« PreviousContinue »
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 muft obey his prince, because God commands it, human laws require it, and the safety of the public makes it neceffary. 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 fervant 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 faithfulnefs, to his master; from whom, at the same time, he hath a juft 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 no where 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 Saviour 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 Mafier : and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Majler, was your feet, how much more ought je to wash one another's feet? Under which expression, of washing the feet, is included all that subjection, aslistance, 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 save, are not, by infinite degrees, fo diftant, as our Saviour and those difciples, whose feet he vouchsafed to wash.
And, although this doctrine of subjecting ourfelves 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 moft men practise upon other occafions. For, if our neighbour, 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, that, what we thus practise in the common course of life, we should imitate in all our actions and proceedings whatsoever ; fnce our Saviour tells us, that every man is our neighbour, 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 shewn 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 faid.
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 intrust me with a talent, not for my own fake, 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 as mine; and, therefore, by the rules of right reason, I am in no fort preferable to him.
Secondly, It is very manifest, from what has been said, that no man ought to look upon the advantages of life, such as riches, honour, power, and the like, as his property, but merely as a. trust which God hath deposited with him, to be employed for the use of his brethren: and God will certainly punish the breach of that trust, though the laws of man will not, or rather indeed cannot; because the trust was conferred only by God, who has not left it to any power on earth to decide infallibly, whether a man makes a good use of his talents or no, or to punish him where he fails. And, therefore, God seems to have more particularly taken this matter into his own hands, and will, moft certainly, reward or punish us, in proportion to our good or ill performance in it. Now, although the advantages which one man poflefseth more than another, may, in some sense, be called his property, with respect to other men; yet, with respect to God, they are, as I said, only a trust; which will plainly appear from hence: If a man does not use those advantages to the good of the public, or the benefit of his neighbour, it is certain, he doth not deserve them, and, consequently, that God never intended them for a blessing to him; and, on the other side, whoever does employ his talents as he ought, will find, by his own experience, that they were chiefly lent him for the fervice of others; for, to the service of others he will certainly employ them.
Thirdly, If we could all be brought to practise this duty of subjecting ourselves to each other, it would very much contribute to the general happiness of mankind. For this would root out envy and malice from the heart of man; because you cannot envy your neighbour's strength, if he make use of it to defend your life, or carry your burden ; you cannot envy his wifdom, if he gives you good counsel; nor his riches, if he supplies you in your wants ; nor his greatness, if he employs it to your protection. The miseries of life are not properly owing to the unequal distribution of things; but God Almighty, the great King of Heaven, is treated like the kings of the earth, who, although, perhaps, intending well themselves, have often most abominable ministers and stewards; and those generally the vilest, to whom they intrust the most talents. But here is the difference, that the princes of this world fee by other mens eyes; but God fees all things: and, therefore, whenever he permits his blessings to be dealt among those who are unworthy, we may certainly conclude, that he intends them only as a punishment to an evil world, as well as to the
It were well, if those would consider this, whose riches serve them only as a fpur to avarice, or as an instrument to their lufts; whose wisdom is only of this world, to put false colours upon things, to call good evil, and evil good, against the conviction of their own consciences; and, lastly, who employ their power and favour in acts of oppression or injustice, in misrepresenting persons and things, or in countenancing the wicked, to the
ruin of the innocent. Fourthly, The practice of this duty, of being subject to one another, would make us reft con