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JOHN TILLOTSON (1630-1694) was the son of a clothier at Sowerby, near Halifax, and was brought up to the Calvinistic faith of the Puritans. While
a preacher, and began to rise in the church. It was as lecturer in St Lawrence church, Jewry, in the city of London, that his sermons first attracted general attention. The importance which he thus acquired he endeavoured to employ in favour of his old associates, the nonconformists, whom he was anxious to bring, like himself, within the pale of the establishment; but his efforts, though mainly perhaps prompted by benevolent feeling, led to nothing but disappointment. Meanwhile, Tillotson had married Miss French, a niece of Oliver Cromwell, by which alliance he became connected with the celebrated Dr Wilkins, the second husband of his wife's mother. This led to his being intrusted with the publication of the works of that prelate after his decease. The moderate principles of Tillotson as a churchman, and his respectable character, raised him after the Revolution to the archbishopric of Canterbury, in which situation he exerted himself to remove the abuses that had crept into the church, and, in particular, manifested a strong desire to abolish non-residence among the clergy. These proceedings, and the heterodoxy of some of his views, excited much enmity against him, and subjected him to considerable annoyance. He died about three years after being raised to the primacy, leaving his sermons as the sole property with which he was able to endow his widow. On account of his great celebrity as a divine, they were purchased by a bookseller for no less than two thousand five hundred guineas; and down to the present time, they have continued in high estimation, as instructive, rational, perspicuous, and impressive discourses. Although the style of Tillotson is frequently careless and languid, his sentences tedious and unmusical, his words ill-chosen and unskilfully placed, and his metaphors deficient in dignity, yet there is so much warmth and earnestness in his manner, such purity and clearness of expression, so entire a freedom from the appearance of affectation and art, and so strong an infusion of excellent sense and virtuous feeling, that, in spite of all defects, these sermons must ever be attractive to the admirers of sound practical religion and philosophy. Many detached passages might be quoted, in which important truths are conveyed with admirable force and precision; in the following extracts, we shall endeavour to illustrate both the excellences and faults of the works of this eminent divine.
[Advantages of Truth and Sincerity.]
Truth and reality have all the advantages of appearance, and many more. If the show of anything be good for anything, I am sure sincerity is better: for why does any man dissemble, or seem to be that which he is not, but because he thinks it good to have such a quality as he pretends to? for to counterfeit and dissemble, is to put on the appearance of some real excellency. Now, the best way in the world for a man to seem to be anything, is really to be what we would seem to be. Besides, that it is many times as troublesome to make good the pretence of a good quality, as to have it; and if a man have it not, it is ten to one but he is discovered to want it, and then all his pains and labour to seem to have it are lost. There is something unnatural in painting, which a skilful eye will easily discern from native beauty and complexion.
It is hard to personate and act a part long; for where truth is not at the bottom, nature will always be endeavouring to return, and will peep out and betray herself one time or other. Therefore, if any man think it convenient to seem good, let him be so indeed, and then his goodness will appear to every body's satisfaction; so that, upon all accounts, sin
cerity is true wisdom. Particularly as to the affairs
Add to all this, that sincerity is the most compendious wisdom, and an excellent instrument for the speedy despatch of business; it creates confidence in those we have to deal with, saves the labour of many inquiries, and brings things to an issue in few words; it is like travelling in a plain beaten road, which commonly brings a man sooner to his journey's end than by-ways, in which men often lose themselves. In a word, whatsoever convenience may be thought to be in falsehood and dissimulation, it is soon over; but the inconvenience of it is perpetual, because it brings a man under an everlasting jealousy and suspicion, so that he is not believed when he speaks truth, nor trusted perhaps when he means honestly. When a man has once forfeited the reputation of his integrity, he is set fast, and nothing will then serve his turn, neither truth nor falsehood.
Truth is always consistent with itself, and needs nothing to help it out; it is always near at hand, and sits upon our lips, and is ready to drop out before we are aware; whereas a lie is troublesome, and sets a man's invention upon the rack, and one trick needs a great many more to make it good. It is like building upon a false foundation, which continually stands in need of props to shore it up, and proves at last more chargeable than to have raised a substantial building at first upon a true and solid foundation; for sin-it cerity is firm and substantial, and there is nothing hollow or unsound in it, and because it is plain and open, fears no discovery; of which the crafty man is always in danger; and when he thinks he walks in the dark, all his pretences are so transparent, that he that runs may read them. He is the last man that finds himself to be found out; and whilst he takes it for granted that he makes fools of others, he renders himself ridiculous.
And I have often thought that God hath, in his great wisdom, hid from men of false and dishonest minds the wonderful advantages of truth and integrity to the prosperity even of our worldly affairs. These men are so blinded by their covetousness and ambition, that they cannot look beyond a present advantage, nor forbear to seize upon it, though by ways never so indirect; they cannot see so far as to the remote consequences of a steady integrity, and the vast benefit and advantages which it will bring a man at last. Were but this sort of men wise and clear-sighted enough to discern this, they would be honest out of very knavery, not out of any love to honesty and virtue, but with a crafty design to promote and advance more effectually their own interests; and therefore the justice of the divine providence hath hid this truest point of wisdom from their eyes, that bad men might not be upon equal terms with the just and upright, and serve their own wicked designs by honest and lawful
Indeed, if a man were only to deal in the world for a day, and should never have occasion to converse
more with mankind, never more need their good opinion or good word, it were then no great matter (speaking as to the concernments of this world) if a man spend his reputation all at once, and ventured it at one throw: but if he be to continue in the world, and would have the advantage of conversation whilst he is in it, let him make use of truth and sincerity in all his words and actions; for nothing but this will last and hold out to the end; all other arts will fail, but truth and integrity will carry a man through, and
[Virtue and Vice Declared by the General Vote of Mankind.]
God hath shown us what is good by the general vote and consent of mankind. Not that all mankind do agree concerning virtue and vice; but that as to the greater duties of piety, justice, mercy, and the like, the exceptions are but few in comparison, and not enough to infringe a general consent. And of this I shall offer to you this threefold evidence:
1. That these virtues are generally praised and held in esteem by mankind, and the contrary vices generally reproved and evil spoken of. Now, to praise anything, is to give testimony to the goodness of it; and to censure anything, is to declare that we believe
to be evil. And if we consult the history of all ages, we shall find that the things which are generally praised in the lives of men, and recommended to the imitation of posterity, are piety and devotion, gratitude and justice, humanity and charity; and that the contrary to these are marked with ignominy and reproach: the former are commended even in enemies, and the latter are branded even by those who had a kindness for the persons that were guilty of them; so constant hath mankind always been in the commendation of virtue, and the censure of vice. Nay, we find not only those who are virtuous themselves giving their testimony and applause to virtue, but even those who are vicious; not out of love to goodness, but from the conviction of their own minds, and from a secret reverence they bear to the common consent and opinion of mankind. And this is a great testimony, because it is the testimony of an enemy, extorted by the mere light and force of truth.
And, on the contrary, nothing is more ordinary than for vice to reprove sin, and to hear men condemn the like or the same things in others which they allow in themselves. And this is a clear evidence that vice is generally condemned by mankind; that many men condemn it in themselves; and those who are so kind as to spare themselves, are very quick-sighted to spy a fault in anybody else, and will censure a bad action done by another, with as much freedom and impartiality as the most virtuous man in the world.
And to this consent of mankind about virtue and vice the Scripture frequently appeals. As when it commands us to provide things honest in the sight of all men; and by well-doing to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men ;' intimating that there are some things so confessedly good, and owned to be such by so general a vote of mankind, that the worst of men have not the face to open their mouths against them. And it is made the character of a virtuous action if it be lovely and commendable, and of good report; Philip. iv. 8, 'Whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, make account of these things; intimating to us, that mankind do generally concur in the praise and commendation of what is virtuous.
2. Men do generally glory and stand upon their innocency when they do virtuously, but are ashamed and out of countenance when they do the contrary. Now, glory and shame are nothing else but an appeal
to the judgment of others concerning the good or evil of our actions. There are, indeed, some such monsters as are impudent in their impieties, but these are but few in comparison. Generally, mankind is modest; the greatest part of those who do evil are apt to blush at their own faults, and to confess them in their countenance, which is an acknowledgment that they are not only guilty to themselves that they have done amiss, but that they are apprehensive that others think so; for guilt is a passion respecting ourselves, but shame regards others. Now, it is a sign of shame that men love to conceal their faults from others, and commit them secretly in the dark, and without witnesses, and are afraid even of a child or a fool; or if they be discovered in them, they are solicitous to excuse and extenuate them, and ready to lay the fault upon anybody else, or to transfer their guilt, or as much of it as they can, upon others. All which are certain tokens that men are not only naturally guilty to themselves when they commit a fault, but that they are sensible also what opinions others have of these things.
[Sin and Holiness.]
that are just parted by a line, so as a man may step A state of sin and holiness are not like two ways
And, on the contrary, men are apt to stand upon their justification, and to glory when they have done well. The conscience of a man's own virtue and in-out of the one full into the other; but they are like tegrity lifts up his head, and gives him confidence two ways that lead to very distant places, and consebefore others, because he is satisfied they have a good quently are at a good distance from one another; and the farther a man hath travelled in the one, the opinion of his actions. What a good face does a man naturally set upon a good deed! And how does he farther he is from the other; so that it requires time sneak when he hath done wickedly, being sensible and pains to pass from one to the other. that he is condemned by others, as well as by himself! No man is afraid of being upbraided for having dealt honestly or kindly with others, nor does he account it any calumny or reproach to have it reported of him that he is a sober and chaste man. No man blusheth when he meets a man with whom he hath kept his word and discharged his trust; but every man is apt to do so when he meets one with whom he has dealt dishonestly, or who knows some notorious crime by
3. Vice is generally forbidden and punished by human laws; but against the contrary virtues there never was any law. Some vices are so manifestly evil in themselves, or so mischievous to human society, that the laws of most nations have taken care to discountenance them by severe penalties. Scarce any nation was ever so barbarous as not to maintain and vindicate the honour of their gods and religion by public laws. Murder and adultery, rebellion and sedition, perjury and breach of trust, fraud and oppression, are vices severely prohibited by the laws of most nations-a clear indication what opinion the generality of mankind and the wisdom of nations have always had of these things.
But now, against the contrary virtues there never was any law. No man was ever impeached for living soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world' -a plain acknowledgment that mankind always thought them good, and never were sensible of the inconvenience of them; for had they been so, they would have provided against them by laws. This St Paul takes notice of as a great commendation of the Christian virtues The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, kindness, fidelity, meekness, temperance; against such there is no law;' the greatest evidence that could be given that these things are unquestionably good in the esteem of mankind, against such there is no law.' As if he had said, Turn over the law of Moses, search those of Athens and Sparta, and the twelve tables of the Romans, and those innumerable laws that have been added since, and you shall not in any of them find any of those virtues that I have mentioned condemned and forbidden-a clear evidence that mankind never took any exception against them, but are generally agreed about the goodness of them.
[ Evidence of a Creator in the Structure of the World.] How often might a man, after he had jumbled a set of letters in a bag, fling them out upon the ground before they would fall into an exact poem, yea, or so much as make a good discourse in prose! And may not a little book be as easily made by chance, as this great volume of the world? How long might a man be in sprinkling colours upon a canvass with a careless hand, before they could happen to make the exact picture of a man? And is a man easier made by chance than his picture? How long might twenty thousand blind men, which should be sent out from the several remote parts of England, wander up and down before they would all meet upon Salisbury Plains, and fall into rank and file in the exact order of an army? And yet this is much more easy to be imagined, than how the innumerable blind parts of matter should rendezvous themselves into a world.
[Resolution necessary in forsaking Vice.]
He that is deeply engaged in vice, is like a man laid fast in a bog, who, by a faint and lazy struggling to get out, does but spend his strength to no purpose, and sinks himself the deeper into it: the only way is, by a resolute and vigorous effort to spring out, if pos sible, at once. When men are sorely urged and pressed, they find a power in themselves which they thought they had not: like a coward driven up to a wall, who, in the extremity of distress and despair, will fight terribly, and perform wonders; or like a man lame of the gout, who, being assaulted by a present and terrible danger, forgets his disease, and will find his legs rather than lose his life.
To be singular in anything that is wise, worthy, and excellent, is not a disparagement, but a praise: every man would choose to be thus singular. otherwise, is just as if a man, upon great deliberation, should rather choose to be drowned than to be saved by a plank or a small boat, or to be carried into the harbour any other way than in a great ship of so many hundred tons.
[Commencement of a Vicious Course.]
At first setting out upon a vicious course, men are a little nice and delicate, like young travellers, who at first are offended at every speck of dirt that lights upon them; but after they have been accustomed to it, and have travelled a good while in foul ways, it ceaseth to be troublesome to them to be dashed and bespattered. When we bend a thing at first, it will endeavour to restore itself; but it may be held bent so long, till it will continue so of itself, and grow crooked; and then it may require more force and violence to reduce it to its former straightness than we used to make it crooked at first.
[The Moral Feelings Instinctive.]
[God hath discovered our duties to us] by a kind of natural instinct, by which I mean a secret impression
upon the minds of men, whereby they are naturally
Nothing is more common, and more to be pitied, than to see with what a confident contempt and || scornful pity some ill-instructed and ignorant people will lament the blindness and ignorance of those who have a thousand times more true knowledge and skill than themselves, not only in all other things, but even in the practice as well as knowledge of the Christian religion; believing those who do not relish their affected phrases and uncouth forms of speech to be ignorant of the mystery of the gospel, and utter strangers to the life and power of godliness.
EDWARD STILLINGFLEET (1635-1699) distinguished himself in early life by his writings in defence of the doctrines of the church. The title of his principal work is Origines Sacræ; or a Rational Account of the Grounds of Natural and Revealed Religion. His abilities and extensive learning caused him to be raised in 1689 to the dignity of bishop of Worcester. Towards the end of his life, he published A Defence of the Doctrine of the Trinity, in which some passages in Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding were attacked as subversive of funre-damental doctrines of Christianity; but in the controversy which ensued, the philosopher was generally held to have come off victorious. So great was the bishop's chagrin at this result, that it was thought to have hastened his death. The prominent matters of discussion in this controversy were the resurrection of the body and the immateriality of the soul. On these points Locke argued, that although the resurrection of the dead is revealed in Scripture, the re-animation of the identical bodies which inhabited this world is not revealed; and that even if the soul were proved to be material, this would not imply its mortality, since an Omnipotent Creator may, if he pleases, impart the faculty of thinking to matter as well as to spirit. The dispure-tation was carried on by Locke with much more gentleness and good temper than by Stillingfleet, who displayed considerable captiousness and asperity towards his opponent.
Fifty of Stillingflect's sermons, published after his death, deservedly bear a high character for good sense, sound morality, energy of style, and the knowledge of human nature which they display. Extracts from two of them are subjoined.
Such ways of education as are prudently fitted to the particular disposition of children, are like wind and tide together, which will make the work go on amain: but those ways which are applied cross to nature are like wind against tide, which will make a stir and conflict, but a very slow progress.
The principles of religion and virtue must be instilled and dropped into them by such degrees, and in such a measure, as they are capable of receiving them: for children are narrow-mouthed vessels, and a great deal cannot be poured into them at once.
Young years are tender, and easily wrought upon, apt to be moulded into any fashion: they are like moist and soft clay, which is pliable to any form; but soon grows hard, and then nothing is to be made of it.
Great severities do often work an effect quite contrary to that which was intended; and many times those who were bred up in a very severe school hate learning ever after for the sake of the cruelty that was used to force it upon them. So likewise an endeavour to bring children to piety and goodness by unreasonable strictness and rigour, does often beget in them a lasting disgust and prejudice against religion, and teacheth them to hate virtue, at the same time that they teach them to know it.
1 * The word prevented is here used in the obsolete sense of anticipated.-Ed.
That is the truest wisdom of a man which doth most conduce to the happiness of life. For wisdom as it refers to action, lies in the proposal of a right end, and the choice of the most proper means to attain it: which end doth not refer to any one part of a man's life, but to the whole as taken together. He therefore only deserves the name of a wise man, not that considers how to be rich and great when he is poor and mean, nor how to be well when he is sick, nor how to escape a present danger, nor how to compass a particular design; but he that considers the whole course of his life together, and what is fit for him to make the end of it, and by what means he may best enjoy the happiness of it. I confess it is one great part of a wise man never to propose to himself too much happiness here; for whoever doth so is sure to find himself deceived, and consequently is so much more miserable as he fails in his greatest expectations. But since God did not make men on purpose to be miserable, since there is a great difference as to men's conditions, since that difference depends very much on their own choice, there is a great deal of reason to place true wisdom in the choice of those things which tend most to the comfort and happiness of life.
That which gives a man the greatest satisfaction in what he doth, and either prevents, or lessens, or makes him more easily bear the troubles of life, doth the most conduce to the happiness of it. It was a bold saying of Epicurus, That it is more desirable to be miserable by acting according to reason, than to be happy in going against it; and I cannot tell how it can well agree with his notion of felicity: but it is a certain truth, that in the consideration of happiness, the satisfaction of a man's own mind doth weigh down all the external accidents of life. For, suppose a man to have riches and honours as great as Ahasuerus
walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart,' as the Psalmist describeth the practice of integrity, may possibly meet with such as will be ready to condemn him for hypocrisy at first; but when they find he keeps to a certain rule, and pursues honest designs, without any great regard to the opinion which others entertain concernhim, then all that know him cannot but esteem and value him; his friends love him, and his enemies stand in awe of him. The path of the just,' saith the wise man, is as the shining light which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.' As the day begins with obscurity and a great mixture of darkness, till by quick and silent motions the light overcomes the mists and vapours of the night, and not only spreads its beams upon the tops of the mountains, but darts them into the deepest and most shady valleys; thus simplicity and integrity may at first appearing look dark and suspicious, till by degrees it breaks through the clouds of envy and detraction, and then shines with a greater glory.
bestowed on his highest favourite Haman, yet by his
There is a love of ourselves which is founded in nature and reason, and is made the measure of our love to our neighbour; for we are to love our neighbour as ourselves; and if there were no due love of ourselves, there could be none of our neighbour. But this love of ourselves, which is so consistent with the love of our neighbour, can be no enemy to our peace: for none can live more quietly and peaceably than those who love their neighbours as themselves. But there is a self-love which the Scripture condemns, bethemselves and to their neighbours, filling them with cause it makes men peevish and froward, uneasy to
The integrity and simplicity of a man's mind doth all this. In the first place, it gives the greatest satisfaction to a man's own mind. For although it be impossible for a man not to be liable to error and mistake, yet, if he doth mistake with an innocent mind, he hath the comfort of his innocency when he thinks himself bound to correct his error. But if a man prevaricates with himself, and acts against the sense of his own mind, though his conscience did not judge aright at that time, yet the goodness of the bare act, with respect to the rule, will not prevent the sting that follows the want of inward integrity in doing it. The backslider in heart,' saith Solomon, shall be filled with his own ways, but a good man shall be satisfied from himself.' The doing just and worthy and generous things without any sinister ends and designs, leaves a most agreeable pleasure to the mind, like that of a constant health, which is better felt than expressed. When a man applies his mind to the knowledge of his duty, and when he doth under-jealousies and suspicions of others with respect to tions and designs of others towards them, and so prothemselves, making them apt to mistrust the intenducing ill-will towards them; and where that hath once got into men's hearts, there can be no long peace with those they bear a secret grudge and ill-will to. The bottom of all is, they have a wonderful value for themselves and those opinions, and notions, and and these they make the measure of their esteem and parties, and factions they happen to be engaged in, love of others. As far as they comply and suit with them, so far they love them, and no farther. If we ask, Cannot good men differ about some things, and yet be good still? Yes. Cannot such love one another notwithstanding such difference? No doubt they ought. Whence comes it, then, that a small affection? In plain truth it is, every one would be difference in opinion is so apt to make a breach in pretend to it; and they have so good an opinion of thought to be infallible, if for shame they durst to themselves, that they cannot bear such as do not submit to them. putings, and ill language, not becoming men or ChrisFrom hence arise quarrellings and distians. But all this comes from their setting up themselves and their own notions and practices, which if others have the same opinion of themselves, it is they would make a rule to the rest of the world; and impossible but there must be everlasting clashings and disputings, and from thence falling into different parties and factions; which can never be prevented till they come to more reasonable opinions of themselves, and more charitable and kind towards others.
stand it (as it is not hard for an honest mind to do,
upon a rock.
honest and sincere! and so much the more, because he
doth not believe himself: he fears still he hath not
DR WILLIAM SHERLOCK.*
DR WILLIAM SHERLOCK, dean of St Paul's (1641– 1707), acquired in his lifetime an extensive repu*This divine is sometimes confounded with his son Thomas
Sherlock, successively bishop of Bangor and Salisbury in the reign of George II., and who published numerous sermons which are highly esteemed.