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A man (not consulting or not confiding in his own reason) is apt to credit the vogue, to defer a kind of veneration to the general sentiments of men, (especially of men qualified,) apprehending that allowable or tolerable, which men commonly by their practice seem to approve. He is
prone to suspect his own judgment of mistake, when it doth thwart the opinion of so many; and hardly can have the heart to oppose his single apprehension against so common notions,
The commonness of sin, and multitude of offenders, doth in a manner authorise and warrant it, doth at least seem to excuse and extenuate it.
A man easily conceiteth himself safe enough, while he is in the berd, while he waiketh in the road, when he hath the broad coverlet of general usage to shroud him from blame; he doth at least fancy consolation in undergoing a doom with so many.
But on many accounts, this is a very fallacious and dangerous ground of practice.
For multitudes are no good authors of opinion, or guides of practice.
Wise men have ever been apt to suspect that to be bad which is most commonly admired and affected.
Nothing is more vulgarly noted, than the injudiciousness, the blindness, the levity, temerity, and giddiness of the vulgar; temper, inclination, appetite, interest, and the like perverting biases, have most sway on them; any specious appearance, any slight motive, any light rumor doth serve to persuade them any thing, to drive them any whither.
All ages have deplored the paucity of wise and good men ; the genuine disciples of our Lord, and sons of wisdom' have ever been pusillus grex, a small stock ; our Lord hath told us, that Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and inany there be which go in thereat.'
Wherefore popular use is no good argument of truth or right; nor can yield any warrant or any color for infringing God's law : no plebiscitum can be of force against it.
God never did allow the people to exempt themselves or us from their loyalty, or obedience to his laws; they are univer
sally obligatory; he hath commanded all men to repent;' he hath threatened that otherwise all shall perish ;' and that • tribulation and anguish shall be on every soul of man that doeth evil.'
He by express prohibitions hath obviated all such preterices and pleas; • Thou shalt not,' saith he, follow a multitude to do evil;' and, 'Say ye not a confederacy-neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid, (fear not to dissent and discost from the way of this people.) And, ' If sinners entice thee, (how many soever they be, though it be a sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil doers,) consent thou not.'
Indeed if we consider it, it is so far from excusing sin, that it is an aggravation thereof, that we therein conspire with others, and the more the worse: to oppose God singly is not quite so criminal, as to join with a rout in hostility and rebellion against him; for hereby God's authority is more shaken, and his honor more rudely violated; hereby we do not only sin ourselves, but contribute to the sin of others, encourage them to it, and uphold them in it by our patronage.
Hereby we become accessary to the degeneracy and general apostacy of the age.
Hereby we do join our forces to pull down God's judgments on our country, and by promoting general corruption induce general vengeance.
The multitude of sinners is so far from sheltering any one from wrath, that it surely draweth it on all; forcing the Almighty not only for the assertion of his own authority, and vindication of his honor, but for the good of the people, and purgation of the world, to pour forth remarkable vengeance.
For example; in the time of Noah did God ‘spare the old world,' when all flesh had corrupted its way on the earth,' did that stave off God's wrath, or stop the deluge? No, it did grievously provoke him, it did in a manner necessitate him · to destroy man from the face of the earth ; bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly.'
Did the number of sinners in Sodom prevent vengeance on them ? was it not that which did condemn them to an overthrow so dismal, pulling down fire and brimstone on them?
What was the reason of that woful captivity, into which
Israel was carried ? was it not because they were all grievous revolters;' and had so generally conspired in wickedness, that the prophet could say, · Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any
that cuteth judgment, that seeketh the truth, and I will pardon it ? Was it not this, which did wring from God that sentence, • Shall I not visit for these things ? shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?'
When the case is such in any community, as it was in Israel, when God said, “ From the sole of the foot even to the head there is no soundness in it,' then judgment is necessary, and it must assuredly follow, Your country is desolate'—then God, his patience being tired, and his goodness unsupportably abused, will cry out, " Ah, I will ease me of my adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies.'
God, as Governor of the world in discharge of his office, for clearing his honor, for assuring his majesty, out of regard to public good, for the safety and welfare of his subjects, is concerned to chastise notorious, scandalous, and infectious sin: he may reserve private sins for the final doom, when the hidden things of darkness shall be brought to light, and the counsels of hearts manifested,' and all things shall receive just reward and recompense; but it is expedient to punish public sins publicly : they who declare their sin as Sodom,' with outrageous impudence, are like to find a punishment like that in a common vengeance.
We should therefore in such a case be the more careful of our conversation, more shy of sinful compliance with others, for preventing public calamity; for that our single piety and innocence (or the goodness of a few) may save our country, together with ourselves, from wrath and ruin ; seeing it is the gracious method of God in regard to a few righteous men to spare the rest, to release a nation from deserved punishment; for if in Sodom had been found ten righteous persons, it had escaped that horrible destruction ; and Israel in Hezekiah's time (although in a very great and general corruption of that age) by a few good men did avoid the like doom; according to that of the prophet, · Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom.'
The righteousness of one Noah did save the race of mankind from being extinct.
The zeal of one Phinehas did stop that plague, which bad devoured Israel : · Phinehas,' saith God himself, the son of Eleazar, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for
among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy.'
If there had been such another public patron of piety, at the time when Israel was so severely punished by deliverance into captivity, it would have obstructed that lamentable event; God himself so testified; for, I sought,' said he, "for a man among them, that would make up the hedge and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found vone.
Therefore have I poured out mine indignation on them :' and, · Run ye to and fro, (said he again,) seek if ye can find a man-in Jerusalem-and I will pardon it.'
Wherefore, beside regard to our own welfare, a consideration of public good, charity toward the world, a compassion of our country should withhold us from conspiring in common transgressions, or omissions of duty.
If we sin with all, we must suffer with all; nor will the having so much company in suffering yield any true comfort to us: Socios habuisse doloris (to have companions in sorrow) is in itself a pitiful solace, and an unworthy one, savoring of inhuman malignity; for our fellows will bear no share with us, or take off any thing from the burden of our pains, which will be equally to them and us extreme.
Can it be any considerable satisfaction, that we are sick of an epidemical disease, that sweepeth away multitudes about us and with us?
Is it better for one part, that the whole body is overspread with a noisome leprosy ? that its fellow members are tortored with grievous anguish?
Can the sorest pains of our brethren cure the achings of our heart, assuage the pangs of our conscience, or slack the consuming flames beneath ?
What advantage can we enjoy from going down to hell in a troop? what ease shall we find there from being encompassed
with the doleful groans, the piercing shrieks, and dismal howlings of fellow sufferers in that infernal dungeon ?
Alas! will it not rather augment our pains to hear the sore complaints, the fierce accusations, the desperate curses of those, whom our compliance hath engaged, or encouraged, or confirmed and hardened in that wicked practice, which did throw them into that disconsolate case ?
8. Another principle (near of kin to the former) is a dislike of singularity and solitude ; together with the consequences and imputations usually cleaving thereto.
One would not be a man by himself; to be gazed on, to be hooted at as a kind of prodigy, to be deemed an extravagant, odd, humorous, fantastic person, conceited of his own opinion, addicted to his own way, arrogating to himself a liberty of crossing and condemning or contemning the world ; therefore he runneth along with the age, complying with its sinful customs, and naughty fashions.
But this is a vain principle; for really to be singular is no fault, to be held so is no disgrace ; it is rather in many cases laudable and honorable; and if in any, most reasonably it is in this.
Doth not singularity or paucity increase the price and estimation of every valuable thing? What maketh a jewel but rarity ? what but that maketh a diamond more precious than a pebble ?
Do not men for singular eminency in any art, skill, faculty, endowment, gain credit and renown? What recommended to posterity the names of Apelles, Praxiteles, Phidias, but excelling in their art beyond the ordinary rate? what gave to Demosthenes and Cicero their esteem, but a singular knack of eloquence ? to what did Alexander and Cæsar owe their fame, but to an extraordinary valor? whence got Socrates such a name, but from his singular wisdom ? whence Fabricius, Aristides, Cato, but from their singular integrity ?
Why then should it be a discouragement or reproach to be singular or extraordinary in the noblest of all faculties, that of living well, in the most excellent of all perfections, that of virtue ?
In truth a mau is hardly capable of a greater commendation