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it is, then it must needs follow too, that, the more
is to provide things honest in the light of all
men. By which we are to look upon our selves obliged, not only to all those Duties, which the Laws of God or Man have bound upon us ; but to all that Prudence and Decency in our Conduct, that may secure to us the Character of Discretion, as well as of Virtue. For there are infinite Occurrences
in a Man's Life, wherein all that is lawful
may be far from edifying or being expedient: Many Liberties no where forbidden, which yet are better not taken : Many Actions no where expresy commanded, which yet are very fit to be done. Andagain, when we do these, or abstain from those, the very Manner and Circumstances of the Thing may prove of great moment, either for adorning or recommending, or for tarnishing the Lustre, and taking off from the Beauty and Acceptableness, of such Restraints or Actions. This opens a spacious Field for the exercise of our Wisdom and Caution, and the End it hath principally in view, is Reputation and general Esteem. The seeking whereof, by all fair means, is a Respect due to our Brethren: Who ought to be satisfied, that we pay a just Deference to their Judgment, and are exceedingly desirous to stand well with
i Cor. X. 23.
1 Pet. ii. 12.
i Cor. X. 33
them. And it is certainly a doing great right to our selves, by gaining Credit and Authority; Which, as it enables us to be more successful in doing good, so will it prove one of the best Guards against suffering Evil. 'Tis so, by cutting off occasion from them that would be glad to find it ; and by drawing down a general Censure and Detestation of our Enemies, by providing us with Favourers and Friends; and by hindering Others from countenancing and abetting the unreasonable Attempts of them, who use us ill, where no occasion can be found for their doing so.
This is the true ground of those Exhortations, so frequent in these Epistles, that the Converts to the Faith would be careful to walk in Wisdom toward them that are without ; to have their Conversation honest among the Gentiles ; to give none offence, neither to the Jew, nor to the Gentile, nor to the Church of God; to adorn the Doctrine of God our
Tit. ü.g. Saviour in all things ; and a great many more to the same purpose. All these are inculcated for this plain reason more immediately ; that the Mouths of Gainsayers might be stopp'd, the Hands of their Adversaries tied up, and the Inoffensiveness, as well as Innocency of their Lives be their Security, against the Malice and Cruelty of those persecuting Ages. For, though many wicked People do really act against all Sense and Reason ; yet none are so abandoned, and loft to Shame, as not to desire to have it thought, they do otherwise. And therefore it is observable, that the Primitive Persecutions were constantly introduced by Calumnies ; with an Intent, that ill Impressions upon Peoples Minds might prepare the way, and reconcile them, to the Barbarities they were about to see inflicted. And accordingly, the Champions of this Religion were always more sollicitous to guard against the Slanders, than the Swords, of Per
secutors: As knowing very well, that to wipe away these effectually, was the most ready and effectual Course of sheathing, or at least of blunting the Edge of the Other.
And surely, the Reflection upon our Union in Christ is, or ought to be, a very prevailing Motive, to that Care and Circumspection, which hath so direct an Influence upon the Safety of the Body, and the Honour of the Head. A Care, which advances the Credit of that Religion, whereby we are thus knit together ; strikes Gainsayers dumb, and is so necessary to preserve even our Good from being evil Spoken of
3. The Third Thing here enjoined, as a probable Method for prevention of Outrage and Injuries, we have at the 18th Verse ; If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, live peaceably with all men. St. Peter indeed
asks that Question, Who is be that will
harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? And he had reason; for none, but such as are monstrously brutish, will. But yet, since such Monfters there are to be found in the World, (too many of those, whom our Apostle elsewhere mentions un
der the Character of unreasonable wicked
men) the cautious manner of expressing this Duty was no more than needful. For Peace with all the World, though a most desirable Blessing, may yet be bought too dear ; and therefore we are not left free to seek it, upon any Terms, not consistent with the rest of our Duty. When Stedfastness to the Faith we ought to profess, when Zeal for the Truth and Glory of God, when Constancy and Coutage in Virtue, are made Grounds of a Difference ; and nothing less than our foregoing these, will be accepted, for an accommodation of it; in such like Cafes Peace becomes impossible. All we have left to do then, is to convince the World, that we are not
1 Pet. iii, 13
2 Theff. iii. 2.
2 Theff. iii. 16.
the Aggressors ; that we neither begun the Quarrel,
II. The Deportment becoming Christians, when they shall at any time happen to suffer, under Persecutions and Wrongs of any kind,
The First Rule for which purpose I shall offer from those Words, Recompence to no man evil for evil. The Words indeed, if taken in their utmost Extent, will include the Whole, said here upon
this occasion. But I chuse to treat of them, as a Rule diftinct from the rest ; because I find some of the best Interpreters applying them to a lower Degree of Meekness and Charity, than those that follow after ; and confining them to a Sense, that denotes, not so much the doing Evil, as the forbearing to do Good, after the Example of another. If any one (say they ) having been wanting to You in Offices of Kindness, which you have very well deserved, and had all the reason in the World
to expect from him; let not that Refusal or Neglect in Him, provoke You to the like Refusal and Omisfion; but be sure to do Your Part, even to Them, who have not done Theirs to You. Be the Reasonableness of thus understanding the Words before us as it will; yet to be sure the Rule it self is reasonable, and a very necessary one, to have Men put in mind of. For, how many may we meet with every Day, who disclaim all Thoughts of Malice and Revenge, and say, they would not, for the World, do their Enemies the least hurt; while at the same time they hold themselves privileged, and abundantly dispensed with, from doing them any sort of good? Whereas, in truth, whatever it be of kindness or respect, or any manner of courtesy, that others may justly claim, upon the account of Neighbourhood, or Relation, or their Condition and Quality in the World, or any Obligation, not directly founded upon Gratitude, or particular Friendship, or intimate Acquaintance, or the like; The denying this, upon any Offence or Omission of theirs, I apprehend to be a breach of Christian Charity, and of the Rule before us. The reason is, because such Omiffions or Offence can dilsolve no Obligations, besides those, that result from the doing what was omitted, or not doing what offended; But they cannot, in the reason of the Thing, have influence upon those, that belong to Men in other Capacities; and would have done so, whether any familiar Intercourse, or Acts of Friendship, had pass'd between us or not. And this may possibly be one reason for the place these Words have, in the Chapter. Such continuance of Our kindness and regards to Them, who have disappointed our Expectations of Theirs, being what the Wise and the Good cannot but value Us, and the Principle we are moved to do it by, very greatly for. So that the Connexion here is justifiable enough, when after Recompencing to no