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seeth not as man seeth*, but often that, which is highly esteemed amongst men, is abomination in the sight of Godt, who knows the secret springs, whence every word and action flow. Let us reflect then, that we are to approve our lives and hearts, not merely to our fellow-creatures; but to our Maker, who is perfect in holiness: that we may indeed have whereof to glory before men; but we can not before Godf; in whose sight shall no man living be justified by his own works. Blessed is he to whom faith in Christ, productive of continual study to amend and improve, is counted for righteousness : for to him the Lord will not impute sin l.
But a still worse degree, if possible, of immoderate regard to our reputation is, when, to raise or preserve it, we transgress our duty. And it is surely a strange perverseness in human nature, that, though fear of disesteem, with every other motive added to it, is frequently insufficient to keep us from acting wrong; yet, on other occasions, that fear alone, in opposition to every other motive, is abundantly sufficient to keep us from acting right. Custom and fashion have brought some parts of morals, and almost the whole of piety, into utter disgrace. At least too many either imprudently chuse, or unhappily fall into such acquaintance, that they must lose their character with them, unless they will throw off their virtue and religion. No wonder if poor thoughtless creatures often sink under this temptation. But woe to those, by whom the offence cometh ( : who, not content to be vicious and profane themselves, add unprovoked, the further and greater wickedness of
1 Sam. xvi. 7. + Luke xvi. 15. I Rom. iv, 2. § Ps. cxliii. 2. Rom. iii. 20. Gal. ii. 16. iii. 11. || Rom. iv. 5—8. g Matth. xviii. 7.
persecuting others by ridicule and invective into the same guilt. A persecution however far from being formidable enough to afford any tolerable excuse for such as yield to it. The vain, and shewy, and bold, who call themselves the world, and pretend to dispose of contempt and applause as they will, have it not so entirely by any means in their own hands, as they would seem. For, besides that the nature of things cannot be altered; were the numbers of such persons larger than it is, yet their weight is not answerable to it. And though the wise and good may, in proportion, be few; yet their judgment is, and will be, respected by many. So that whoever is truly disposed to be pious and virtuous will never want competent protection, if he doth but seek for it by cultivating proper friendships ; but let the generality be ever so bad, will gain, upon the whole, more reputation than he loses, by adhering to his duty.
Yet, supposing this were otherwise, it should be considered, that the esteem of the worthless is very ill purchased at the price of becoming like them: and that the most fatal consequences daily proceed from persons being led by the folly of others, rather than their own good sense, and that of their discreeter and more experienced friends. But above all, it should be considered, how small a thing it is to be judged of man's judgment, when he that judgeth us is the Lord*: who hath expressly said, what he will assuredly verify, them that honour me, I will honour : and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed t. Seldom will this fail in the present life; but never in the next : when they, who sleep in the dust of the earth, shall awake : some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt 1. Therefore, notwithstanding all the censures of this world, let us run with patience the race that is set before us : looking into Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith ; who endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God*.
1 Cor. iv. 3, 4. + 1 Sam. ii. 30. 1 Dan. xij. 2.
Another case, in which, to preserve a character with their acquaintance, persons will do what every one else, and they themselves often, see to be wrong, is that of party-wickedness. Very frequently prejudices of education, worldly interest, vehemence of temper hurry them into it. But frequently also, their sole inducement is, that if they should stop short, their friends would look coldly upon them, and think meanly of them; and they cannot bear the reproach of not having been true to their side. What á wretched principle now is this! and yet tolerably good persons will be carried strange lengths by it: and others, any lengths whatever. We find in St. John, that on hearing our Saviour's discourses, many among the chief rulers of the Jews, inwardly believed on him, but because of the Pharisees, they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue. For they loved the praise of men, more than the praise of Godt. Now just the same thing, which got the better of their conviction in this respect, gets the better of most men’s in one respect or another: and they will not reflect, that as the temptations to raise or preserve a reputation by joining in the excesses of party, are often the most trifling, and easiest to be resisted, that can be; so, when the trial is harder, the duty is still the same; but the victory will be the more honourable, and the reward the greater. A further instance, and a very criminal one, of Heb. xi. 1, 2.
+ John xii. 42, 43.
preferring the good opinion of others to their own conscience is, when persons, having been guilty of some folly or sin, will be guilty of almost any thing to cover it, rather than expose themselves. At one time they will immediately commit a very great fault to conceal a very small one. At others, they will begin, for that purpose, only with what seems a pretty harmless transgression. But that doth not succeed, perhaps entangles them yet worše: and so they are drawn on, till instead of confessing at first à single error, they are shamefully convicted at last of many. But if they could, by such means, escape ever so clear, these are not means, by which they ought to escape. Even an innocent person hath no right to use other than innocent methods for his defence : much less is having done one bad thing an excuse for doing a second. So far indeed as honest prudence will hide our disgrace, we are doubtless in the right to employ it. But if that will not suffice; what we have deserved we must patiently undergo, as a just correction, and salutary discipline to produce repentance. There lies our way back: and it is in vain to seek for any other. If we are disposed to take this only right course, all good persons will think it a duty strictly binding them (for indeed it is an important one) to make our return as easy to us, as possible : never to reproach us more with what we have heartily condemned ourselves for; but hold us in that honour, of which a true penitent may sometimes deserve a higher degree, than those who have never offended. And though the world should, as probably it will, do us this justice but imperfectly: yet bearing, in a virtuous manner, whatever shame our faults may bring upon us in this life, will contribute to increase our glory in the next.
One other bad way of aiming at reputation, which must be mentioned, is, when we demolish that of others, to raise our own, and build it on the ruins. Every one feels how grievous this injury is, when done to himself: and therefore knows the wickedness of doing it to his neighbour. Nor truly is the folly much less. Let another person's character in any respect be thought or proved ever so contemptible or so bad, mine continues but just what it was. And as for any hope, that it may be the more admired, when the other is lowered; on the contrary, it will be observed, who hath taken pains to lower it. And they, who are known to give such treatment, generally meet, as they well deserve, with a double share of it. Candour towards all, of whom we speak, is the true art of obtaining it towards ourselves : whereas he that hath shewed no mercy, shall, both from God and man, have judgment with
But besides those, who are led into any of these
, sins by an undue fondness for reputation; they also are blameable, who allow it to give them too much uneasiness. A good name is indeed the most valuable of all earthly things : but, like the rest of them, may be the subject of too much anxiety. If we are not esteemed by every body as we ought; if unjust imputations are thrown, and, for a time, rest, upon us, nay, should it happen to be a considerable time, provided it be not our fault, let us make it as light a misfortune as we can. Perhaps it is for having done our duty, that we are traduced ; and what is our case then? Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and say
all manner of evil against you falsely for my saket. Or, supposing the occasion to be not so meri* James ii. 13.
† Matth. v. 11.