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question to his Master, whether it arose from mere curiosity, or from some emotion of rivalship and jealousy, does not appear ; but it is plain that cur Lord was dissatisfied with the enquiry which he made, and presently he checks Peter's curiosity, by a severe reply; What is that to thee ? 66 What is it to thee 66 what this man shall do? what shall be his rank? or " what the circumstances of his life or liis death ? “ Attend thou to thine own duty. Mind thy proper

concerns. Fulfil the part which I have allotted to 66 thee. Follow thou me." -The instruction which arises from this conversation of our Lord's with Peter, is, That all prying enquiries into the state, circumstances, or character of others, are reprehensible and improper ; that to every man a particular charge is assigned by his Lord and Master, the fulfilment of which ought to be the primary object of his attention, without officiously thrusting himself into the concerns of others. The illustration of these points shall make the subject of the present discourse.

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That idle curiosity, that inquisitive and meddling spirit, which leads men to pry into the affairs of their neighbours, is reprehensible on three accounts. It interrupts the good order, and breaks the peace of society. It brings forward and nourishes several bad passions. It draws men aside from a proper attention to the discharge of their own duty.

It interrupts, I say, the order, and breaks the peace of society. In this world we are linked together by many ties. We are bound by duty, and we are prompted by interest, to give mutual assistance, and to perform friendly oslices to each other. But those

friendly offices are performed to most advantage, when we avoid to interfere unnecessarily in the concerns of our neighbour. Every man has his own part to act, has his own interest to consult, has affairs of his own to manage, which his neighbour has no call to scrutinise. Human life then proceeds in its most natural and orderly train, when every one keeps within the bounds of his proper province; when, as long as his pursuits are fair and lawful, he is allowed, without disturbance, to conduct them in his own way. That ye study to be quiet, and to do your own * business, is tlie apostolical rule, and indeed the great rule, for preservation of harmony and order. But so it is, that, in every age, a set of men have existed, who, vlriven by an unhappy activity of spirit, oftener perhaps than by any settled design of doing ill, or any motives of ambition or interest, love to intermeddle where they have no concern, to enquire into the private affairs of others, and, from the imperfect information which they collect, to form conclusions concerning their circumstances and character. These are they who, in Scripture, are characterised as tatlers, and busy bodies in other men's matters, and from whom we are called to turn away.

Though persons of this description should be prompted by nothing but vain curiosity, they are, nevertheless, dangerous troublers of the world. While they conceive themselves to be inoffensive, they are sowing dissension and feuds. Crossing the lines in which others move, they create confusion, and awaken resentment. For every man conceives himself to be injured, when he finds another intruding into his affairs, and, without any title, taking upon him to examine his conduct. Being improperly and unnecessarily disturbed, he claims the right of disturbing in his turn those who wantonly have troubled him. Hence, many a friendship has been broken; the peace of many a family has been overthrown; and much bitter and lasting discord has been propagated through society.

* 1 Thess. iv. 11.

While this spirit of meddling curiosity injures so considerably the peace and good order of the world, it also nourishes among individuals who are addicted to it, a multitude of bad passions. Its most frequent source is mere idleness, which, in itself a vice, never fails to engender many vices more. The mind of man cannot be long without some food to nourish the activity of its thoughts. The idle, who have no nourishment of this sort within themselves, feed their thoughts with enquiries into the conduct of their neighbours. The inquisitive and curious are always talkative. What they learn, or fancy themselves to have learned, concerning others, they are generally in haste to divulge. A tale which the malicious have invented, and the credulous have propagated; a rumour which, arising among the multitude, and transinitted by one to another, has, in every step of its progress, gained fresh additions, becomes in the end the foundation of confident assertion, and of rash and severe judgment.

It is often by a spirit of jealousy and rivalry, that the researches of such persons are prompted. They wish to discover something that will bring down their neighbour's character, circumstances, or reputation, to the level of their own; or that will flatter

them with an opinion of their own superiority. A secret malignity lies at the bottom of their enquiries. It

may be concealed by an affected show of candour and impartiality. It may even be veiled with the appearance of a friendly concern for the interest of others, and with affected apologies for their failings. But the hidden rancour is easily discovered. While, therefore, persons of this description trouble the peace of society, they at the same time poison their own minds with malignant passions. Their disposition is entirely the reverse of that amiable spirit of charity, on which our religion lays so great a stress. Charity covereth the multitude of sins ; but this prying and meddling spirit seeks to discover and divulge them. Charity thinketh no evil; but this temper inclines us always to suspect the worst. Charity rejoiceth not in iniquity; this temper triumphs in the discovery of errours and failings. Charity, like the sun, brightens every object on which it shines; a censorious disposition casts every character into the darkest shade it will bear.

It is to be farther observed, that all impertinent curiosity about the affairs of others tends greatly to obstruct personal reformation; as it draws men's thoughts aside from what ought to be the chief object of attention, the improvement of their own heart and life. They who are so officiously occupied about their neighbours, have little leisure and less inclination, to observe their own defects, or to mind their own duty. From their inquisitive researches, they find, or imagine they find, in the behaviour of others an apology for their own failings : And the favourite results of their enquiries generally is to rest satisfied with themselves. They are at

least as good, they think, as others around them. The condemnation which they pass on the vices of their neighbours, they interpret to be a sentiment of virtue in themselves. They become those hypocrites described by our Lord, who see clearly the mote that is in their neighbour's eye, while they discern not the beam that is in their own.

In opposition to such a character as this, the doctrine plainly inculcated by the text is, that to every man a particular charge is given by his Lord and Master; a part is assigned him by Providence to act; that to this he ought to bend his chief attention; and, instead of scrutinising the character or state of others, ought to think of himself, and leave them to stand or fall by their own master. What shall this man do? said Peter. What, replies our Lord, is that to thee? Follow thou me.

WHERE persons possess any important station, or distinguished rank in the world, the application of this doctrine to them is manifest. If they have any candour, they cannot refuse to acknowledge that God and the world have a title to expect from them a diligent attention to their proper part in life; and that to waste their time in idle enquiries about others, with whom they have nothing to do, is reprehensible and sinful. But there are multitudes of mankind, to whom this appears in a very different light. They are humble and private men, who are willing to conceive themselves as of little importance in the world. Having no extensive influence, and no call, as they think, to distinguish themselves by active exertions in any sphere, they imagine that they may innocently lead an idle life, and indulge their curiosity, by can

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