Page images


The Nature of Peaceableness, with the Foundation and Extent of its Obligations.

ROM. xii. 18.

If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

THE words I have now read making a distinct and entire sentence of themselves, I need not observe any thing of their connection or coherence with what goes before or after.

They are an exhortation from the mouth of an Apostle, to live peaceably with all men, of whatever nation or religion, sect or profession, quality or condition: none are excepted. We are to live peaceably with all, on the score of humanity and Christian charity. But then this is to be so only upon supposition, that it is possible in the nature of the thing, and also reasonable: that is, that we be not under any either natural or moral incapacity of doing it: for then the obligation must of course cease; not wholly and entirely, but in part, for we are still to endeavour to the utmost of our power to live peaceably. "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, "live peaceably with all men."

The subject which this leads me to treat of, will not, I hope, be thought foreign or unsuitable to the time, the place, or the occasion. The time; when having peace with our enemies abroad, we have need of the strictest caution to be united in affections at home: the place;



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

the honour and prosperity whereof are very nearly concerned in the offices of peace and love: the occasion; the design of which is, for the promoting of peace and order, for composing dissensions, and healing of differences in a judicial way; that we may the better "live "quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty." I shall therefore, without farther preface, propose the following method of discourse.

***I. I shall inquire what obligations we lie under to peaceableness with all men, show whereon they are founded, and how far they extend.

II. I shall consider the particular duties and offices implied in this duty of peaceableness, and therein give general directions for a peaceable conduct.

III. And lastly, I shall apply the general rules to some special cases and instances, particularly to that which the present occasion offers to us.

First, I am to inquire what obligations we lie under to peaceableness with all men, to show whereon they are founded, and how far they extend.

Our obligations to this duty are very great and manifest. They are founded in the nature and reason of things, are in some sense antecedent to all laws human and divine, and are bound upon us by both, because it was reasonable and necessary they should be so. They arise immediately from the mutual relation we bear to each other, and the capacity we are put into of promoting each other's happiness; and if we run them up to the fountain and foundation of all, "God blessed for ever," we shall find that they flow more remotely from the unchangeable perfections of his nature, from his wisdom and goodness. When he was pleased to make such a creature as man, his primary end and design (excepting his own glory, which is coincident with it) was to make him happy for ever with himself in heaven; and his secondary was to make him in some measure also happy here in this state of probation. All his laws natural and positive plainly center in these two, or rather ultimately

terminate in the former. From hence spring all our obligations to peace and amity, in as much as by the very frame and constitution of our nature, and the circumstances of our being, they contribute greatly both to our temporal and eternal happiness.

With regard to this life, it is evident, that, had we no contests or quarrels with each other, the world would be a much more comfortable place to live in, than now we find it the earth would be a paradise compared to what it is, and mankind happy beyond expression. Men are born for society, and designed for mutual helps and comforts to each other. Strifes and debates, anger, wrath, bitterness, are very pernicious and destructive, unnatural and irregular: they are the disorders and deviations of a depraved nature from the original rule, beside the primary intent of the kind Author of our beings. Private families cannot prosper, nor even subsist long, when torn asunder by heats and animosities: neither can a kingdom stand when" divided against itself," and crumbled into sects and parties. Even whole nations, though united within themselves, if in a state of war with others, are often ruined thereby, and always lose much of that prosperity and plenty which they might otherwise enjoy. This shows the necessity of our living friendly and peaceably, whether considered as private men or as societies; our temporal safety and happiness, our being and wellbeing, are bound up in it.

As to another life, the great concern we have therein, and the apparent necessity of the means toward the desired end, oblige us yet more strictly to live peaceably and friendly with one another. For how shall any sense or face of religion be kept up amongst us, unless we agree and unite in one common worship? How shall decency, order, and regularity be maintained, without peace and unity? How shall any have the means of instruction or improvement in wisdom and goodness, unless their condition and posture of affairs give freedom and leisure for it; unless their minds be calm and serene, their thoughts

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

easy and cheerful, that is, unless they be at peace with one another? Hatred and revenge, rancour and malice, eat out the very vitals of religion, estrange us mightily from God and goodness, unqualify us for the offices of devotion and piety, and render us very unfit for the friend

and peaceful society of heaven. I need not dwell long on so clear an argument: every one that thinks must be sensible that to live peaceably is as necessary as it is to live and to be happy, to be easy and satisfied in this life, and to be for ever blessed in another. This may be sufficient to show our obligation to the duty of peaceableness, and the foundation of it. The next consideration is concerning its extent, which will be easily stated from the principles laid down and it is of great importance to understand it rightly for the regulation of our practice in many intricate cases.

The extent of our obligation to this duty may be considered under a twofold respect, either

First, With respect to the obligation itself abstractedly, viz. the end and design of it. Or,

Secondly, With respect to our power, capacity, or ability of discharging it.

For it can reach no farther in itself considered, than the end and design of it; nor with regard to us, than we are capable of performing it.

1. As to the former, the great end and design of all laws which concern us, as I have before observed, is the present and future happiness of mankind. From hence they derive their obligation, and from hence we must state their measure. By the great law of charity founded hereupon, we are obliged to love all men, and to do them good this always holds, and no change of circumstances. whatever can make any alteration in this general and highest law. By the same law of charity we are likewise bound" to follow peace with all men;" because this is loving them and doing them good, generally speaking, as has been shown. But yet in this, which is only a secondary and subordinate law, different circumstances may

cause some variety, and make some abatement. It can oblige no farther than the reason of it holds, that is, no farther than it tends to the glory of God and the good of men. We may, nay we ought, at any time, to break peace in order to some greater good; and so the same law of charity which binds to peace generally, obliges to the contrary in different circumstances. If by disobliging and offending some persons we can do them the greater kindness; if we can reform and save them, or however can promote the public happiness by disturbing their present peace more than by leaving them quiet, easy, and unmolested; then considerations of peace so far cease, as they are inconsistent with piety and charity. I choose rather thus to state the measure of our obligation to peace, than to say, as is commonly said, that in all things lawful we are to comply, or that we must never sin against God for the sake of peace. For though that be always a true, and generally a safe rule to go by; yet it is neither so full nor so clear as it should be, nor does it go deep enough into the case before us. That we must not sin against God for the sake of peace, is no more than to say, that we must never sin on any consideration whatsoever; which is very true, and the contrary would be absurd: but still, the great question of all remains undecided, namely, when it is a sin or no sin, when lawful or unlawful, to offend against peace: and this can only be determined in many cases by considering which is the greater good, or which the greater charity, to leave men easy and quiet, or to molest and disturb them in such particular circumstances. To clear this by an instance; it is a precept of Scripture to "rebuke them that sin before all," and yet we are commanded "to follow peace with all "men;" which two precepts may in some cases seem to clash with each other. There may be danger of committing a sin either way, as circumstances may happen: against the precept of peace, by rebuking; against the other precept, by not doing it. Here if we apply the rule, that we are not to sin for the sake of peace; it is

« PreviousContinue »