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as it is agreeable to the ambitious man to act according to the motions of ambition. We must therefore, take it for granted, that if we are not religious in our conversation and common temper, we are not religious in our hearts; we may have a formality of religion at certain times and places, but we are not of a religious spirit.
We see every body speaking and conversing aca cording to their spirit and temper; the covetous, the ambitious, the vain and self-conceited, have each of them their proper language suitable to their spirit and temper, they are the same persons in all places, and always talk like themselves. If therefore we could meet with persons of a truly religious, spirit and temper, we should find them like men of other tempers, the same persons in all places, and always talking and acting like themselves. We should find them living by one temper, and conversing with men with the same spirit that they converse with God; not one thing in one place, and another in another, not formal and grave at a funeral, and mad and frantic at a feast; not listening to wisdom at church, and delighting in folly at home; not angry at one foolish thing, and as much pleased with another; but steady and uniform in the same wise and religious temper,
Farther, as we are not of a religious spirit, till it is the spirit of our life, and orders our conversation; so it is carefully to be observed, that if our conversation is vain and foolish, it keeps us in a state incapable of religion by grieving the Holy Spirit. For as we can do nothing without the Spirit of God, as it is our breath, our life, our light, and our strength; so if we live in such a way as grieves and removes this Holy Spirit from us, we are as branches that are broke off from the tree, and must perish, in the deadness and corruption of our nature. Let this therefore teach us to judge rightly of the sin and danger of vain, unedifying, and corrupt commu
nication; it is not the sin of idleness or negligence; it is not the sin of a pardonable infirmity; it is not a little mistake in spiritual wisdom; but it is a sin that stands between us and the tree of life: that opposes our whole happiness, as it grieves and separates the Holy Spirit from us. Let this also teach some people the reason, why they are so dead and senseless of religion, and hardly capable of an outward formal compliance with it; they are not guilty of gross sins; they have an aversion to cheating and falseness; but at the same time have no more feeling or relish of religion, than mere reprobates. Now the reason of it is this, they live in such an impertinence of conversation; their own communication is so constantly upon silly and vain subjects; and they are so fond of those who have the talent of conversing in the same manner, that they render themselves unfit for the residence of the Holy Spirit. Their whole life, is almost nothing else but a course of that filthiness, foolish talking, and jesting, which the apostle forbids. Now this kind of conversation may grieve the Holy Spirit, for these two reasons: first, because it proceeds from too disordered a soul, for the Holy Spirit to delight in; for such as our conversation is, such is our heart; for truth itself has assured us, that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. If therefore we are delighted with idle raillery, foolish jestings, and ridiculous stories, we must not think that we are only foolish, so far as a little talk goes; but we must charge ourselves home, and be assured that it is a foolishness of heart, a vanity of soul that we labour under.
Secondly, another reason why this conversation grieves the Holy Spirit, may be this, because it is of so great consequence, and has so great an influence in life. We do not seem enough to apprehend either how much good or how much evil there is in conversation; and I believe it may be affirnted, that the greatest instructions, and the greatest corrup
tions, proceed from it. If some people were to give us their true history, they would tell us that they never had any religion since they had such acquaintance; and others have been insensibly led into a sincere piety, only by conversing with pious people. For men's common conversation and ordinary life teach much more effectually, than any thing they say or do, at set times and occasions.
When a clergyman preaches, he is, for the most part, considered as doing his duty; as acting according to his profession; and doing that which all clergyman do, whether good or bad. But if he is the same wise and virtuous man in his communication, that he is in the pulpit; if his speech be seasoned with salt, that it may minister grace unto the hearers; if the common and ordinary actions of his life be visibly governed by a spirit of piety; such a one will make converts to holiness; he will be heard with reverence on the Sunday; not so much for the weight of what he says, as for what he says and does all the week. And on the contrary, if a clergyman, when he comes out of the pulpit, is but like other men; as irregular in his tempers; as trifling in his conversation; as eager in diversions; as ridiculous in his pleasures; and as vain in his designs as other people; he will mightily lessen his power over the hearts of his hearers. A father now and then gives his son virtuous advice, and the son, perhaps, would be much the better for it, but that he never hears him talking virtuously, but when he is giving him advice; this makes him think, that he is then only acting the part of a father, as when he is buying him clothes, or putting him out to an employment. Whereas, if he saw his father's ordinary life and conversation to be under the rules of religion, and his every-day temper a temper of piety, it is very likely that he would be won into an imitation of it.
A mother orders her daughter to be taught the
catechism, and desires that she may have books of derotion; the daughter would have imagined that she was to have formed herself by these books, she would have read them when she was alone; but that she finds her mother sits up at night to read romances, and if she is ill must be read to sleep with a play. She might have had some notion of religious modesty and humility; but that she sees her mother eager after all diversions; impatient till she kuows all intrigues; fond of the wit and flattery of rakes; pleased with the gentility of fops, and the gracefulness of players.
Now a daughter educated with a mother of this temper and conversation, is rendered almost incapable of religion.
This therefore may be one reason why a vain unedifying conversation grieves the Holy Spirit, viz. because it not only proceeds from a corruption of heart, a disordered state of the soul; but because it is so powerful in its influences, and does so much harm to those that we converse with. For it is our communication, our ordinary temper and manner of common life, that affects other people; that either hardens them in sin, or awakens them to a sense of piety. Let, therefore, all clergymen, and masters and mistresses of families; let them consider, that if their ordinary life, their communication be vain, impertinent, and unedifying; that they are not only in a corrupt state of heart, but are guilty of corrupting and perverting the hearts of those that belong to them. Let them not think that they have sufficiently discharged their duty, by seeing that those who relate to them have their proper instructions; for it is next to impossible for such instructions to have their proper effect against the temper and example of those we converse with. If a clergyman plays and drinks, and sports with his flock in the week-days, let him not wonder if he preaches them asleep on Sudays. If a father is intemperate ; if he swears and converses foolishly with his friends ; let him not wonder that his children cannot be made virtuous. For there is nothing that teaches to any purpose but our ordinary temper, our common life and conversation; and almost all people will be, such as those amongst whom they were born and bred. It is, therefore, the necessary duty of all Christians, in all states of life, to look carefully to their ordinary behaviour, that it be not the means of poisoning and corrupting the hearts of those that they converse with. They must consider, that all the follies and impertinencies of their ordinary life and conversation, have the guilt of destroying souls; and that the blood of those, whom their follies have destroyed, will be required at their hands.
It is sometimes said of a foolish, irregular, and vain person, that he is only his own enemy: but this is as absurd as to say, that a person of exemplary and eminent piety is only his own friend; for as his lively piety will certainly communicate itself to those about him; so the folly and impertinent spirit of an irregular man, will naturally infect those who are obliged to be near him.
A mistress, whose daily conversation is a daily proof to her maids, that she is governed by a spirit of true piety in all that she says and does, whose regular life is a continual visible labour to work out her salvation with fear and trembling, is a blessing to all that stand about her; she communicates happiness even to those who are born of her servants; they will be educated in piety, because their parents learnt what piety was, in waiting on such a mistresse,
A good-natured, drinking, sleeping, playing, swearing master, is a curse to those who tend upon him; they are led into all irregularities, by following his steps; and are sent into the world hardened in follies, and insensible of religion, by having lived with such a master. This, therefore, ought carefully