תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

is, the weakness and folly of too many among you of the lower sort, who are made the tools and instruments of your betters to work their designs, wherein you have no concern. .

Your numbers make you

of

use, and cunning men take the advantage, by putting words into your mouths which you do not understand ; then they fix good or ill characters to those words, as it best serves their purposes : and thus you are taught to love or hate, you know not whai or why; you often suspect your best friends, and nearest neighbours, even your teacher himself, without any reason,

if
your

leaders once taught you to call him by a name which they tell you signifieth some very bad thing.

A third cause of our great want of brotherly love, seemeth to be, that this duty is not so often insisted on from the pulpit, as it ought to be in such times as these; on the contrary, it is to be doubted, whether doctrines are not sometimes delivered by an ungoverned zeal, a desire to be distinguished, or a view of interest, which produce quite different effects; when, upon occasions set apart to return thanks to God for some public blessing, the time is employed in stirring up one part of the congregation against the other, by representations of things and persons, which God, in his mercy, forgive those who are guilty of.

The last cause I shall mention of the want of brotherly love is, that unhappy disposition toward politicks among the trading people, which hath been industriously instilled into them. In former times, the middle and lower sort of mankind, seldom gained or lost by the factions of the kingdom, and therefore were little concerned in them, farther than as matter of talk and amusement : but now the meanest dealer will expect to turn the penny, by the merits of his party. He can represent his neighbour as a man of dangerous principles, can bring a railing accusation against him, perhaps a criminal one; and so rob him of his livelihood, and find his own account by that, much more than if he had disparaged his neighbour's goods, or defamed him as a cheat. For so it happens, that instead of inquiring into the skill or honesty of those kind of people, the manner is now to inquire into their party, and to reject or encourage them accordingly; which proceeding hath made our people, in general, such able politicians, that all the artifice, Aattery, dissimulation, diligence, and dexterity in undermining each other, which the satyrical wit of men hath charged upon courts; together with all the rage and violence, cruelty and injustice, which have been ever imputed to publick assemblies; are with us (so polite are we grown) to be seen among our meanest traders and artificers, in the greatest perfection. All which, as it may be matter of some humiliation to the wise and mighty of this world, so the effects thereof may perhaps, in time, prove very different from what, I hope in charity, were ever foreseen or intended.

II. I will therefore now, in the second place, lay open some of the sad effects and consequences, which our animosities and mutual hatred have produced.

And the first ill consequence is, that our want of brotherly love hath almost driven out all sense of religion from among us, which cannot well be otherwise : for, since our Saviour laid so much weight upon his disciples loving one another, that he gave it among his last instructions; and since the primitive

Christians

[ocr errors]

Christians are allowed to have chiefly propagated the faith by their strict observance of that instruction ; it must follow, that in proportion as brotherly love declineth, Christianity will do so too. The little religion there is in the world, hath been observed to reside chiefly among the middle and lower 'sorts of people, who are neither tempted to pride or luxury by great riches, nor to desperate courses by extreme poverty: and truly I, upon that account, have thought it a happiness, that those who are under my immediate care, are generally of that condition ; but where party hath once made entrance, with all its consequences of hatred, envy, partiality and virulence, religion cannot long keep its hold in any state or degree of life whatsoever. For, if the great 'men of the world have been censured in all ages for mingling too little religion with their politicks, what a havock of principles must they needs make in unlearned and irregular heads; of which indeed the effects are already too visible and melancholy all over the kingdom!

Another ill consequence from our want of brotherly love is, that it increaseth the insolence of the fanaticks; and this partly ariseth from a mistaken meaning of the word moderation ; a word which hath been much abused, and bandied about for several years past. There are too many people indifferent enough to all religion ; there are many others, who dislike the clergy, and would have them live in poverty and dependence: .both these sorts are much commended by the fanaticks for moderate men, ready to put an end to our divisions, and to make a general union among protestants. Many ignorant well-meaning people are deceived by these appearances, strength

ened

ened with great pretences to loyalty ; and these occasions the fanaticks lay hold on, to revile the doctrine and discipline of the church, and even insult and oppress the clergy, wherever their number or favourers will bear them out; insomuch that one wilful refractory fanatick, hath been able to disturb a whole parish for many years together. But the most moderate and favoured divines dare not own that the word moderation, with respect to the dissenters, can be at all applied to their religion, but is purely personal or prudential. No good man repineth at the liberty of conscience they enjoy; and, perhaps, a very moderate divine may think better of their loyalty than others do; or, to speak after the manner of men, may think it necessary, that all protestants should be united against the common enemy; or out of discretion, or other reasons best known to himself, be tender of mentioning them at all. But still the errours of the dissenters are all fixed and determined, and must, upon demand, be acknowledged by all the divines of our church, whether they be called, in party phrase, high or low, moderate or violent. And farther, I believe it would be hard to find many moderate divines, who, if their opinion were asked whether dissenters should be trusted with power, could, according to their consciences, answer in the affirmative; from whence it is plain, that all the stir which the fanaticks have made with this word moderation, was only meant to increase our divisions, and widen them so far as to make room for themselves to get in between.

And this is the only scheme they ever had (except that of destroying root and branch) for the uniting of protestants, they so much talk of. I shall mention but one ill consequence more, which attends our want of brotherly love ; that it hath put an end to all hospitality and friendship, all good correspondence and commerce between man kind. There are indeed such things as leagues and confederacies among those of the same party ; but surely God never intended that inen should be so limited in the choice of their friends : however, so it is in town and country, in every parish and street; the pastor is divided from his flock, the father from his son, and the house often divided against itself, Men's very natures are soured, and their passions inflamed, when they meet in party clubs, and spend their time in nothing else but railing at the opposite side: thus every man alive among us is encompassed with a million of enemies of his own country, among which his oldest acquaintance and friends, and kindred themselves, are often of the number: neither can people of different parties mix together without constraint, suspicion, or jealousy, watching every word they speak for fear of giving offence; or else falling into rudeness and reproaches, and so leaving themselves open to the malice and corruption of informers, who were never more numerous or expert in their trade. And as a farther addition to this evil, those very few, who, by the goodness and generosity of their nature, do in their own hearts despise this narrow principle of confining their friendship and esteem, their charity and good offices, to those of their own party, yet dare not discover their good inclinations, for fear of losing their favour and interest. And others again, whom God had formed with mild and gentle dispositions, think it necessary to put a force upon their own tempers, by acting a noisy, violent, malicious part, as a means to be dis

tinguished.

« הקודםהמשך »