Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

former times the middle and lower sort of mankind seldom gained or lost by the factions of the kingdom, and therefore were little concerned in them, farther than as matter of talk and amusement: but now the meanest dealer will expect to turn the penny, by the merits of his party. He can represent his neighbour as a man of dangerous principles, can bring a railing accusation against him, perhaps a criminal one; and so rob him of his livelihood, and find his own account by that, much more than if he had disparaged his neighbour's goods, or defamed him as a cheat. For so it happens, that instead of inquiring into the skill or honesty of those kind of people, the manner is now to inquire into their party, and to reject or encourage them accordingly; which proceeding hath made our people, in general, such able politicians, that all the artifice, flattery, dissimulation, diligence, and dexterity, in undermining each other, which the satirical wit of men hath charged upon courts; together with all the rage and violence, cruelty and injustice, which have been ever imputed to public assemblies; are with us (so polite are we grown) to be seen among our meanest traders and artificers in the greatest perfection. All which, as it may be matter of some humiliation to the wise and mighty of this world, so the effects thereof may perhaps, in time, prove very different from what, I hope, in charity, were ever foreseen or intended.

II. I will therefore now, in the second place, lay open some of the sad effects and consequences which our animosities and mutual hatred have produced.

And the first ill consequence is, that our want of brotherly love hath almost driven out all sense of religion from among us, which cannot well be otherwise ; for, since our Saviour laid so much weight upon his disciples loving one another, that he gave it among his last instructions; and since the primitive Christians are allowed to have chiefly propagated the faith by their strict observance of that instruction; it must follow, that in proportion as brotherly love declineth, Christianity will do so too. The little religion there is in the world hath been observed to reside chiefly among the middle and lower sorts of people, who are neither tempted to pride nor luxury by great riches, nor to desperate courses by extreme poverty; and truly I, upon that account, have thought it a happiness that those who are under my immediate care are generally of that condition: but where party hath once made entrance, with all its consequences of hatred, envy, partiality, and virulence, religion cannot long keep its hold in any state or degree of life whatsoever. For, if the great men of the world have been censured in all ages for mingling too little religion with their politics, what a havock of principles must they needs make in unlearned and irregular heads; of which, indeed, the effects are already too visible and melancholy all over the kingdom?

Another ill consequence from our want of brotherly love is, that it increaseth the insolence of the fanatics; and this partly ariseth from a mistaken meaning of the word moderation; a word which hath been much abused, and bandied about for several years past. There are too many people indifferent enough to all religion; there are many others, who dislike the clergy, and would

have them live in poverty and dependence: both these sorts are much commended by the fanatics for moderate men, ready to put an end to our divisions, and to make a general union among protestants. Many ignorant well-meaning people are deceived by these appearances, strengthened with great pretences to loyalty; and these occasions the fanatics lay hold on to revile the doctrine and discipline of the church, and even insult and oppress the clergy wherever their numbers or favourers will bear them out; insomuch that one wilful refractory fanatic hath been able to disturb a whole parish for many years together. But the most moderate and favoured divines dare not own that the word moderation, with respect to the dissenters, can be at all applied to their religion, but is purely personal or prudential. No good man repineth at the liberty of conscience they enjoy ; and perhaps a very moderate divine may think better of their loyalty than others do; or, to speak after the manner of men, may think it necessary that all protestants should be united against the common enemy; or out of discretion, or other reasons best known to himself, be tender of mentioning them at all. But still the errors of the dissenters are all fixed and determined, and must, upon demand, be acknowledged by all the divines of our church, whether they be called, in party phrase, high or low, moderate or violent. And further, I believe it would be hard to find many moderate divines, who, if their opinion were asked whether dissenters should be trusted with power, could, according to their consciences, answer in the affirmative; from whence it is plain, that all the stir which the fanatics have made with this word moderation, was only meant to increase our divi: sions, and widen them so far as to make room for themselves to get in between. And this is the only scheme they ever had (except that of destroying root and branch) for the uniting of protestants, they so much talk of.

I shall mention but one ill consequence more, which attends our want of brotherly love; that it hath put an end to all hospitality and friendship, all good correspondence and commerce between mankind. There are indeed such things as leagues and confederacies among those of the same party; but surely God never intended that men should be so limited in the choice of their friends : however, so it is in town and country, in every parish and street; the pastor is divided from his flock, the father from his son, and the house often divided against itself. Men's very natures are soured, and their passions inflamed, when they meet in party clubs, and spend their time in nothing else but railing at the opposite side : thus every man alive among us is encompassed with a million of enemies of his own country, among which his oldest acquaintance and friends, and kindred themselves, are often of the number; neither can people of different parties mix together without constraint, suspicion, or jealousy, watching every word they speak, for fear of giving offence; or else falling into rudeness and reproaches, and so leaving themselves open to the malice and corruption of informers, who were never more numerous or expert in their trade. And as a farther addition to this evil, those very few, who, by the goodness and generosity of their nature, do in their own hearts despise this narrow principle of confining their friendship and esteem, their charity and good offices, to those of their own party, yet dare not discover their

good inclinations, for fear of losing their favour and interest. And others again, whom God had formed with mild and gentle dispositions, think it necessary to put a force upon their own tempers, by acting a noisy, violent, malicious part, as a means to be distinguished. Thus hath party got the better of the very genius and constitution of our people; so that, whoever reads the character of the English in former ages, will hardly believe their present posterity to be of the same nation or climate.

III. I shall now, in the last place, make use of some motives and exhortations, that may persuade you to embrace brotherly love, and continue in it. Let me apply myself to you of the lower sort, and desire you will consider, when any of

you make use of fair and enticing words to draw in customers, whether you do it for their sakes or your own. And then, for whose sakes do you think it is, that your leaders are so indus, trious to put into your heads all that party rage and virulence? is it not to make you the tools and instruments, by which they work out their own designs? Has this spirit of faction been useful to any of you in your worldly concerns, except to those who have traded in whispering, backbiting, or informing, wanting skill or hones, ty to thrive by fairer methods? It is no business of yours to inquire, who is at the head of armies, or of councils, unless you had power and skill to choose, neither of which is ever likely to be your case; and therefore to fill your heads with fears, and hatred of persons and things, of which it is impossible you can ever make a right judgment, or to set you at variance with your neighbour, because his thoughts are not the same as yours,

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »