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fig-tree, my brethren, bear olive-berries? either may be, of a virtuous family; and all this, as a vine, figs ? Lay your hands upon your hearts, Solomon says of the madman who casteth fireand let your consciences speak. Ought not the brands, arrows, and death, and saith, Am I not same just principle which restrains you from in sport?-all this out of wantonness, and oftener cruelty and wrong in one case, equally to with- from worse motives, the whole appears such a hold you from it in another? Should not charity complication of badness as requires no words or and good-will, like the principle of life, circu-warmth of fancy to aggravate. Pride, treachery, lating through the smallest vessels in every envy, hypocrisy, malice, cruelty, and self-love member,-ought it not to operate as regularly may have been said, in one shape or other, to upon you throughout, as well upon your words have occasioned all the frauds and mischiefs that as upon your actions ?
ever happened in the world ; but the chances If a man is wise, and endued with knowledge, against a coincidence of them all in one person let him show it out of a good conversation, with are so many, that one would have supposed the meekness and wisdom. But if any man amongst character of a common slanderer as rare and you seemeth to be religious (seemeth to be, for difficult a production in nature as that of a truly religious he cannot be), and bridleth not great genius, which seldom happens above once his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this in an age. man's religion is vain. This is the full force of But whatever was the cause when St. James St. James' reasoning, upon which I have dwelt wrote his epistle, we have been very successful the more, it being the foundation upon which is in latter days, and have found out the art, by a grounded this clear decision of the matter left proper management of light and shade, to comus in the text; in which the Apostle seems to pound all these vices together, so as to give body have set the two characters of a saint and and strength to the whole, whilst no one but a slanderer at such variance, that one would have discerning artist is able to discover the labours thought they could never have had the heart that join in finishing the picture ; and indeed, to have met together again. But there are no like many other bad originals in the world, it alliances too strange for this world. How many stands in need of all the disguise it has. For may we observe every day, even of the gentler who could be enamoured of a character made up sex as well as our own, who, without conviction of so loathsome a compound, could they behold of doing much wrong, in the midst of a full it naked, in its crooked and deformed shape, career of calumny and defamation, rise up punc- with all its natural and detested infirmities laid tually at the stated hour of prayer, leave the open to public view ? cruel story half untold till they return; go And therefore it were to be wished that one and kneel down before the throne of Heaven, would do, in this malignant case of the mind, thank God that he had not made them like what is generally done for the public good in others, and that his Holy Spirit had enabled the more malignant and epidemical cases of the them to perform the duties of the day in so body; that is, when they are found infectious, Christian and conscientious a manner.
to write a history of the distemper, and ascerThis delusive itch for slander, too common in tain all the symptoms of the malady, so that all ranks of people, whether to gratify a little every one might know whom he might venture ungenerous resentment; whether oftener out to go near, with tolerable safety to himself. of a principle of levelling, from a narrowness But, alas ! the symptoms of this appear in so and poverty of soul, ever impatient of merit many strange and contradictory shapes, and and superiority in others; whether from a vary so wonderfully with the temper and habit mean ambition, or the insatiate lust of being of the patient, that they are not to be classed, witty (a talent in which ill-nature and malice nor reduced to any one regular system. are no ingredients); or lastly, whether from a Ten thousand are the vehicles in which this natural cruelty of disposition, abstracted from deadly poison is prepared and communicated to all views and considerations of self: to which the world; and by some artful hands 'tis done one, or whether to all jointly, we are indebted by so subtle and nice an infusion, that it is not for this contagious malady, thus much is certain, to be tasted or discovered but by its effects. from whatever seeds it springs, the growth and How frequently is the honesty and integrity progress of it are as destructive to, as they are of a man disposed of by a smile or a shrug! unbecoming, a civilised people. To pass a hard How many good and generous actions have been and ill-natured reflection upon an undesigning sunk into oblivion by a distrustful look! or action; to invent, or which is equally bad, to stamped with the imputation of proceeding propagate, a vexatious report without colour from bad motives, by a mysterious and seasonand grounds; to plunder an innocent man of able whisper ! his character and good name, a jewel which Look into companies of those whose gentle perhaps he has starved himself to purchase, natures should disarm them, we shall find no and probably would hazard his life to secure; better account. How large a portion of chastity to rob him at the same time of his happiness is sent out of the world by distant hints, nodded and peace of mind, perhaps his bread, the bread, away and cruelly winked into suspicion by the envy of those who are past all temptation of it ters; and sometimes it may be as much a debt themselves! How often does the reputation of we owe to virtue, and as great a piece of justice, a helpless creature bleed by report, which the to expose a vicious character, and paint it in party who is at the pains to propagate it beholds its proper colours, as it is to speak well of the with much pity and fellow-feeling! that she is deserving, and describe his particular virtues. heartily sorry for it-hopes in God it is not And, indeed, when we inflict this punishment true ! however, as Archbishop Tillotson wittily upon the bad merely out of principle, and withobserves upon it, is resolved in the meantime to out indulgence to any private passion of our own, give the report her pass, that at least it may 'tis & case which happens so seldom, that one have fair play to take its fortune in the world, might venture to except it. -to be believed or not, according to the charity However, to those who, in this objection, are of those into whose hands it shall happen to fall. really concerned for the cause of virtue, I can
So fruitful is this vice in a variety of experi- not help recommending what would much more ments, to satiate as well as disguise itself. But effectually serve her interest, and be a surer if these smoother weapons cut so sore, what token of their zeal and attachment to her, and shall we say of open and unblushing scandal, that is, in all such plain instances where it seems subjected to no caution, tied down to no re- to be a duty to fix a distinction betwixt the straints? If the one, like an arrow shot in the good and the bad, to let their actions speak it dark, does nevertheless so much secret mischief, instead of their words, or at least to let them this, like the pestilence which rageth at noon- both speak one language. We all of us talk so day, sweeps all before it, levelling without dis- loud against vicious characters, and are so unanitinction the good and the bad'; a thousand fall mous in our cry against them, that an inexpebeside it, and ten thousand on its right hand ; rienced man, who only trusted his ears, would they fall, so rent and torn in this tender part imagine the whole world was in an uproar of them, so unmercifully butchered, as some- about it, and that mankind were all associating times never to recover either the wounds or the together to hunt vice utterly out of the world. anguish of heart which they have occasioned. Shift the scene, and let him behold the recep
But there is nothing so bad which will not tion which vice meets with : he will see the admit of something to be said in its defence. conduct and behaviour of the world towards it,
And here it may be asked whether the incon- so opposite to their declarations : he will find veniences and ill effects which the world feels all he heard so contradicted by what he saw, as from the licentiousness of this practice are not to leave him in doubt which of his senses he is sufficiently counterbalanced by the real influence to trust, or in which of the two cases mankind it has upon men's lives and conduct? That if were really in earnest. Was there virtue enough there was no evil speaking in the world, thou- | in the world to make a general stand against sands would be encouraged to do ill, and would this contradiction,-that is, was every one who rush into many indecorums, like a horse into deserved to be ill spoken of sure to be ill looked the battle, were they sure to escape the tongues on too ;-was it a certain consequence of the of men.
loss of a man's character, to lose his friends, to That if we take a general view of the world, lose the advantages of his birth and fortune, we shall find that a great deal of virtue, at least and thenceforth be universally shunned, and of the outward appearance of it, is not so much universally slighted ;from any fixed principle as the terror of what Was no quality a shelter against the indethe world will say, and the liberty it will take corums of the other sex, but was every woman, upon the occasions we shall give.
without distinction, who had justly forfeited That, if we descend to particulars, numbers her reputation,--from that moment was she are every day taking more pains to be well sure to forfeit likewise all claim to civility and spoken of, than what would actually enable respect! them to live so as to deserve it.
Or, in a word, could it be established as a That there are many of both sexes who can law in our ceremonial, that, wherever characters support life well enough without honour and in either sex were become notorious, it should chastity, who, without reputation (which is but be deemed infamous either to pay or receive a the opinion which the world has of the matter), visit from them, and the door were to be shutwould hide their heads in shame, and sink down against them in all public places, till they had in utter despair of happiness. No doubt the satisfied the world, by giving testimony of a. tongue is a weapon which does chastise many better life, - a few such plain and honest indecorums which the laws of men will not maxims, faithfully put in practice, would force reach, and keeps many in awe whom conscience upon us some degree of reformation. Till this will not; and, where the case is indisputably is done, it avails little that we have no mercy flagrant, the speaking of it in such words as it upon them with our tongues, since they escape deserves scarce comes within the prohibition. without feeling any other inconvenience. In many cases 'tis hard to express ourselves so We all cry out that the world is corrupt, and, as to fix a distinction betwixt opposite charac- I fear, too justly; but we never reflect what we
have to thank for it, and that our open counte- duct of almost every part and stage of a man's nance of vice, which gives the lie to our private life. But as the words of the text, as well as censures of it, is its chief protection and en- the intention and compass of this discourse, couragement. To those, however, who still particularly confine me to speak only to one believe that evil speaking is some terror to evil point, namely, the forgiveness of injuries, it doers, one may answer, as a great man has will be proper only to consider such circumdone upon the occasion, that, after all our ex- stances of the story as will place this instance of hortations against it, 'tis not to be feared but it in its just light; and then proceed to make a
that there will be evil speaking enough left in more general use of the great example of mode| the world to chastise the guilty; and we may ration and forbearance which it sets before us.
safely trust them to an ill-natured world that It seems strange, at first sight, that after the there will be no failure of justice upon this sons of Jacob had fallen into Joseph's power, The passions of men are pretty severe
ere when they were forced by the soreness of the executioners; and to them let us leave this un- famine to go down into Egypt to buy corn, and grateful task, and rather ourselves endeavour to had found him too good a man even to expostucultivate that more friendly one, recommended late with them for an injury, which he seemed by the Apostle, of letting all bitterness, and then to have digested, and piously to have rewrath, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put solved into the overruling providence of God away from us; of being kind to one another, for the preservation of much people, how they tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as could ever after question the uprightness of his God for Christ's sako forgave us. Amen. intentions, or entertain the least suspicion that
his reconciliation was dissembled. Would one
have imagined that the man who had discovered XII.-JOSEPH'S HISTORY CONSIDERED.
such a goodness of soul, that lie sought where FORGIVENESS OF INJURIES.
to weep because he could not bear the struggles
of a counterfeited harshness, could ever be sus* And when Joseph's brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate pected afterwards of intending a real one ; and
that he only waited till their father Israel's us, and will certainly requite us all the evils which we did unto him.'-GEX. L. 15.
death to requite them all the evil which they
had done unto him? What still adds to this THERE are few instances of the exercise of par- difficulty is, that his affectionate manner in ticular virtues which seems harder to attain to, making himself known to them,-his goodness or which appear more amiable and engaging in in forbearing not only to reproach them for the themselves, than those of moderation and the injury they had formerly done him, but extenuforgiveness of injuries ; and when the tempta- ating and excusing the fault to themselves, --his tions against them happen to be heightened by comforting and speaking kindly to them, and the bitterness of a provocation on one hand, and seconding all with the tenderest marks of an the fairness of an opportunity to retaliate on undisguised forgiveness, in falling upon their the other, the instances then are truly great and necks and weeping aloud, that all the house of heroic. The words of the text (which are the Pharaoh heard him ;-that, moreover, this beconsultation of the sons of Jacob amongst them haviour of Joseph could not appear to them to selves upon their father Israel's death, when, be the effect of any warm and sudden transport, because it was in Joseph's power to revenge the which might as suddenly givo way to other redeadly injury they had formerly done him, they flections, but that it evidently sprung from a concluded, in course, that it was in his intention) settled principle of uncommon generosity in his will lead us to a beautiful example of this kind nature, which was above the temptation of in the character and behaviour of Joseph conse- making use of an opportunity for revenge, quent thereupon; and as it seems a perfect and which the course of God's providence had put very engaging pattern of forbearance, it may not into his hands for better purposes; and what be improper to make it serve for the ground- might still seem to confirm this, was the eviwork of a discourse upon that subject. The dence of his actions to them afterwards, in whole transaction, from the first occasion given bringing them and all their household up out of by Joseph in his youth, to this last act of re- Canaan, and placing them near him in the land mission, at the conclusion of his life, may be of Goshen, the richest part of Egypt, where said to be a masterpiece of history. There is they had so many years' experience of his love not only in the manner throughout, such a and kindness: and yet it is plain all this did happy, though uncommon, mixture of simpli- not clear his motive from suspicion, or at least city and grandeur, which is a double character themselves of some apprehensions of a change so hard to be united, that it is seldora to be met in his conduct towards them. And was it not with in compositions merely human ; but it is that the whole transaction was written under likewise related with the greatest variety of the direction of the Spirit of Truth, and that tender and affecting circumstances, which would other historians concur in doing justice to afford matter for reflections useful for the con- Joseph's character, and speak of him as a compassionate and merciful man, one would be apt, who had not yet found out the art of dissemyou will say, to imagine here that Moses might bling his hopes and expectations, and was scarce possibly have omitted some circumstances of arrived at an age to comprehend there was such Joseph's behaviour which had alarmed his a thing in the world as envy and ambition ; brethren, betwixt the time of his first reconci- that if such offences in a brother so fairly carliation and that of their father's death; for they ried their own excuses with them, what could could not be suspicious of his intentions with they say for themselves, when they considered out some cause, and fear where no fear was. it was for this they had almost unanimously But does not a guilty conscience often do so, and conspired to rob him of his life, and, though though it has the grounds, yet wants the power, they were happily restrained from shedding his to think itself safe?
blood upon Reuben's remonstrance, that they And could we look into the hearts of those had, nevertheless, all the guilt of the intention who know they deserve ill, we should find many to answer for? That whatever motive it was an instance where a kindness from an injured which then stayed their hands, their consciences hand, where there was least reason to expect told them it could not be a good one, since they one, has struck deeper, and touched the heart had changed the sentence for one no less cruel with a degree of remorse and concern which in itself, and what, to an ingenuous nature, was perhaps no severity or resentment could have worse than death, to be sold for a slave. The reached. This reflection will in some measure one was common to all, the other only to the help to explain this difficulty which occurs in unfortunate. That it was not compassion which the story; for it is observable that, when the then took place ; for had there been any way injury they had done their brother was first open to that, his tears and entreaties must have committed, and the fact was fresh upon their found it when they saw the anguish of his soul, minds, and most likely to have filled them with-when he besought, and they would not hear. a sense of guilt, we find no acknowledgment or That if aught still could heighten the remorse complaint to one another of such a load as, one of banishing a youth, without provocation, for might imagine, it had laid upon them : and ever from his country and the protection of his from that event, through a long course of years, parent, to be exposed naked to the buffetings of to the time they had gone down to Egypt, we the world, and the rough hand of some merciread not once of any sorrow or compunction of less master, they would find it in this reflection, heart which they had felt during all that time That the many affictions and hardships which for what they had done. They had artfully they might naturally have expected would overimposed upon their parent—and as men are in- take the lad, consequent upon this action, had genious causists in their own affairs) they had actually fallen upon him.' probably as artfully imposed upon their own That, besides the anguish of suspected virtue, consciences; and possibly had never impar- he had felt that of a prison, where he had long tially reflected upon the action, or considered lain neglected in a friendless condition; and it in its just light, till the many acts of their where the affliction of it was rendered still brother's love and kindness had brought it be- sharper by the daily expectation of being refore them, with all the circumstances of aggra- membered by Pharaoh's chief butler, and the vation which his behaviour would naturally disappointment of finding himself ungratefully give it: they then began maturely to consider forgotten. And though Moses tells us that he what they had done; that they had at first un- found favour in the sight of the keeper of the deservedly hated him in his childhood for that prison, yet the Psalmist acquaints us that his which, if it was a ground of complaint, ought sufferings were still grievous, that his feet rather to have been charged upon the indiscre- were hurt with fetters,' and the iron entered tion of the parent than considered as a fault in 'even into his soul.' And, no doubt, his brethren him ; that, upon a more just examination and thought the sense of their injury must have a better knowledge of their brother, they had entered at the same time, and was then riveted wanted even that pretenoe. It was not a blind and fixed in his mind for ever. partiality which seemed first to have directed It is natural to imagine they argued and their father's affection to him, though then they reflected in this manner; and there seems no thought so; for, doubtless, so much goodness necessity of seeking for the reason of their un. and benevolence as shone forth in his nature, easiness and distrust in Joseph's conduct, or now that he was a man, could not lie all of it so any other external cause, since the inward deep concealed in his youth, but the sagacity of workings of their own minds will easily account a parent's eye would discover it; and that, in for the evil they apprehended. A series of course, their enmity towards him was founded benefits and kindnesses from the man they had upon that which ought to have won their esteem. injured, gradually heightened the idea of their That if he had incautiously added envy to own guilt, till at length they could not conceive their ill-will in reporting his dreams, which how the trespass could be forgiven them; it presaged his future greatness, it was but the appeared with such fresh circumstances of aggraindiscretion of a youth unpractised in the world, vation, that though they were convinced his
resentment slept, yet they thought it only slept, of which his own history was so plain an inand was likely some time or other to awake, stance, could not have far to seek for an arguand most probably then, that their father was ment to forgiveness, or feel much struggle in dead, when the consideration of involving him stifling an inclination against it. But let any in his revenge had ceased, and all the duty and man lay his hand upon his heart, and say how compassion he owed to the grey hairs and hap- often, in instances where anger and revenge piness of a parent was discharged and buried had seized him, has this doctrine come in to his with him.
aid! In the bitterness of an affront, how often This they express in the consultation held has it calmed his passions, and checked the fury amongst themselves in the words of the text; of his resentment! True, and universally beand in the following verse we find them ac- lieved as the doctrine is amongst us, it seldom cordingly sending to him to deprecate the evil does this service, though so well suited for it, they dreaded; and either because they thought and, like some wise statute never executed nor their father's name more powerful than their thought of, though in full force, lies as unheeded own in this application, or rather that they as if it was not in being. might not commit a fresh injury in seeming to 'Tis plain 'twas otherwise in the present insuspect his sincerity, they pretend their father's stance, where Joseph seems to acknowledge the direction ; for we read they sent messengers influence it had upon him in his declaration,unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command | 'That it was not they, but God, who sent him.' before he died, saying: So shall ye say unto And does not this virtue shine the brightest in Joseph,—*Forgive, I pray thee now, the tres- such a pious application of the persuasion to so pass of thy brethren and their sin ; for they did benevolent a purpose ? unto thee evil; and now, we pray thee, forgive Without derogating from the merit of his the trespass of the servants of the God of thy forbearance, he might be supposed to have cast father.' The address was not without art, and an eye upon the change and uncertainty of was conceived in such words as seemed to sug- human affairs which he had seen himself, and gest an argument in their favour,- -as if it would which had convinced him we were all in one not become him, who was but a fellow-servant another's power by turns, and stand in need of of their father's God, to harbour revenge, or one another's pity and compassion; and that, use the power their father's God had given him to restrain the cruelties and stop the insolence against his children. Nor was there a reason in of men's resentments, God has so ordered it in anything but the fears of a guilty conscience to the course of his providence, that very often apprehend it, as appears from the reception the in this world our revenges return upon our own address met with, which was such as bespoke heads, and men's violent dealings upon their an uncommon goodness of nature ; for when own pates. they thus spake unto him, the historian says And besides these considerations, that in he wept. Sympathy for the sorrow and distress generously forgiving an enemy he was the of so many sons of his father, now all in his truest friend to his own character, and should power,-pain at so open and ingenuous a con-gain more to it by such an instance of subduing fession of their guilt,- , --concern and pity for the his spirit than if he had taken a city. The long punishment they must have endured by so brave only know how to forgive !-it is the most stubborn a remorse which so many years seemed refined and generous pitch of virtue human not to have diminished,-the affecting idea of nature can arrive at. Cowards have done their condition, which had seemed to reduce good and kind actions; cowards have even them to the necessity of holding up their hands fought, nay, sometimes even conquered; but a for mercy when they had lost their protector, coward never forgave! It is not in his naso many tender passions struggling together at ture; the power of doing it flows only from a once overcame him : he burst into tears, which strength and greatness of soul, conscious of its spoke what no language could attempt. It will own force and security, and above the little be needless, therefore, to enlarge any further temptations of resenting every fruitless attempt upon this incident, which furnishes us with so to interrupt its happiness. Moreover, setting beautiful a picture of a compassionate and for- aside all considerations of his character in passgiving temper, that, I think, no words can ing by an injury, he was the truest friend likeheighten it; but rather let us endeavour to wise to his own happiness and peace of mind; find out by what helps and reasoning the patri- he never felt that fretful storm of passions arch might be supposed to attain to so exalted which hurry men on to acts of revenge, or and engaging a virtue. Perhaps you will say suffered those pangs of horror which pursue it. that one so thoroughly convinced, as Joseph Thus he might possibly argue, and no further; seemed to be, of the overruling providence of for want of a better foundation and better God, which so evidently makes use of the malice helps, he could raise the building no higher; to and passions of men, and turns them as instru- carry it upwards to its perfection we must call ments in his hands to work his own righteousness, and bring about his eternal decrees, and
1 Christian Hero.