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OF QUIETNESS, AND DOING OUR OWN
I THESSALONIANS, CHAP. IV.-VERSE 11.
And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business.
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 στоvdy μǹ okvпpoì, 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 rà idɩa, 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? 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 porμetodai, 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 rò novɣázew here, but a naughty sloth, stupidity, or savageness: the quiet here meant is opposed to disorderly motion, to
turbulency, to contention, to pragmatical curiosity, to all such exorbitant behavior, whereby the right of others is infringed, their peace disturbed, their just interest or welfare any wise prejudiced. This quiet is a calm, steady, regular way of proceeding, within the bounds and measures prescribed by reason, justice and charity, modesty and sobriety: such a motion as the heavenly bodies do keep, which so move that they seem ever to stand still, and never disturb one another: in fine, what a quiet is meant, the subsequent words and the context do show it followeth,
And πpáσoei rà idia, 'to do our own business,' or to act things proper and pertinent to us; things which suit to our condition, our station, our vocation; whereby we may discharge our own duties, and supply our own needs; may work benefit to others, or however avoid being anywise burdensome or troublesome to them; an instance of which practice is immediately subjoined; to work with our own hands-that we may have lack of nothing;' in another place St. Paul calleth it μerà ἡσυχίας ἐργάζεσθαι, ‘to work with quiet,' opposing it to περιepyȧ2colat, being over-busy, or pragmatically curious, and to walking disorderly; that is, beyond the bounds of our calling, or the rules of our duty; so as to incroach on the rights, or molest the quiet of others.
The words then, as they do imply an obligation lying on us to be industrious in our own business, so they chiefly design to prohibit our meddling with the concernments of others; but how to settle the limits between this quiet minding our own business, and a culpable neglect of the duties concerning others; how to distinguish between meddling innocently, from being blameably meddlesome, hic labor, hoc opus est; this is that hard task which I am to undertake, but cannot hope thoroughly to perform. However, the method toward it, which I shall observe, is this: first, I shall touch some cases, in which it is allowable or commendable to meddle with the affairs of others: then I shall propound some general rules, according to which such meddlesomeness is commonly blameable in the next place, I shall assign some directions proper to some chief and most obvious kinds of meddling: and, lastly, offer some considerations to dissuade men from this pragmatical humor.
1. Superiors may intermeddle with the business of their inferiors, (that is, of such as are subject to their care and charge,) in all matters relating to the needful execution of their office. Magistrates may inspect the carriage, may examine the doings, may reprehend and punish the offences of their subjects: parents may advise, rebuke, and correct their children: spiritual guides and pastors may admonish and reprove their flock. These things, while with due prudence, equity, and moderation, they perform, they do indeed pároe rà idia, do their own business;' it is their proper work, to which God hath designed them, and which reason exacteth of them; they are appointed, to use St. Paul's expression, to attend continually on this very thing;' their proceedings therefore are not to be charged with culpable pragmaticalness.
2. In any case, wherein the honor and interest of God is much concerned, we may interpose in vindication and maintenance of them. If any man dare to blaspheme God's name, we may and ought to stand up in its defence; if any man disparageth religion, we should strive to clear its repute; if any man impugneth any divine truth of moment, we should endeavor to assert it; if any man notoriously transgresseth God's law, we may discountenance his presumption, and reprove him for it every man in such cases, as God's subject, hath not only a commission, but an obligation; is indeed by his allegiance bound to serve God in maintaining the honor and interest of his empire: it is foul disloyalty, it is pitiful baseness to forbear meddling in such cases. Thus have good men, without fear or shame, defended religion and truth against the mightiest powers and most dangerous oppositions that could be: thus 'stood up Phineas, and executed judgment,' not only checking, but avenging that heinous scandal: thus Elias maintained the true worship of God against all the corrupters of it, the kings and whole nation of Israel : thus the prophets did not forbear to tax the wicked manners of the princes, the priests, and the people in their times: thus St. John Baptist did not stick to reprove king Herod for his unlawful practice: so our Saviour censured the superstitious and hypocritical scribes, and he chastised the profaners of God's house: so, in fine, the