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books written against this doctrine, as dangerous and pernicious; so I think they may omit the answers, as unnecessary. This, I confess, will probably affect but few or none among the generality of our congregations, who do not much trouble themselves with books, at least of this kind. However, many who do not read themselves are seduced by others that do, and thus become unbelievers upon trust and at secondhand ; and this is too frequent a case ; for which reason, I have endeavored to put this doctrine upon a short and sure foot, levelled to the meanest understanding; by which we may, as the apostle directs, be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh us a reason of the hope that is in us, with meekness and fear.
And thus I have done with my subject, which probably I should not have chosen, if I had not been invited to it by the occasion of this season, appointed on purpose to celebrate the mysteries of the Trinity and the descent of the Holy Ghost, wherein we pray to be kept stedfast in this faith ; and what this faith is, I have shown you in the plainest manner I could. For, upon the whole, it is no more than this: God commands us, by our dependence upon his truth and his holy word, to believe a fact that we do not understand. And this is no more than what we do every day in the works of nature, upon the credit of men of learning. Without faith we can do no works acceptable to God; for if they proceed from any other principle, they will not advance our salvation; and this faith, as I have explained it, we may acquire without giving up our senses, or contradicting our reason. May God of his infinite mercy inspire us with true faith in every article and mystery of our holy religion, so as to dispose us to do what is pleasing in his sight; and this we pray through Jesus Christ, to whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, the mysterious, incomprehensible ONE GOD, be all honor and glory now and for evermore ! Amen.
SERMON THE THIRD..
ON MUTUAL SUBJECTION.
1 PETER, v. 5. Yea, all of you, be subject one to another. The apostle having, in many parts of this epistle, given directions to Christians concerning the duty of subjection or obedience to superiors; in the several instances of the subject to the prince, the child to bis parent, the servant to his master, the wife to her husband,
and the younger to the elder; doth here, in the words of my text, sum up the whole, by advancing a point of doctrine, which at first may appear a little extraordinary; “Yea, all of you,” saith he, “be subject one to another.” For it should seem that two persons cannot properly be said to be subject to each other, and that subjection is only due from inferiors to those above them: yet St. Paul hath several
passages to the same purpose. For he exhorts the Romans, “ in honor to prefer one another;" and the Philippians, “ that in lowliness of mind they should each esteem other better than themselves;" and the Ephesians, “that they should submit themselves one to another in the fear of the Lord.” Here we find these two great apostles recommending to all Christians this duty of mutual subjection. For we may observe, by St. Peter, that having men tioned the several relations which men bear to each other, as governor and subject, master and servant, and the rest which I have already repeated, he makes no exception, but sums up the whole with commanding “all to be subject one to another.” Whence we may conclude, that this subjection, due from all men to all men, is something more than the compliment of course, when our betters are pleased to tell us they are our humble servants, but understand us to be their slaves.
I know very well that some of those who explain this text apply it to humility, to the duties of charity, to private exhortations, and to bearing with each other's infirmities; and it is probable the apostle may have had a regard to all these
But however many learned men agree, that there is something more understood, and so the words in their plain natural meaning must import; as you will observe yourselves, if you read them with the beginning of the verse, which is thus: “Likewise, ye younger submit yourselves unto the elder; yea, all of you be subject one to another.” So that, upon the whole, there must be some kind of subjection due from every man to every man, which cannot be made void by any power, preeminence, or authority whatsoever. Now what sort of subjection this is, and how it ought to be paid, shall be the subject of my present discourse.
As God hath contrived all the works of nature to be useful, and in some manner a support to each other, by which the whole frame of the world under his providence is preserved and kept up; so among mankind our particular stations are appointed to each of us by God Almighty, wherein we are obliged to act, as far as our power reacheth, toward the good of the whole community. And he who doth not perform that part assigned him toward advancing the benefit of the whole in proportion to his opportunities and abilities, is not only a useless, but a very mischievous member of the public; because he takes the share of the profit and yet Icaves his share of the burden to be borne by others, which is the true principal cause of most miseries and misfortunes in life. For a wise man who does not assist with his counsels; a great man with his protection; a rich man with his bounty and charity; and a poor man with his labor; are perfect nuisances in a commonwealth. Neither is any condition of life more honorable in the sight of God than another; otherwise he would be a respecter of persons, which he assures us he is not: for he hath proposed the same salvation to all men, and hath only placed them in different ways or stations to work it out. Princes are born with no more advantages of strength or wisdom than other men; and, by an unhappy education, are usually more defective in both than thousands of their subjects. They depend for every necessary of life upon the meanest of their people: besides, obedience and subjection were never enjoined by God to humor the passions, lusts, and vanities of those who demand them from us; but we are commanded to obey our governors, because disobedience would breed seditions in the state. Thus servants are directed to obey their masters, children their parents, and wives their husbands; not from any respect of persons in God, but because otherwise there would be nothing but confusion in private families. This matter will be clearly explained by considering the comparison which St. Paul makes between the church of Christ and the body of man : for the same resemblance will hold, not only to families and kingdoms, but to the whole corporation of mankind. “The eye,” saith he, “cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again the hand to the foot, I have no need of thee. Nay much more, those members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary : and whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.” The case is directly the same among mankind. The prince cannot say to the merchant, I have no need of thee; nor the merchant to the laborer, I have no need of thee. Nay much more, those members which seem to be more feeble are necessary; for the poor are generally more necessary members of the commonwealth than the rich : which clearly shows, that God never intended such possessions for the sake and service of those to whom he lends them; but because he hath assigned every man his particular station to be useful in life, and this for the reason given by the apostle, “ that there may be no schism in the body.”
From hence may partly be gathered the nature of that subjection which we all owe to one another. God Almighty hath been pleased to put us into an imperfect state, where we have perpetual occasion of each other's assistance. There is none so low, as not to be in a capacity of assisting the highest; nor so high, as not to want the assistance of the lowest.
It plainly appears, from what hath been said, that no one human creature is more worthy than another in the sight of God, further than according to the goodness or holiness of their lives; and that power, wealth, and the like outward advantages are so far from being the marks of God's approving or preferring those on whom they are bestowed, that, on the contrary, he is pleased to suffer them to be almost engrossed by those who have least title to his favor. Now, according to this equality wherein God hath placed all mankind with relation to himself, you will observe that, in all the relations between man and man, there is a mutual dependence, whereby the one cannot subsist without the other. Thus, no man can be a prince without subjects, nor a master witnout servants, nor a father without children. And this both explains and confirms the doctrine of the text: for where there is a mutual dependence there must be a mutual duty, and consequently a mutual subjection. For instance, the subject must only obey the prince, because God commands it, human laws require it, and the safety of the public makes it necessary; for the same reasons we must obey all that are in authority, and submit ourselves not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward, whether they rule according to our liking or no. On the other side, in those countries that pretend to freedom, princes are subject to those laws which their people have chosen; they are bound to protect their subjects in liberty, property, and religion, to receive their petitions, and redress their grievances; so that the best prince is, in the opinion of wise men, only the greatest servant of the nation; not only a servant to the public in general, but in some sort to every man in it. In the like manner, a servant owes obedience, and diligence, and faithfulness to his master; from whon at the same time he hath a just demand for protection, and maintenance, and gentle treatment. Nay, even the poor beggar hath a just demand of an alms from the rich man, who is guilty of fraud, injustice, and oppression, if he does not afford relief according to his abilities.
But this subjection we all owe one to another is nowhere more necessary than in the common conversations of life; for without it
there could be no society among men.
If the learned would not sometimes submit to the ignorant, the wise to the simple, the gentle to the froward, the old to the weaknesses of the young, there would be nothing but everlasting variance in the world. This our Savior himself confirmed by his own example; for he appeared in the form of a servant, and washed his disciples' feet, adding those memorable words: “Ye call me Lord and Master, and ye say well; for so I
If I then, your Lord and Master, wash your feet, how much more ought ye to wash one another's feet ?” Under which expression of washing the feet is included all that subjection, assistance, love, and duty, which every good Christian ought to pay his brother, in whatever station God hath placed him. For the greatest prince and the meanest slave are not, by infinite degrees, so distant as our Savior and those disciples whose feet he vouchsafed to wash.
And although this doctrine of subjecting ourselves to one another may seem to grate upon the pride and vanity of mankind, and may therefore be hard to be digested by those who value themselves upon their greatness or their wealth, yet it is really no more than what most men practise upon other occasions. For, if our neighbor, who is our inferior, comes to see us, we rise to receive him, we place him above us, and respect him, as if he were better than ourselves : and this is thought both decent and necessary, and is usually called good manners. Now, the duty required by the apostle is only that we should enlarge our minds, and that what we thus practice in the common course of life we should imitate in all our actions and proceedings whatsoever; since our Savior tells us that every man is our neighbor, and since we are so ready, in the point of civility, to yield to others in our own houses, where only we have any title to govern.
Having thus shown you what sort of subjection it is which all men owe one to another, and in what manner it ought to be paid, I shall now draw some observations from what hath been said.
And, first, A thorough practice of this duty of subjecting ourselves to the wants and infirmities of each other would utterly extinguish in us the vice of pride.
For, if God has pleased to entrust me with a talent, not for my own sake, but for the service of others, and at the same time hath left me full of wants and necessities which others must supply, I can then have no cause to set any extraordinary value upon myself, or to despise my brother, because he hath not the same talents which were lent to me. His being may probably be as useful to the public