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In these and like cases we may lawfully, and without offending, intermeddle : but we must even then take heed that our pretences be real and well grounded, that our proceedings be regular and fair, &c. 1. We should never, out of ambition, covetous desire, or self-conceit, so meddle as to invade any man's office, or to assume the exercise of it: instances given. 2. We should not, without call or allowance, meddle with our superiors, so as to advise or reprehend them, to blame or inveigh against their proceedings; for this is to confound the right order of things, &c.; and nothing is more usual in a busy and licentious age than for private men to invade the office, exercise the duties, and canvass or control the actions of their superiors: this topic considerably enlarged on. 3. We should not indeed so much as meddle with the affairs of our equals, who are not subject to our command and charge, so as to control or cross them; for this also is to usurp an undue authority. 4. We should not, without the desire or leave of parties concerned, intermeddle in the smaller temporal interests of others; for every man should be left to choose and manage his own affairs consistently with law and justice towards others. 5. We should not indeed ever, in matters of indifferent and innocent nature, so far meddle as, without reason or need, to infringe any man's liberty, cross his humor, or obstruct his pleasure, however discordant these may be to our judgment and palate. 6. We should never offer to put a force on any man's inclination, or strive to bend it to a compliance with our own; in attempting which we shall commonly be disappointed, and never come fairly off; for no man likes to be overborne with violence and importunity. 7. We should not in conversation meddle so as to impose our opinions and conceits on others.
8. Nor ordinarily in converse affect or undertake to teach.
9. We should be cautious of interrupting any man's discourse, or taking the words out of his mouth.
10. We should be careful of intrenching on any man's modesty in any way, either of commendation or dispraise, so as to put him to the blush, or expose him to scorn.
11. It is good to be very staunch and cautious of talking.
about other men and their concerns, in way of passing characters on them, or descanting on their proceedings, for want of other discourse; which is the common refuge of idleness, &c. 12. Farther, we should not be inquisitive into the designs of other people; for this, besides its vain curiosity and impertinence, is to assail their modesty, and cause disturbance both to them and ourselves. 13. We should not press into the retirement of men; it being unjust, as well as rude, to disturb any man in his lawful freedom and private satisfaction, to prevent him from enjoying his own thoughts, and meditating on his own concerns, &c. 14. We should not pry or peep into people's secrets, which is commonly impertinent curiosity, or gross injury. 15. We should not lie in wait to surprise or catch any man at an advantage, to overthrow him when he trips, to insult him on his mistakes or disasters, &c. 16. Iastly, we should never, at least with much earnestness, meddle with affairs more properly belonging to others, and which we do not, or may not pretend to understand so well as others; such are affairs out of our profession or calling, &c. Other considerations on this subject are reserved for the next discourse.
I THESSALONIANS, CHAP. IV.-VERSE 11.
As frequently between neighboring states there do rise dissensions and contests about the just limits of their territories; so doth it frequently happen between virtue and vice, right and wrong, duty and miscarriage in practice; for although the extreme degrees, and even the middle regions of these things are very distant, yet the borders of them do lie very close together, and are in a manner contiguous; a certain ridge of separation running between them, which commonly, being very narrow, thin, and obscure, it is not easy to discern. So it particularly falleth out in the matter before us, wherein our text is concerned. Duty and offence do nearly confine, and almost indiscernibly differ one from the other: for there are about this case precepts which seem to contradict; there are duties appearing to thwart one another.
St. Paul here biddeth us to be studious or ambitious of quiet; otherwhere he injoineth us to be earnestly active, (to be amovšju) drympoi, ‘not slothful in business:’) here he would have us to mind our own affairs; otherwhere he prescribeth that we should ‘not look every man to his own things, but every man also to the things of others.”
According to the general drift of Scripture, and the tenor of our religion, we are in charity obliged to concern ourselves heartily for the good of our neighbor, and to strive earnestly in promoting it; we are enjoined so far to interpose and meddle in the affairs of others, as to watch over them for their good; to instruct and advise them, to admonish and excite them, to check and reprove them on occasion; to offer and yield them succor, to compose differences between them; to promote their edification and peace: ‘Let us,” saith the Apostle to the Hebrews, ‘consider one another, to provoke unto love and to good works.’ “Let us,” saith St. Paul to the Romans, “follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another;' and, ‘Exhort yourselves together, and edify one another;—warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak,’ saith he to the Thessalonians in this Epistle.
To be zealous and earnest in the maintenance and propagation of truth, of virtue, of piety, is a duty incumbent on us, which implieth care and activity concerning others; that we offer to instruct them; that we enter into contest with them ; that we examine their words and actions; that we presume to tax and oppose them.
In fine; our religion doth seem by the bands of mutual relation, and obligations of charity, so to unite us together, so to endear us to one another, and to all men, that all things belonging to our brethren do nearly touch us, and should answerably affect us; so that by intermeddling with any thing relating to their welfare, we can hardly be said to meddle with what doth not concern us.
The condition of things also may seem to require that we so intermeddle; for the duties and affairs of men are so entangled or interwoven, that we can hardly prosecute any concernments of our own, without being engaged in the matters of others: in discharging all offices of society, in pursuance of any traffic or commerce, in all intercourse and conversation, while we transact our own business, we cannot avoid the furthering or obstructing the business of others, who are engaged in the same or contrary designs. Society doth subsist by combinations of care and pain, regarding common interests, so that it seemeth impossible so to mind our own business, as not to meddle with the business of others.
Yet notwithstanding St. Paul injoineth us so to affect quiet, as simply to mind our own business, or not to be meddlesome in the concernments of others; for that ‘doing our own business’ is meant exclusively to meddling with the affairs of others, is plain enough by the importance of ra ièua, which is emphatical, and signifieth only our own, or our proper business; and because it is joined with “being quiet,” which respecteth others, and importeth not stirring beyond our own bounds; to be so meddlesome, being also a practice expressly condemned by St. Peter, in that prohibition, “but let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as a malefactor, or as a busy-body in other men's matters:’ where pragmaticalness is, we see, not only forbidden, but is coupled with the most heinous offences. How then shall we reconcile these things? How shall we in the case sever between the bounds of duty and blame 2 It is indeed somewhat difficult to do it precisely, and with distinctions which shall reach all cases. But somewhat I shall endeavor toward it by propounding some rules and directions, which should commonly be observed in our dealing and intercourse with others: but first let us a little reflect on the terms in which the precept is couched. ‘Study to be quiet.” “Study;’ the word is poorpeiabat, which signifieth to be ambitious, that is, to affect quiet with the like vehemency of desire and care, as men are wont to pursue reputation, dignity, and power, the objects of ambition: the expression containeth a remarkable emphasis, or a grave acumen; for whereas ambition commonly doth prompt men to be restlessly busy, and engageth them in the concernments proper to others, St. Paul biddeth them to be ambitious the contrary way, in affecting quiet, and abstinence from other affairs beside their own. “To be quiet: this doth signify not a physical, but a moral rest; not a total forbearance of action ; not a fastidious or drowsy listlessness to do any thing; not a senseless indifferency concerning the matters of others; not an absolute sequestering ourselves from common affairs: this is not quiet or tranquillity, the rô javyáčew here, but a naughty sloth, stupidity, or savageness: the quiet here meant is opposed to disorderly motion, to