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These things speak and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.
IT may possibly be expected, that the very taking of my text out of this epistle to Titus, may engage me in a discourse about the nature, original, and divine right of episcopacy; and if it should, it were no more than what some of the greatest and the learnedest persons in the world (when men served truth instead of design) had done before: for I must profess, that I cannot look upon Titus as so far unbishoped yet, but that he still exhibits to us all the essentials of that jurisdiction, which to this day is claimed for episcopal. We are told in the fifth verse of the first chapter, that he was left in Crete to set things in order, and to ordain elders in every city; which text one would think were sufficiently clear and full, and too big with evidence to be perverted: but when we have seen rebellion commented out of the thirteenth of the Romans; and since there are few things but admit of gloss and probability, and consequently may be expounded as well as disputed on both sides; it is no such wonder, that some would bear the world in hand, that the apostle’s design and meaning is for presbytery, though his words are all the time for episcopacy: no wonder, I say, to us at least, who have conversed with too many strange unparalleled actions, occurrences, and events, now to wonder at any thing: wonder is from surprise; and surprise ceases upon experience.
I am not so much a friend to the stale starched 123 formality of preambles, as to detain so great an audience with any previous discourse extrinsick to the subject matter and design of the text; and therefore I shall fall directly upon the words, which run in the form of an exhortation, though in appearance a very strange one; for the matter of an exhortation should be something naturally in the power of him to whom the exhortation is directed. For no man exhorts another to be strong, beautiful, witty, or the like; these are the felicities of some conditions, the object of more wishes, but the effects of no man’s choice. Nor seems there any greater reason for the apostle’s exhorting Titus, that no man should despise him; for how could another man’s action be his duty? Was it in his power that men should not be wicked and injurious; and if such persons would despise him, could any thing pass an obligation upon him not to be despised? No, this cannot be the meaning; and therefore it is clear that the exhortation lies not against the action itself, which is only in the despiser’s power, but against the just occasion of it, which is in the will and power of him that is despised: it was not in Titus’s power that men should not despise him, but it was in his power to bereave them of all just cause of doing so; it was not in his power not to be derided, but it was in his power not to be ridiculous.
In all this epistle it is evident that St. Paul looks upon Titus as advanced to the dignity of a prime ruler of the church, and intrusted with a large diocese, containing many particular churches under the immediate government of their respective elders; and those deriving authority from his ordination, as was specified in the fifth verse of the first chapter. 124And now looking upon Titus under this qualification, he addresses a long advice and instruction to him, for the discharge of so important a function, all along the first and second chapters; but sums up all in the last verse, which is the subject of the ensuing discourse, and contains in it these two things.
I. An account of the duties of his place or office.
II. Of the means to facilitate and make effectual their execution.
I. The duties of his place were two. 1. To teach. 2. To rule. Both comprised in these words; These things speak and exhort, and rebuke with all authority.
And then the means, the only means to make him successful, bright, and victorious in the performance of these great works, was to be above contempt, to shine like the Baptist, with a clear and a triumphant light. In a word, it is every bishop’s duty to teach and to govern; and his way to do it is not to be despised.
We will discourse of each respectively in their order.
1. And first, for the first branch of the great work incumbent upon a church ruler, which is to teach. A work that none is too great or too high for; it is a work of charity, and charity is the work of heaven, which is always laying itself out upon the needy and the impotent: nay, and it is a work of the highest and the noblest charity; for he that teacheth an other, gives an alms to his soul; he clothes the nakedness of his understanding, and relieves the wants of his impoverished reason: he indeed that governs well, leads the blind; but he that teaches, gives him eyes: and it is a glorious thing to have been the repairer 125of a decayed intellect, and a sub-worker to grace, in freeing it from some of the inconveniences of original sin. It is a benefaction that gives a man a kind of prerogative; for even in the common dialect of the world every teacher is called a master: it is the property of instruction to descend, and upon that very account, it supposes him that instructs, the superior, or at least makes him so.
To say a man is advanced too high to condescend to teach the ignorant, is as much as to say, that the sun is in too high a place to shine upon what is be low it. The sun is said to rule the day, and the moon to rule the night: but do they not rule them only by enlightening them? Doctrine is that, that must prepare men for discipline; and men never go on so cheerfully, as when they see where they go.
Nor is the dulness of the scholar to extinguish, but rather to inflame the charity of the teacher: for since it is not in men as in vessels, that the smallest capacity is the soonest filled; where the labour is doubled, the value of the work is enhanced; for it is a sowing where a man never expects to reap any thing but the comfort and conscience of having done virtuously. And yet we know moreover, that God sometimes converts even the dull and the slow, turning very stones into sons of Abraham; where besides that the difficulty of the conquest advances the trophy of the conqueror; it often falls out, that the backward learner makes amends another way, recompensing sure for sudden, expiating his want of docility with a deeper and a more rooted retention: which alone were argument sufficient to enforce the apostle’s injunction of being instant in season and out of season, even upon the highest and most exalted 126ruler in the church. He that sits in Moses’s chair, sits there to instruct, as well as to rule: and a general’s office engages him to lead, as well as to command his army. In the first of Ecclesiastes, Solomon represents himself both as preacher and king of Israel: and every soul that a bishop gains is a new accession to the extent of his power; he preaches his jurisdiction wider, and enlarges his spiritual diocese, as he enlarges men’s apprehensions.
The teaching part indeed of a Romish bishop is easy enough, whose grand business is only to teach men to be ignorant, to instruct them how to know nothing, or, which is all one, to know upon trust, to believe implicitly, and in a word, to see with other men’s eyes, till they come to be lost in their own souls. But our religion is a religion that dares to be understood; that offers itself to the search of the inquisitive, to the inspection of the severest and the most awakened reason: for being secure of her substantial truth and purity, she knows, that for her to be seen and looked into, is to be embraced and admired: as there needs no greater argument for men to love the light, than to see it. It needs no legends, no service in an unknown tongue, no inquisition against scripture, no purging out the heart and sense of authors, no altering or bribing the voice of antiquity to speak for it; it needs none of all these laborious artifices of ignorance; none of all these cloaks and coverings. The Romish faith indeed must be covered, or it cannot be kept warm, and their clergy deal with their religion as with a great crime; if it is discovered, they are undone. But there is no bishop of the church of England, but accounts it his interest, as well as his duty, to comply 127with this precept of the apostle Paul to Titus, These things teach and exhort.
Now this teaching may be effected two ways:
(1.) Immediately by himself.
(2.) Mediately by others.
And first, immediately by himself. Where God gives a talent, the episcopal robe can be no napkin to hide it in. Change of condition changes not the abilities of nature, but makes them more illustrious in their exercise; and the episcopal dignity added to a good preaching faculty, is like the erecting of a stately fountain upon a spring, which still, for all that, remains as much a spring as it was before, and flows as plentifully, only it flows with the circumstance of greater state and magnificence. Height of place is intended only to stamp the endowments of a private condition with lustre and authority: and, thanks be to God, neither the church’s professed enemies, nor her pretended friends, have any cause to asperse her in this respect, as having over her such bishops as are able to silence the factious, no less by their preaching than by their authority.
But then, on the other hand, let me add also, that this is not so absolutely necessary, as to be of the vital constitution of this function. He may teach his diocese, who ceases to be able to preach to it: for he may do it by appointing teachers, and by a vigilant exacting from them the care and the instruction of their respective flocks. He is the spiritual father of his diocese; and a father may see his children taught, though he himself does not turn schoolmaster. It is not the gift of every person nor of every age, to harangue the multitude, to voice it high and loud, et dominari in concionibus. And 128since experience fits for government, and age usually brings experience, perhaps the most governing years are the least preaching years.
(2.) In the second place therefore, there is a teaching mediately, by the subordinate ministration of others; in which, since the action of the instrumental agent is, upon all grounds of reason, to be ascribed to the principal, he, who ordains and furnishes all his churches with able preachers, is an universal teacher; he instructs where he cannot be present; he speaks in every mouth of his diocese; and every congregation of it every Sunday feels his influence, though it hears not his voice. That master deprives not his family of their food, who orders a faithful steward to dispense it. Teaching is not a flow of words, nor the draining of an hour glass, but an effectual procuring, that a man comes to know something which he knew not before, or to know it better. And therefore eloquence and ability of speech is to a church governor, as Tully said it was to a philosopher; Si afferatur, non repudianda; si absit, non magnopere desideranda: and to find fault with such an one for not being a popular speaker, is to blame a painter for not being a good musician.
To teach indeed must be confessed his duty, but then there is a teaching by example, by authority, by restraining seducers, and so removing the hinderances of knowledge. And a bishop does his church, his prince and country, more service by ruling other men’s tongues, than he can by employing his own. And thus much for the first branch of the great work belonging to a pastor of the church, which was to teach and to exhort.129
2. The second is to rule, expressed in these words; rebuke with all authority. By which I doubt not but the apostle principally intends church censures; and so the words are a metonymy of the part for the whole, giving an instance in ecclesiastical censures, instead of all other ecclesiastical jurisdiction. A jurisdiction, which in the essentials of it is as old as Christianity, and even in those circumstantial additions of secular encouragement, with which the piety and wisdom of Christian princes always thought necessary to support it against the encroachments of the injurious world, much older and more venerable than any constitution that has divested the church of it.
But to speak directly to the thing before us; we see here the great apostle employing the utmost of his authority in commanding Titus to use his: and what he said to him, he says to every Christian bi shop after him, rebuke with all authority. This authority is a spiritual sword put into the hands of every church ruler; and God put not this sword into his hands, with an intent that he should keep it there for no other purpose, but only for fashion sake, as men use to wear one by their sides. Government is an art above the attainment of an ordinary genius, and requires a wider, a larger, and a more comprehending soul than God has put into every body. The spirit which animates and acts the universe, is a spirit of government; and that ruler that is possessed of it, is the substitute and vicegerent of Providence, whether in church or state: every bishop is God’s curate. Now the nature of government contains in it these three parts:130
(1.) An exaction of duty from the persons placed under it.
(2.) A protection of them in the performance of their duty.
(3.) Coercion and animadversion upon such as neglect it. All which are, in their proportion, ingredients of that government which we call ecclesiastical.
(1.) And first, it implies exaction of duty from the persons placed under it: for it is both to be confessed and lamented, that men are not so ready to offer it, where it is not exacted: otherwise, what means the service of the church so imperfectly and by halves read over, and that by many who profess a conformity to the rules of the church? What makes them mince and mangle that in their practice, which they could swallow whole in their subscriptions? Why are the public prayers curtailed and left out, prayers composed with sobriety, and enjoined with authority, only to make the more room for a long, crude, impertinent, upstart harangue before the sermon?
Such persons seem to conform (the signification of which word they never make good) only that they may despise the church’s injunctions under the church’s wing, and contemn authority within the protection of the laws. Duty is but another English word for debt; and God knows, that it is well if men pay their debts when they are called upon. But if governors do not remind men of, and call them to obedience, they will find, that it will never come as a free-will offering, no not from many who even serve at the altar.131
(2.) Government imports a protection and encouragement of the persons under it, in the discharge of their duty. It is not for a magistrate to frown upon, and browbeat those who are hearty and exact in the management of their ministry; and with a grave insignificant nod, to call a well regulated and resolved zeal, want of prudence and moderation. Such discouraging of men in the ways of an active conformity to the church’s rules is that, which will crack the sinews of government; for it weakens the hands and damps the spirits of the obedient. And if only scorn and rebuke shall attend men for asserting the church’s dignity, and taxing the murder of kings, and the like; many will choose rather to neglect their duty safely and creditably, than to get a broken pate in the church’s service, only to be rewarded with that which shall break their hearts too.
(3.) The third thing implied in government is coercion, and animadversion upon such as neglect their duty: without which coercive power all government is but toothless and precarious, and does not so much command as beg obedience. Nothing, I confess, is more becoming a Christian, of what degree soever, than meekness, candour, and condescension; but they are virtues that have their proper sphere and season to act and shew themselves in, and consequently not to interfere with others, different indeed in their nature, but altogether as necessary in their use. And when an insolent despiser of discipline, nurtured into impudence and contempt of all order by a long risk of licence and rebellion, shall appear before a church governor, severity and resolution are that governor’s virtues, and 132justice itself is his mercy; for by making such an one an example, (as much as in him lies,) he will either cure him, or at least preserve others.
Were indeed the consciences of men as they should be, the censures of the church might be a sufficient coercion upon them; but being, as most of them nowadays are, hell and damnation proof, her bare anathemas fall but like so many bruta fulmina upon the obstinate and schismatical; who are like to think themselves shrewdly hurt (forsooth) by being cut off from that body, which they choose not to be of; and so being punished into a quiet enjoyment of their beloved separation. Some will by no means allow the church any further power than only to exhort and to advise; and this but with a proviso too, that it extends not to such as think themselves too wise and too great to be advised; according to the hypothesis of which persons, the authority of the church, and the obliging force of all church sanctions, can bespeak men only thus; These and these things it is your duty to do, and if you will not do them, you may as well let them alone. A strict and efficacious constitution indeed, which invests the church with no power at all, but where men will be so very civil as to obey it, and so at the same time pay it a duty, and do it a courtesy too.
But when in the judgment of some men the spiritual function, as such, must render a churchman, though otherwise never so discreet and qualified, yet merely because he is a churchman, unfit to be intrusted by his prince with a share of that power and jurisdiction, which in many circumstances his prince has judged but too necessary to secure 133the affairs and dignity of the church; and which, every thriving grazier can think himself but ill dealt with, if within his own country he is not mounted to: it is a sign, that such discontented persons intend not that religion shall advise them upon any other terms, than that they may ride and govern their religion.
But surely, all our kings and our parliaments understood well enough what they did, when they thought fit to prop and fortify the spiritual order with some power that was temporal; and such is the present state of the world, in the judgment of any observing eye, that if the bishop has no other defensatives but excommunication, no other power but that of the keys, he may, for any notable effect that he is like to do upon the factious and contumacious, surrender up his pastoral staff, shut up the church, and put those keys under the door.
And thus I have endeavoured to shew the three things included in the general nature of government; but to prescribe the manner of it in particular is neither in my power nor inclination: only, I suppose, the common theory and speculation of things is free and open to any one whom God has sent into the world with some ability to contemplate, and by continuing him in the world, gives him also opportunity. In all that has been said, I do not in the least pretend to advise, or chalk out rules to my superiors; for some men cannot be fools with so good acceptance as others. But whosoever is called to speak upon a certain occasion, may, I conceive, without offence, take any text suitable to that occasion, and having taken it, may, or at least ought, to speak suitably to that text.134
II. I proceed now to the second thing proposed from the words, which is the means assigned for the discharge of the duties mentioned, and exhibited under this one short prescription, Let no man despise thee: in the handling of which I shall shew,
1. The ill effects and destructive influence that contempt has upon government.
2. The groundless causes upon which church rulers are frequently despised.
3. And lastly, the just causes that would render them, or indeed any other rulers, worthy to be despised. All which being clearly made out, and impartially laid before our eyes, it will be easy and obvious for every one, by avoiding the evil so marked out, to answer and come up to the apostle’s exhortation. And,
1. We will discourse of contempt, and the malign hostile influence it has upon government. As for the thing itself, every man’s experience will inform him, that there is no action in the behaviour of one man towards another, of which human nature is more impatient than of contempt, it being a thing made up of these two ingredients, an undervaluing of a man upon a belief of his utter uselessness and inability, and a spiteful endeavour to engage the rest of the world in the same belief and slight esteem of him. So that the immediate design of contempt is the shame of the person contemned; and shame is a banishment of him from the good opinion of the world, which every man most earnestly desires, both upon a principle of nature and of interest. For it is natural to all men to affect a good name; and he that despises a man, libels him in his thoughts, reviles and traduces him in his judgment. 135And there is also interest in the case; for a desire to be well thought of, directly resolves itself into that owned and mighty principle of self-preservation: forasmuch as thoughts are the first wheels and motives of action, and there is no long passage from one to the other. He that thinks a man to the ground, will quickly endeavour to lay him there; for while he despises him, he arraigns and condemns him in his heart; and the after-bitterness and cruelties of his practices, are but the executioners of the sentence passed before upon him by his judgment. Contempt, like the planet Saturn, has first an ill aspect, and then a destroying influence.
By all which, I suppose, it is sufficiently proved how noxious it must needs be to every governor: for, can a man respect the person whom he despises? and can there be obedience, where there is not so much as respect? Will the knee bend, while the heart insults? and the actions submit, while the apprehensions rebel? And therefore the most experienced disturbers and underminers of government have always laid their first train in contempt, endeavouring to blow it up in the judgment and esteem of the subject. And was not this method observed in the late most flourishing and successful rebellion? For, how studiously did they lay about them, both from the pulpit and the press, to cast a slur upon the king’s person, and to bring his governing abilities under a disrepute? And then after they had sufficiently blasted him in his personal capacity, they found it easy work to dash and over throw him in his political.
Reputation is power, and consequently to despise 136is to weaken. For where there is contempt, there can be no awe; and where there is no awe, there will be no subjection; and if there is no subjection, it is impossible, without the help of the former distinction of a politic capacity, to imagine how a prince can be a governor. He that makes his prince despised and undervalued, blows a trumpet against him in men’s breasts, beats him out of his subjects hearts, and fights him out of their affections; and after this, he may easily strip him of his other garrisons, having already dispossessed him of his strong est, by dismantling him of his honour, and seizing his reputation.
Nor is what has been said of princes less true of all other governors, from highest to lowest, from him that heads an army, to him that is master of a family, or of one single servant; the formal reason of a thing equally extending itself to every particular of the same kind. It is a proposition of eternal verity, that none can govern while he is despised. We may as well imagine that there may be a king without majesty, a supreme without sovereignty. It is a paradox, and a direct contradiction in practice; for where contempt takes place, the very causes and capacities of government cease.
Men are so far from being governed by a despised person, that they will not so much as be taught by him. Truth itself shall lose its credit, if delivered by a person that has none. As on the contrary, be but a person in vogue and credit with the multitude, he shall be able to commend and set off whatsoever he says, to authorize any nonsense, and to make popular, rambling, incoherent stuff (seasoned with twang and tautology) pass for high rhetoric 137and moving preaching; such indeed as a zealous tradesman would even live and die under. And now, I suppose, it is no ill topic of argumentation, to shew the prevalence of contempt, by the contrary influences of respect; which thus (as it were) dubs every little, petit, admired person, lord and commander of all his admirers. And certain it is, that the ecclesiastical, as well as the civil governor, has cause to pursue the same methods of securing and confirming himself; the grounds and means of government being founded upon the same bottom of nature in both, though the circumstances and relative considerations of the persons may differ. And I have nothing to say more upon this head, but that if churchmen are called upon to discharge the parts of governors, they may with the highest reason expect those supports and helps that are indispensably requisite thereunto; and that those men are but trepanned, who are called to govern, being invested with authority, but bereaved of power; which, according to a true and plain estimate of things, is nothing else but to mock and betray them into a splendid and magisterial way of being ridiculous. And thus much for the ill effects and destructive influence that contempt has upon government.
2. I pass now to the second thing, which is to shew the groundless causes, upon which church rulers are frequently despised.
Concerning which, I shall premise this; that no thing can be a reasonable ground of despising a man, but some fault or other chargeable upon him; and nothing can be a fault that is not naturally in a man’s power to prevent; otherwise, it is a man’s unhappiness, his mischance, or calamity, but not his 138fault. Nothing can justly be despised, that cannot justly be blamed: and it is a most certain rule in reason and moral philosophy, that where there is no choice, there can be no blame.
This premised, we may take notice of two usual grounds of the contempt men cast upon the clergy, and yet for which no man ought to think himself at all the more worthy to be contemned.
(1.) The first is their very profession itself; concerning which it is a sad, but an experimented truth, that the names derived from it, in the refined language of the present age, are made but the appellatives of scorn. This is not charged universally upon all, but experience will affirm, or rather proclaim it of much the greater part of the world; and men must persuade us that we have lost our hearing and our common sense, before we can believe the contrary. But surely, the bottom and foundation of this behaviour towards persons set apart for the service of God, that this very relation should entitle them to such a peculiar scorn, can be nothing else but atheism, the growing rampant sin of the times.
For call a man oppressor, griping, covetous, or over-reaching person, and the word indeed, being ill befriended by custom, perhaps sounds not well, but generally, in the apprehension of the hearer, it signifies no more, than that such an one is a wise and a thriving, or, in the common phrase, a notable man; which will certainly procure him a respect: and say of another, that he is an epicure, a loose, or a vicious man; and it leaves in men no other opinion of him, than that he is a merry, pleasant, and a genteel person: and that he that taxes him, is but a pedant, an unexperienced and a morose fellow; one that 139does not know men, nor understand what it is to eat and drink well: but call a man priest or parson, and you set him, in some men’s esteem, ten degrees below his own servant.
But let us not be discouraged or displeased, either with ourselves or our profession, upon this account. Let the virtuosos mock, insult, and despise on: yet after all, they shall never be able to droll away the nature of things; to trample a pearl into a pebble, nor to make sacred things contemptible, any more than themselves, by such speeches, honourable.
(2.) Another groundless cause of some men’s despising the governors of our church, is their loss of that former grandeur and privilege that they enjoyed. But it is no real disgrace to the church merely to lose her privileges, but to forfeit them by her fault or misdemeanor, of which she is not conscious. Whatsoever she enjoyed in this kind, she readily acknowledges to have streamed from the royal munificence, and the favours of the civil power shining upon the spiritual; which favours the same power may retract and gather back into itself, when it pleases. And we envy not the greatness and lustre of the Romish clergy; neither their scarlet gowns nor their scarlet sins. If our church cannot be great; which is better, she can be humble, and content to be reformed into as low a condition as men for their own private advantage would have her; who wisely tell her, that it is best and safest for her to be without any power or temporal advantage; like the good physician, who out of tenderness to his patient, lest he should hurt himself by drinking, was so kind as to rob him of his silver cup. The church of England glories in nothing 140more, than that she is the truest friend to kings and to kingly government, of any other church in the world; that they were the same hands and principles that took the crown from the king’s head, and the mitre from the bishops. It is indeed the happiness of some professions and callings, that they can equally square themselves to, and thrive under all revolutions of government: but the clergy of England neither know nor affect that happiness, and are willing to be despised for not doing so. And so far is our church from encroaching upon the civil power, as some, who are back-friends to both, would maliciously insinuate, that, were it stripped of the very remainder of its privileges, and made as like the primitive church for its bareness, as it is al ready for its purity, it could cheerfully, and, what is more, loyally, want all such privileges; and in the want of them pray heartily that the civil power may flourish as much, and stand as secure from the assaults of fanatic, antimonarchical principles, (grown to such a dreadful height during the church’s late confusions,) as it stood while the church enjoyed those privileges. And thus much for the two groundless causes, upon which church-rulers are frequently despised. I descend now to the
3. And last thing, which is to shew those just causes, that would render them, or indeed any other rulers, worthy to be despised. Many might be as signed, but I shall pitch only upon four; in discoursing of which, rather the time than the subject will force me to be very brief.
(1.) And the first is ignorance. We know how great an absurdity our Saviour accounted it, for the blind to lead the blind; and to put him that cannot 141much as see, to discharge the office of a watch. Nothing more exposes to contempt than ignorance. When Sampson’s eyes were out, of a public magistrate he was made a public sport. And when Eli was blind, we know how well he governed his sons, and how well they governed the church under him. But now the blindness of the understanding is greater and more scandalous; especially in such a seeing age as ours; in which the very knowledge of former times passes but for ignorance in a better dress: an age that flies at all learning, and inquires into every thing, but especially into faults and defects. Ignorance indeed, so far as it may be resolved into natural inability, is, as to men, at least, inculpable; and consequently, not the object of scorn, but pity; but in a governor, it cannot be without the conjunction of the highest impudence: for who bid such an one aspire to teach and to govern? A blind man sitting in the chimney corner is pardonable enough, but sitting at the helm he is intolerable. If men will be ignorant and illiterate, let them be so in private, and to themselves, and not set their defects in an high place, to make them visible and conspicuous. If owls will not be hooted at, let them keep close within the tree, and not perch upon the upper boughs.
(2.) A second thing, that makes a governor justly despised, is viciousness and ill morals. Virtue is that which must tip the preacher’s tongue and the ruler’s sceptre with authority. And therefore with what a controlling overpowering force did our Saviour tax the sins of the Jews, when he ushered in his rebukes of them with that high assertion of himself, Who is there amongst you, that convinces 142me of sin? Otherwise we may easily guess with what impatience the world would have heard an incestuous Herod discoursing of chastity, a Judas condemning covetousness, or a Pharisee preaching against hypocrisy: every word must have recoiled upon the speaker. Guilt is that which quells the courage of the bold, ties the tongue of the eloquent, and makes greatness itself sneak and lurk, and behave itself poorly. For, let a vicious person be in never so high command, yet still he will be looked upon but as one great vice, empowered to correct and chastise others. A corrupt governor is nothing else but a reigning sin: and a sin in office may command any thing but respect. No man can be credited by his place or power, who by his virtue does not first credit that.
3. A third thing that makes a governor justly despised, is fearfulness of, and mean compliances with bold, popular offenders. Some indeed account it the very spirit of policy and prudence, where men refuse to come up to a law, to make the law come down to them. And for their so doing, have this infallible recompence, that they are not at all the more loved, but much the less feared; and, which is a sure consequent of it, accordingly respected. But believe it, it is a resolute, tenacious adherence to well chosen principles, that adds glory to greatness, and makes the face of a governor shine in the eyes of those that see and examine his actions. Disobedience, if complied with, is infinitely encroaching, and having gained one degree of liberty upon indulgence, will demand another upon claim. Every vice interprets a connivance and approbation.
Which being so, is it not an enormous indecency, 143as well as a gross impiety, that any one who owns the name of a divine, hearing a great sinner brave it against Heaven, talk atheistically, and scoff profanely at that religion, by which he owns an expectation to be saved, if he cares to be saved at all, should, instead of vindicating the truth to the blasphemer’s teeth, think it discretion and moderation (forsooth) with a complying silence, and perhaps a smile to boot, tacitly to approve, and strike in with the scoffer, and so go sharer both in the mirth and guilt of his profane jests?
But let such an one be assured, that even that blasphemer himself would inwardly reverence him, if rebuked by him; as, on the contrary, he in his heart really despises him for his cowardly, base silence. If any one should reply here, that the times and manners of men will not bear such a practice, I confess that it is an answer, from the mouth of a professed time-server, very rational: but as for that man that is not so, let him satisfy himself of the reason, justice, and duty of an action, and leave the event of it to God, who will never fail those who do not think themselves too wise to trust him. For, let the worst come to the worst, a man in so doing would be ruined more honourably than otherwise preferred.
4. And lastly. A fourth thing that makes a governor justly despised, is a proneness to despise others. There is a kind of respect due to the mean est person, even from the greatest; for it is the mere favour of Providence, that he, who is actually the greatest, was not the meanest. A man cannot cast his respects so low, but they will rebound and return upon him. What Heaven bestows upon the 144earth in kind influences and benign aspects, is paid it back again in sacrifice, incense, and adoration. And surely, a great person gets more by obliging his inferior, than he can by disdaining him; as a man has a greater advantage by sowing and dressing his ground, than he can have by trampling upon it. It is not to insult and domineer, to look disdainfully, and revile imperiously, that procures an esteem from any one; it will indeed make men keep their distance sufficiently, but it will be distance without reverence.
And thus I have shewn four several causes that may justly render any ruler despised; and by the same work, I hope, have made it evident, how little cause men have to despise the rulers of our church.
God is the fountain of honour; and the conduit by which he conveys it to the sons of men, are virtuous and generous practices. But as for us, who have more immediately and nearly devoted, both our persons and concerns to his service, it were infinitely vain to expect it upon any other terms. Some in deed may please and promise themselves high matters, from full revenues, stately palaces, court-interests, and great dependences: but that which makes the clergy glorious, is to be knowing in their profession, unspotted in their lives, active and laborious in their charges, bold and resolute in opposing seducers, and daring to look vice in the face, though never so potent and illustrious; and lastly, to be gentle, courteous, and compassionate to all.
These are our robes and our maces, our escutcheons, and highest titles of honour: for by all these things God is honoured, who has declared this the eternal rule and standard of all honour derivable 145upon men, that those who honour him, shall be honoured by him.
To which God, fearful in praises, and working wonders, be rendered and ascribed as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for evermore. Amen.146
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