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and enslaved to rules ; a fantastical humorist, a precise bigot, a rigid stoic, a demure sneaksby, a clownish singularist, or nonconformist to ordinary usage, a stiff opiniatre; a man of a pitiful narrow spirit, pent up within a small compass, confined by principles, fettered by laws, living in bondage to his conscience.
These and the like harsh censures, foul reproaches, and abusive scoffs, even all which invention quickened by envy, choler, rancorous spite, and aided by the malicious fiend, can suggest, wherewith the profane crew of men usually do conspire to daub and persecute those who refuse to comply with their unconscionable extravagances and impieties, men can hardly brook ; and thence to shun them yield up all, cross their reason, prostitute their conscience, violate all their obligations; choosing rather to be justly reproachable for bad actions, than unjustly reproached for good.
But with such a person, who is thus diverted from his duty, let me expostulate.
Dost thou well to regard what unbridled tongues out of a wanton mind and corrupt heart do sputter and foam ? Shall thy practice depend on their loose wit or licentious talk, so that thou must do nothing which they shall not be in humor to commend ?
Wilt thou renounce all wisdom, abandon thy best interest, forfeit thy happiness, to decline a squib or a flurt?
Would not he be a stark fool, who would be railed or jeered out of his way in travel, out of his business in traffic, out of his estate or real interest on any occasion ? and is he not evidently far more such, who will be flouted out of his duty, out of his salvation, out of any spiritual advantage ? Was not the practice of David more advisable, who said, “The proud have had me in derision ; yet have I not declined from thy law ?'
David, a great king, a man of singular courage and gallantry, a glorious hero; yet even him did bold and base people deride. Whom will not profane impudence assail ? whom will not they attempt to deter from goodness ?
Art thou so blind as not to discern whence it cometh that they disparage virtue ? that is, from their extreme vanity and rashness, which move them to speak any thing without con
sideration or discretion; from their great naughtiness and weakness, their being bewitched with pleasure and besotted with vice, which engageth them to take part so furiously with them; from their malignity and spite against that which crosseth their fond humors and exorbitant lusts; from their pride, which swelleth against those who by contrary practice dissent from their folly, and reprove their wickedness, and eclipse their repute; from their envy, which repineth at thy appearing better and happier than themselves, thy excelling them in true worth, thy enjoying that satisfaction which they want, thy attaining that blessed hope to which they cannot aspire : and seeing that their reproaches do issue from such principles, wilt thou regard them?
Are their words any slander, who being professed enemies of goodness do naturally impugn it by the readiest arms they have, a virulent and petulant tongue ?
Can their dirty language, bespattering good things, alter their nature, or render that dishonorable and odious which in itself is most excellent, most amiable, most venerable, most useful and profitable?
Is it not indeed a commendation of virtue, which should encourage us the more to like it, to honor it, to embrace it, that vain, wild, dissolute persons, distempered in their minds, notoriously void of discretion, of integrity, of sobriety, do pretend to vilify and disgrace it?
As their commendation is of no worth, so their reproach is less considerable.
Dost thou not disparage thine own judgment by heeding theirs, or suffering it to be of any consideration with thee in the conduct of thy life?
Dost thou take them to be serious in this, or to speak in good earnest, when they reproach virtue, and slight the plain dictates of reason, the clear light of natural conscience, the express commands of God, the apparent concerns of their own soul ? they who are sober in nothing, how can they be serious in this, why should they seem judicious in such a case ?
Is it not evidently better to be slandered by giddy, lewd, ungodly wretches, who mind not what they say, nor care what they do, whose judgment therefore can signify nothing: than
really to deserve reproof, and thence certainly to incur blame, from all staid, sober, considerate, wise and virtuous persons, who judge advisedly and uprightly about things ?
"Is it not better to undergo their severest censure and most biting scoffs, than to be condemned of folly and baseness by thy own mind, and reviled by thy own conscience ?
Is it not infinitely better to be unjustly defamed by men, than to be disreputed by God, exposed to most disgraceful condemnation at his bar, and thrown into that state of everlasting ignominy?
Is it not more tolerable to hear such language, than, having violated our duty and broken God's commands, one day to hear that dismal sentence, “Go, ye cursed, into everlasting fire ?'
It is a glorious infamy which one sustaineth for the sake of righteousness.
Even heathens, with whom glory was the most ample reward and sweetest fruit of virtue, yet do enjoin that we should prefer conscience before it; and that we should rather gladly embrace infamy than forsake virtue.
It is the lot of all good men (for probation, exercise, and improvement of their virtue) to be persecuted, at least in some times, as when St. Paul said, “ All that will live godlily in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution :and surely he that sincerely loveth God would even desire occasion of suffering somewhat for his sake, in testimony of his faithful affection : but what more tolerable persecution, what more easy martyrdom could we wish, than to be lashed by a scurrilous tongue; or rather to observe the ears of others to be infested with the buzzes of detraction ? what is this but a little air stirred in vain, but a mere sound or blast of wind, importing nought to him that doth not mind it, or will not be affected with it ? the which surely to a sound heart and pure conscience cannot be very sensible; a man must have a froward temper, or a tender ear, whom a little such creaking or grating noise doth much vex; all its force is broken, all its mischief is remedied easily, by neglect or contempt.
It is in a manner more commendable to suffer for being good, than for being a Christian ; a truer martyrdom to suffer for the temper, than for the name of Christ ; for doing well, than for professing truth.
Who indeed had ever been good, in any notable degree, if some had minded the opinion or the discourse of such men, whom in all times the great adversary of goodness and maligner of our welfare hath excited to deter men from virtue by thus abusing it ? hath it not ever been the portion of good men to suffer in this kind ?
Was not our Lord himself, were not his Apostles, were not all the prophets of old, were not all the heroes in goodness of all times thus pursued with obloquy ? what vile imputation, what name of reproach can be devised, wherewith the spiteful world did not besmear them?
Yet were they much disturbed at it? were they anywise discouraged or scared by it from their duty ? No; they rather did find satisfaction and delight in it; it rather did heighten their mind and strengthen their resolution ; it begat a gallant and triumphant disdain of such injuries, enlivening and animating them in their career of duty; they did embrace reproach for righteousness not only with content, as their proper lot and portion from God's providence, but with joy, as their special glory and happiness from divine goodness ; feeling it most true what our Master taught: • Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and sball say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.' • Blessed are ye, when men shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.' And, according to St. Peter, ei overdízeole, If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, (that is for conscionably discharging any Christian duty,) happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth on you : on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.'
In fine, it is all reason, and it is the express command of God, that in such cases we should not regard the censures or the reproaches of any mortal; it is a part of duty to despise obloquy, to expose and lose reputation for God's sake. For,
Hearken,' saith he, unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law ; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings. For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation.'
5. Men commonly decline the public practice of duty out of affectation thereby to be deemed more honest and sincere, or to decline the suspicion of being hypocritical.
As this is the most obvious and usual calumny wherewith dissolute people do charge good men; so to men of generous disposition it is of all censures most poignant, as inost crossing their temper ; according to which as they hate to be, so they can hardly endure to be counted or called dissenablers; whence often they choose rather to seem indifferent to goodness, than zealously affected to it; they rather waive some points of duty, than, for the performance of them, expose themselves to that imputation.
But this proceeding is very unreasonable. For,
What can be more absurd than to be really and notoriously bad, (as whoever omitteth his duty is,) to prevent a surmise of being such ? or to be truly worse than we should be, that we may not be deemed worse than we seem ?
How can we more gratify the enemy of our salvation, than by approving ourselves in truth to be what he would falsely challenge us to be, mockers of God, and traitors to our own soul ?
Is it not a vain thing to regard that kind of censure which it is impossible for any man to escape, on other terms than of being very naughty ? for wicked men will never fail to load those with this charge, who will not comply with their follies, and run with them to the same excess of riot,' or are anywise better than themselves; it is inevitable for a staunch man not to be stigmatised for a hypocrite by them.
We have certainly more reason to be satisfied with the sure conscience and sense of our own integrity, than to be moved with the presumptuous assertions of any wretch devoid of justice or charity: his censure, being plainly injurious and contrary to all rules of equity, which prescribe that no man should judge of things unknown or uncertain, is utterly despicable.
The testimony of God, (“who is greater than our hearts,') perfectly knowing our sincerity, may abundantly support us ;