תמונות בעמוד
[ocr errors]

informer can pervert or aggravate against him in a court of justice.

Fifthly, Whoever beareth witness against his neighbour, out of a principle of malice and revenge, from any old grudge, or hatred to his person; such a man is a false witness in the sight of God, although what he says be true; because the motive or cause is evil, not to serve his prince or country, but to gratify his own resentments. And therefore, although a man thus accused may be very justly punished by the law, yet this doth by no means acquit the accuser ; who, instead of regarding the publick service, intended only to glut his private rage and spire.

Sixthly, I number among false witnesses, all those who make a trade of being informers in hope of favour and reward; and to this end employ their time, either by listening in publick places, to catch up an accidental word; or in corrupting men's servants to discover any unwary expression of their master; or thrusting themselves into company, and then using the most indecent scurrilous language; fastening a thousand falsehoods and scandals upon a whole party, on purpose to provoke such an answer as they may turn to an accusation. And truly this ungodly race is said to be grown so numerous, that men of different parties can hardly converse together with any security, Even the pulpit hath not been free from the misrepresentation of these informers; of whom the clergy have not wanted occasions to complain with holy David: “They daily mistake my words, all they

imagine is to do me evil.” Nor is it any wonder at all, that this trade of informing should be now in a fourishing condition, since our case is manifestly

[ocr errors]

thus :

thus : We are divided into two parties, with very

little charity or temper toward each other : The prevailing side may talk of past things as they please, with security; and generally do it in the most provoking words they can invent; while those who are down, are sometimes tempted to speak in favour of a lost cause, and therefore, without great caution, must needs be often caught tripping, and thereby furnish plenty of materials for witnesses and informers.

Lastly, Those may well be reckoned among false witnesses against their neighbour, who bring him into trouble and punishment by such accusations as are of no consequence at all to the publick, nor can be of any other use but to create vexation. Such witnesses are those who cannot hear an idle intemperate expression, but they must immediately run to the magistrate to inform ; or perhaps wrangling in their cups over night, when they were not able to speak or apprehend three words of commen sense, will pretend to remember every thing in the morning, and think themselves very properly qualified to be accusers of their brethren. God be thanked, the throne of our king is too firmly settled to be shaken by the folly and rashness of every sottish companion, And I do not in the least doubt, that when those in power begin to observe the falsehood, the prevarication, the aggravating manner, the treachery and seducing, the malice and revenge, the love of lucre, and lastly the trifing accusations in too many wicked people; they will be as ready to discourage every sort of those whom I have numbered among false witnesses, as they will be to countenance honest men, who, out of a true zeal to their prince and country, do, in the innocence of their hearts, freely discover whatever they


may apprehend to be dangerous to either. A good Christian will think it sufficient to reprove his brother for a rash unguarded word, where there is neither danger nor evil example to be apprehended; or, if he will not amend by reproof, avoid his conversation.

II. And thus much may serve to show the several ways whereby a man may be said to be a false witness against his neighbour. I might have added one kind more, and it is of those who inform against their neighbour out of fear of punishment to themselves; which, although it be more excusable, and hath less of malice than any of the rest, cannot however be justified. I go on therefore upon the second head, to give you some rules for your conduct and behaviour, in order to defend yourselves against the malice and cunning of false accusers.

It is readily agreed, that innocence is the best protection in the world; yet that it is not always sufficient without some degree of prudence, our Saviour himself intimateth to us, by instructing his disciples " to be wise as serpents, as well as innocent " as doves.” But, if ever innocence be too weak a defence, it is chiefly so in jealous and suspicious times, when factions are arrived to a high pitch of animosity, and the minds of men, instead of being warmed by a true zeal for religion, are inflamed only by party fury. Neither is virtue itself a sufficient security in such times, because it is not allowed to be virtue, otherwise than as it hath a mixture of

party. However, although virtue and innocence are no infallible defence against perjury, malice, and subornation, yet they are great supports for enabling us to bear those evils with temper and resignation; and it


is an unspeakable comfort to a good man, under the malignity of evil mercenary tongues, that a few years will carry his appeal to a higher tribunal, where false witnesses, ins ead of daring to bring accusations before an all-seeing Judge, will call for mountains to cover them. As for earthly judges, they seldom have it in their power, and God knows whether they have it in their will, to mingle mercy with justice ; they are so far from knowing the hearts of the accuser or the accused, that they cannot know their own; and their understanding is frequently biassed, although their intentions be just. They are often prejudiced to causes, parties, and persons, through the infirmity of human nature, without being sensible themselves that they are so : And therefore, although God may pardon their errours here, he certainly will not ratify their sentences hereafter.

However, since, as we have before observed, our Saviour prescribeth to us to be not only harmless as doves, but wise as serpents ; give me leave to prescribe to you some rules, which the most ignorant person may follow for the conduct of his life, with safety, in perilous times, against false accusers.

ist, Let me advise you to have nothing at all to do with that which is commonly called politicks, or the government of the world, in the nature of which it is certain you are utterly ignorant; and when your opinion is wrong, although it proceeds from ignorance, it shall be an accusation against you. Besides, opinions in government are right or wrong just according to the humour and disposition of the times; and unless you have judgment to distinguish, you may be punished at one time, for what you would be rewarded in another.

2dly, Be ready at all times, in your words and actions, to show your loyalty to the king that reigns over you. This is the plain manifest doctrine of holy scripture : “Submit yourselves to every ordi“ nance of man for the Lord's sake, whether it be to “ the king as supreme, &c.” And another apostle telleth us, “ The powers that be are ordained of “ God.” Kings are the ordinances of man by the permission of God, and they are ordained of God by his instrument man. The powers that be, the present powers, which are ordained by God, and yet in some sense are the ordinances of man, are what you must obey, without presuming to examine into rights and titles ; neither can it be reasonably expected, that the powers in being, or in possession, should suffer their title to be publickly disputed by subjects without severe punishment. And to say the truth, there is no duty in religion more easy to the generality of mankind, than obedience to government: I say, to the generality of mankind : because while their law, and property, and religion are preserved, it is of no great consequence to them by whom they are governed, and therefore they are under no temptation to desire a change.

3dly, In order to prevent any change from the malice of false witnesses, be sure to avoid intemperance. If it be often so hard for men to govern their tongues when they are in their right senses, how can they hope to do it when they are heated with drink? In those cases most men regard not what they say, and too many not what they swear; neither will a man's memory disordered with drunkenness serve to defend himself, or satisfy him whether he were guilty or not.

« הקודםהמשך »