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considered that he might, in the meantime, fall dangerously sick, and that sickness necessitate his removal from the court, and during that his absence, his father die, and so his interest decay, and his mortal enemy be chosen to the Papacy; as, indeed, it fell out. So that, for all his exact plot, down was he cast from all his greatness, and forced to end his days in a mean condition; as it is pity but all such politic opiniators should.
Upon much the like account, we find it once said of an eminent cardinal, by reason of his great and apparent likelihood to step into St Peter's chair, that in two conclaves he went in pope and came out again cardinal.
So much has chance the casting voice in the disposal of all the great things of the world. That which men call merit is a mere nothing. For even when persons of the greatest worth and merit are preferred, it is not their merit but their fortune that prefers them. And then, for that other so much admired thing, called policy, it is but little better. For when men have busied themselves, and beat their brains never so much, the whole result, both of their counsels and their fortunes, is still at the mercy of an accident. And, therefore, whosoever that man was that said, that he had rather have a grain of fortune than a pound of wisdom, as to the things of this life spoke nothing but the voice of wisdom and great experience.
The second privilege of friendship is a favourable construction of all passages between friends, that are not of so high and so malign a nature as to dissolve the relation. “Love covers a multitude of sins,” says the apostle (1 Pet. iv. 8). When a scar cannot be taken away, the next office is to hide it. Love is never so blind as when it is to spy faults. It is like the painter who, being to draw the picture of a friend having a
blemish in one eye, would picture only the other side of his face. It is a noble and a great thing to cover the blemishes, and to excuse the failings of a friend ; to draw a curtain before his stains, and to display his perfections; to bury his weakness in silence, but to proclaim his virtues upon the house-top. It is an imitation of the charities of Heaven, which, when the creature lies prostrate in the weakness of sleep and weariness, spreads the covering of night and darkness over it, to conceal it in that condition ; but as soon as our spirits are refreshed and nature returns to its morning vigour, God then bids the sun rise and the day shine upon us, both to advance and to shew that activity.
It is the ennobling office of the understanding to correct the fallacious and mistaken reports of sense, and to assure us that the staff in the water is straight, though our eye would tell us it is crooked. So it is the excellency of friendship to rectify, or at least to qualify, the malignity of those surmises that would misrepresent a friend and traduce him in our thoughts. Am I told that my friend has done me an injury, or that he has committed any indecent action ? why, the first debt that I both owe to his friendship, and that he may challenge from mine, is rather to question the truth of the report, than presently to believe my friend unworthy. Or if matter of fact break out and blazes with too great an evidence to be denied, or so much as doubted of, why, still there are other lenitives that friendship will apply before it will be brought to the decretory rigours of a condemning sentence. A friend will be sure to act the part of an advocate, before he will assume that of a judge. And there are few actions so ill (unless they are of a very deep and black tincture indeed), but will admit of some extenuation at least from those common topics of human frailty, such as are ignorance or inadvertency, passion or surprise, company or solicitation, with many other such things, which may go a great way towards an excusing of the agent,
though they cannot absolutely justify the action. All which apologies for and alleviations of faults, though they are the heights of humanity, yet they are not the favours but the duties of friendship. Charity itself commands us, where we know no ill, to think well of all. But friendship, that always goes a pitch higher, gives a man a peculiar right and claim to the good opinion of his friend. And, if we justly look upon a proneness to find faults as a very ill and a mean thing, we are to remember that a proneness to believe them is next to it.
We have seen here the demeanour of friendship between man and man; but how is it, think we now, between Christ and the soul that depends upon Him ? Is He anyways short in these offices of tenderness and mitigation ? No, assuredly ; but by infinite degrees superior. For where our heart does but relent, His melts; where our eye pities, His bowels yearn.
frowardnesses of ours does He smother, how many indignities does He pass by, and how many affronts does He put up with at our hands, because His love is invincible and His friendship unchangeable! He rates every action, every sinful infirmity, with the allowances of mercy, and never weighs the sin, but together with it He weighs the force of the inducement; how much of it is to be attributed to choice, how much
; to the violence of the temptation, the stratagem of the occasion, and the yielding frailties of weak nature.
Should we try men at that rate that we try Christ, we should quickly find that the largest stock of human friendship would be too little for us to spend long upon. But His compassion follows us with an infinite supply. He is God in His friendship as well as in His nature, and therefore we sinful creatures are not took upon advantages nor consumed in our provocations.
See this exemplified in His behaviour to His disciples, while He was yet upon earth : how ready was He to excuse and cover their infirmities! At the last and bitterest scene of His life, when He was so full of agony and horror upon the approach
of a dismal death, and so had most need of the refreshments of society and the friendly assistances of His disciples, and when also He desired no more of them, but only for a while to sit up and pray with him; yet they, like persons wholly untouched with His agonies, and unmoved with His passionate entreaties, forget both His and their own cares, and securely
all concern for Him or themselves either. Now, what a fierce and sarcastic reprehension may we imagine this would have drawn from the friendships of this world, that act but to an human pitch ! and yet what a gentle one did it receive from Christ, in Matt. xxvi. 40! No more than, “What, could you not watch with me for one hour ?” And when, from this admonition they took only occasion to redouble their fault and to sleep again, so that upon a second and third admonition, they had nothing to plead for their unseasonable drowsiness, yet then Christ, who was the only person concerned to have resented and aggravated this their unkindness, finds an extenuation for it, when they themselves could not. indeed is willing,” says He, “but the flesh is weak.” As if He had said, “Iknow your hearts, and am satisfied of your affection; and therefore accept your will, and compassionate your weakness.” So benign, so gracious is the friendship of Christ, so answerable to our wants, so suitable to our frailties. Happy that man who has a friend to point out to him the perfection of duty, and yet to pardon him in the lapses of his infirmity!
“ The spirit
No man's religion ever survives his morals.
No man shall ever come to heaven himself who has not sent his heart thither before him.
That man will one day find it but a poor gain who hits upon truth with the loss of charity.
What is absurd in the sanctions of right reason will never be warranted by the rules of religion.
How hard is it to draw a principle into all its consequences, and to unravel the mysterious fertility but of one proposition!
Nobody is so weak, but he is strong enough to bear the misfortunes that he does not feel.
We are beholden to nature for worth and parts, but it is to fortune that we owe the opportunities of exerting them.
Virtue is that which must tip the preacher's tongue and the ruler's sceptre with authority.
Our religion is a religion that dares to be understood: the Romish clergy deal with their religion as with a great crime -if it is discovered, they are undone.
That prince that maintains the reputation of a true, fast, generous friend, has an army always ready to fight for him, maintained to his hand without pay.
Ingratitude put the poignard into Brutus' hand, but it was want of compassion that thrust it into Cæsar's heart.
So far as truth gets ground in the world, so far sin loses it. Christ saves the world by undeceiving it, and sanctifies the will by first enlightening the understanding.
If we justly look upon a proneness to find faults as a very ill and a mean thing, we are to remember that a proneness to believe them is next to it.
Charity commands us, where we know no ill, to think well of all; but friendship, that always goes a step higher, gives a man a peculiar right and claim to the good opinion of his friend.
Whosoever has Christ for his friend shall be sure of counsel, and whosoever is his own friend will be sure to obey it.
He who fixes upon false principles treads upon infirm ground, and so sinks; and he who fails in his deductions from right principles, stumbles upon firm ground, and so falls. The