« VorigeDoorgaan »
behaviour among their friends and acquaintance: what proofs they have given of fidelity, discretion, candour, generosity. The more good properties meet in your friend, the more entire and comfortable will be your friendship, and the more likely is it to be durable. Happy is the man who has a few friends, true, discreet, generous. But to admit into intimacy men destitute of all good qualities, who neither have faithfulness nor generosity to stand by you in distresses and afflictions, nor wisdom to direct you in difficulties, would be only to increase the troubles and vexations of life, without abating any of them, or making provision for a perplexed and difficult circumstance.
Solomon, who was sensible of the blessing of a true friend, and has described the advantages and the offices of friendship, has also strongly represented the disappointment and vexation of misplaced confidence. Concerning the advantages of friendship, he speaks in this manner: “ A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity,” Prov. xvii. 17. “ Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift
up his fellow; but woe to him that is alone when he falleth: for he has not another to help him up.' Again, “ If two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone ? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a three-fold cord is not easily broken,” Ecc. iv. 9–12. But then he has observed likewise by way of caution and admonition : “ Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint," Prov. xxv. 19. When
you have adopted any into intimacy and friendship, they are in a great measure upon a level with relations. Though they differ somewhat, I shall speak of them jointly, to avoid prolixity.
There are here two things principally to be aimed at: one is, that friendships and alliances be preserved without open ruptures: the other is, that whilst there remains an outward show of friendship, or alliances subsist, there may be a real harmony, and a mutual exchange of affections and services.
In the first place, it is of great importance, that friendships and alliances, once contracted, should be preserved, without open ruptures. For, though you have right on your side; yetbreaches between friends, or relatives, are seldom without scandal to both parties. But if you escape that, you will not avoid all uneasiness in yourselves. A distant strangeness, or open variance, after mutual endearments, will be grievous to men of kind and generous dispositions. The other end is the preservation of real harmony.
* It will not be amiss to transcribe here a passage of Photius. Some readers will be pleased to see, how this thought is expressed by so fine a writer. Μη ταχυς ησθα ζευγνυειν εις φιλιαν" συζευξας δε, παντι τροπο τον δεσμον αλυτον συντηρει, απαν τα πλησια ανεχων το βαρος, πλην ει μηπω ψυχης
In order to secure both these ends several things are of great use. It is an observation of Solomon relating to this point:
6 A man that has friends must show himself friendİy,” Prov. xviii. 24. You must not admit a selfish temper. You are to be concerned for your friend's interest, as well as your own.
As perfection is not to be found on earth, you are to be prepared and disposed to overlook some faults. You are not to know every thing which you see or hear. “ He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter, separateth very friends," Prov. xvii. 9. « A fool's wrath is presently known: but a prudent man covereth shame,” ch. xii. 16. If any difference happen, drop it again as soon as you recover your temper. “ The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with,” ch. xvii. 14. You are not to break with a friend for a small matter.
The better to secure the lasting love and good will of your friends, aim not barely at the preservation of a real affection for them, and the performance of real services; but consult likewise the manner of performing benefits. You think this worthy of your regard in order to gain a friendship: why should you not also for preserving, or cherishing it?
Indeed, all good offices should be done in an obliging manner. And friendly actions are to be improved by friendly words. There is a polite piece of advice in the book of Ecclesiasticus : “ My son, blemish not thy good deeds; neither use uncomfortable words, when thou givest any thing. Shall not the dew assuage the heat ? So is a word better than a gift. Lo, is not a word better than a gift? But both are with a gracious man,” Ecc. xviii. 15-17.
Trespass not too far on the goodness and affection of the kindest and most loving friend or relative by too frequent contradictions, especially in matters of small moment; or by too keen, or too frequent jests, or by any seeming neglect, or a rude familiarity: but whilst you use the openness, KLVÕUvov επαγει· αι γαρ προς τις φιλες διατάσεις την ολην προαιρεσιν εκφαυλιζοσι των ανθρωπων, και και τον υπαιτιον μονον, αλλα και τον αναιτιον εις την αυτην υπονιαν κατασπωσιν. . Phot. Ep. 1. p. 27.
freedom, and confidence of a friend, oblige yourselves to the same, or very near the same outward forms of civility and respect with which you receive a stranger. This inust be of some importance, because few men can persuade themselves, that they are really beloved, when they seem to be despised.
4.) The last thing to be spoken of is usefulness to others. Though I am giving rules and directions chiefly to young people, who are but setting out in the world; yet I think it not proper to omit entirely this matter, there being few good and innocent persons, however young, who have not also some generosity; and they are apt to be forming designs of usefulness to other men, as well as of advancement for themselves.
There are two branches of usefulness; one concerning the interest of civil society, the other the interest of truth and religion; or the temporal and the spiritual good and welfare of men.
One branch of usefulness is serving the interest of civil society. For this every man may be concerned, having first carefully informed himself about it, that he may make a true judgment wherein it consists. You should manifest a steady regard to the public welfare upon every occasion that requires your assistance: showing, that you are not to be imposed upon by false pretences, and that your integrity is inviolable ; that you will not for a little present profit, nor for all your own personal share in the world, sell, or betray the welfare of the public, and of mankind in general. If you maintain this steadiness in the way suitable to your station, it will procure you weight and influence. I suppose this may be more advisable, than to imitate those, who out of a forward zeal for the public have been so far transported as to leave their proper station, and set upon reforming the world, hoping to root out at once all abuses and corruptions. From some things that have already happened in the world, in almost every age and part of it, one may safely foretell what will be the issue of such an undertaking. You will be baffled, and then despised. Possibly, Solomon has an eye to such attempts as these, when he says: “ Be not righteous overmuch, neither make thyself over wise: why shouldst thou destroy thyself ?" Ecc. yü. 16.
It is a regular and becoming deportment in a man's own proper station, which is most likely to give him weight and authority. Go on therefore by a just discharge of all the duties of your condition, to lay up a stock of reputation and
influence. To do this will be great prudence, and to improve it, as occasions offer, or to hazard and lay it all out for the good of the public, in a case of emergency, will be both prudent and generous.
The other branch of usefulness is promoting the interest of truth and religion. There are three or four rules to be observed here, which may be collected from some directions, and the example of our blessed Lord and his apostles. “ Cast not your pearls before swine: if they persecute you in one city, flee into another: instruct men, as they are able to bear it: use mildness of speech, and meekness of behaviour.”
These rules partly regard our own safety, and partly the best way of obtaining the end aimed at. For, as every good man ought to have a zeal for the happiness of others, and particularly for promoting truth and virtue; so it is a point of prudence to pursue such good ends in the use of those means, which are most likely to obtain them, and with as little danger or damage to ourselves as may be.
The first is a rule delivered by our Saviour: “ Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you,” Matt. vii. 6. There is a rule of like import in the Proverbs : “ Speak not in the ear_of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.” Prov. xxü. 9. This too is partly the design of that direction which St. Paul gives to Timothy: describing some men, that they had a " form of godliness, denying the power of it; from such,” says he, “ turn away,” 2Tim. iii. 5. Leave them, as men whom you have no prospect of doing any good to. Our Lord himself observed this rule: for he rarely addressed himself directly to the Pharisees, but rather taught the people: and his disciples afterwards having made a tender of the gospel to the Jews, when they rejected it, went from them to the Gentiles. Acts xii. 46.
The true character of those men who are not the subjects of instruction is this; they “ trust in themselves, that they are righteous, and despise others,” Luke xviii. 9. Again : “ Their heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed ; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should be converted and healed,” Matt. xiii. 15.
These are not to be instructed. Nor would they admit a direct address and application to be made to them. You may warn others against them, you may weep over them, you may pray for them, but you cannot teach them. It is
a dangerous thing to offer them any service to enlighten them. If they are not under some external restraints, they turn again and rend you. If therefore upon trial you meet with men of this character and disposition, you are to retreat as well as you can. The most that can be thought of is to wait for a better opportunity.
However, our blessed Lord gives this charge to his disciples : “ What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light; and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the house-top,” Matt. x. 27. Proclaim the doctrine you have heard from me publicly wherever you go, and do all that lies in your power to recommend it to all men. And it must be owned, that they who have an opportunity of applying to great numbers of men, either by discourse or writing, have a vast advantage; and they are bound by their fidelity to Christ, and by all that is dear and sacred in truth, religion, and virtue, to improve this advantage to the utmost of their ability. If they scatter abroad the principles of religion, some will fall upon good ground, whence may be expected a plentiful harvest,
The second rule relating to this matter is, “ If they persecute you in one city, flee into another,” Matt. x. 23, may decline the heat of men's rage and displeasure, and reserve yourselves for better times, or for more teachable and better disposed persons. Of the first believers after our Lord's ascension it is said : “ And at that time, there was a great persecution against the church that was at Jerusalem, and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles," Acts viii. 1. It is likely, the apostles had some special directions from the Holy Ghost, not to depart from Jerusalem, and they there enjoyed accordingly a special protection : but the rest of the believers left Jerusalem for the present, and shifted for themselves, as they could, in other parts. Nay we afterwards find apostles also observing this rule. Peter having been delivered out of prison by an angel, after he had been put in custody by Herod, " departed and went to another place,” Acts xii
. 17. Of Paul and Barnabas it is related, that when at Iconium “ there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews, to use them despitefully; they were aware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lies round about," chap. xiv. 5, 6.
Thirdly, Teach men as they are able to bear it. So did our blessed Lord. Says the evangelist : “ And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were