« PoprzedniaDalej »
First, To the Persons who stand in need of Admonition; and indeed all of us are such.
(1.) Let us consider, that we are all of us exceeding blind as to our own Faults, and want a good Friend for nothing more than to help us to discover them. As every Creature is naturally fond of its own Offspring, so we are all fond of our own Conceits, Notions, Actions, Contrivances, and Invenţions. Our very Imperfections and Deformities seem Beauteous to
and therefore of all Things we want a Friend to help us to discover the Faults and Blemishes in our own Actions and Performan
But we are not so Blind in any other Thing relating to us, as we are in our Morals. In other Things we are not so hard to be convinced that we are in an Error, or that any Thing is amifs ; and we think our felves obliged to any one that will let us right ; only in Opinions and Practices relating to our Morals, we think it is an Affront, and we cannot easily bear with it. If in a Journey we lose our Way, we are glad to meet any Man upon the Road to set us right; if we have a Leg or an Arm broken or dislocated, we are presently sen, fible of it, and are ready to send for, and to follow the Advice of a skilful Chirurgeon. And so it is as to Blindness, Deafness, Sickness at our Stomach, or any other common bodily Pain or Infirmity. But it is quite otherwise as to the losing our felves in our spiritual Journey; and as to our spiritual Blindness, Deafness, want of Taste or Appetite. There is such a vast deal of Pride and Self-conceit inherent in our corrupt Natures, that while we contemplatę our felves
in our own Imaginations, we see our selves as it were in a flattering Glass, which hides all the Wrinkles and Deformities; and we cannot easily endure that any one should undeceive us in this particular. And which is stranger, though we are all very apt to observe this Defect in others, there is none of us hardly can perceive it in himself, or can well brook it when discovered by others. Now this is what we should by all Means endeavour to be sensible of, and to amend, and to perswade our selves that they are our best Friends, who help to cure us of these spiritual Maladies, and in order to that, Thew us to our felves in a true Glass. A Thing which we ought therefore not only to bear with, but to encourage.
(2.) And this is the next Advice I would give to all that need to be admonished, that because it is commonly an unacceptable, tho' a most useful Duty, we should therefore encourage our Friends to put it in Practice, with regard to us; assuring them, that we will take it kindly at their Hands, and as one of the greatest Expressions of their Love and Friendship. Our blessed Saviour, though he had no Faults to enquire after, yet has by his Example encouraged us to enquire what Character the World has of us. For he asked his Disciples privately, Whom do Men say that I the Son of Man am? Mat. xvi. 13. And there he was pleased to learn what the World thought of him; and afterwards yet more home, But whom say ye that I am ? By which Freedom he encouraged, and even obliged them to declare both the World's Sentiments of him, and their own. An Example
mighty proper for us to imitate, if we intend to encourage this useful Duty of Fraternal Admonition ; a Duty, which our Lord's Apostles always speak of as proceeding from great Goodness, and deserving the greatest Love ; as Rom. xv. 14. I my self am perswaded of you, my Brethren, that ye also are full of Goodness, filled with all Knowledge, áble also to admonis one another. And 1 Theff
. v. 12. We beseech you, Brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in Love for their Works Jake.
(3.) Another Advice, very proper for those who have Occasion to be admonished, is, because we are apt to wrap up our Admonitions in as soft and decent Expressions as we can, that fo a Thing which is harsh in it felf, may not be made harsher by the smartness of our Words ; that therefore, in order to his receiving due Benefit by the Admonition, the admonished Person would lay it home to his own Conscience, as separate from all that softness of Expreffion, and accuse himself more home than the Monitor does ; and that for this End he would duly improve all the gentle Hints and Innuendo's that are made to him, into downright Accusations, and turn general Dehortations against Vice into particular Applications, as if they had been directly said to him; not to aggravate the Crime of the Monitor, but his own; so to carry it on more effectually towards Amendment.
(4.) The last Duty I shall mention, as proper for the admonished, is a Love and Gratitude to their Monitors ; for as this is a Thing highly
reasonable in it felf, it is likewise a great Encouragement to the same Persons or others to perform the like friendly offices. Are we not thankful to one who tells us we are wrong in a Journey, and is at the Pains to direct or guide us into the right Way ? Are we not thankful to a Physician, who admonishes us of any Thing we do prejudicial to our Health, and puts us in a Way to prevent the ill Effects of it? Are we not thankful to a Lawyer, who discovers some Flaw in the Deeds, or Conveyances of our Land, and puts us in a way how to remedy it? And shall he who does us the like Kindnesses in our Souls Concerns, which are infinitely more valuable, deserve less of our Love and Efteem? And who, think we, will be at the Pains, ever to do us the like good Office again, if he must, as St. Paul says, Gal. iv. 16. Be reckoned our Enemy, for telling us the Truth.
So much for the Persons fit to be admonished I must add a little to the Monitors, and then I have done. But this will fall in properly under the other Heads I proposed from my Text. Of which having spoke to the first, I must be shorter on the rest, out of Respect to your Time, and Patience.
II. The Second Thing then, I took to be comprehended in the Design of the Text was this ; that we are prudently to watch the most proper Times, and most advantageous Circumstances, for doing Men good by our Admonitions. For it is not only a different Sort of Men that is marked out to us by this Comparison of Dogs and Swine ; but the fame Men in different Tempers, and under different Circumstances. The same
Man is sometimes a Lamb, and at other Times a Dog; sometimes he is well prepared and difposed to receive-Admonition, and at other Times he will flee in the Throat of the Monitor. This is what renders the Duty much more difficult, for we must watch the mollia tempora fandi, take him in the right Juncture of Time, when diverse good Circumstances do concur to foften his Heart, and to help our Admonitions to make Impression. Even Pharaoh, tho' a great Example of an obdured Sinner, was not equally stubborn at all Times; for when any of the Plagues were upon him, he would hear Moses and Aaron patiently, and promise to let the People of Israel go, tho' he soon forgat after the Plagues were removed. So some Men are well disposed, and brought into a tractable Temper by Afflictions ; others by signal Mercies and Deliverances ; most Men, if ever so wicked, have their lucid Intervals, when their Consciences are awakened, and they are apt of themselves to form good Resolutions; and then a little Help of a faithful Monitor may come in very season
ably to improve them. And tho' several of our Admonitions should be lost, yet perhaps some of them, coming in the critical Minute, in a favourable Juncture, may hit; and therefore to this may well be applied the Advice of the wise Man, Eccl. xi. 6. In the Morning fow thy Seed, and in the Evening withold not thine Hand; for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good. A Precept, which encourages rather to venture a little good Advice at hap Hazard, than to be