeed there are some few so proud and fiery, and bitter enemies to honest peace, that the way to be at peace with them is to be far from them, where we may not be remembered by them : but it is not so with ordinary neighbours or friends that are fallen out, nor differing Christians: it is nearness that must make them friends. Direct. xiv. ‘Affect not a distance and sour singularity in lawful things.’ Come as near them as you can, as they are men and neighbours; and take it not for your duty to run as from them, lest you run into the contrary extreme. Direct. xv. ‘Be not over-stiff in your own opinions, as those that can yield in nothing to another.' Nor yet so facile and yielding as to betray or lose the truth. It greatly