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torious ; yet it is some alleviation, that these things, in such a world as the present, are of course to be expected. We live among persons that will detract and misinterpret: and truly we are too prone to do like them. Besides, without any ill disposition, they mistake our attainments and accomplishments, we mistake theirs, and it cannot be otherwise. Doubtless we should avoid both making and occasioning such mistakes as far as we can. But when we have done our best, it is no more to be hoped that the most excellent person upon earth should have from all mankind a perfectly good report, than that the most regular person upon earth should at all times enjoy perfectly good health. Proper care, generally speaking, will secure us tolerably in both respects; at least will recover us again. And, as our health may sometimes be the better afterwards for having gone through a sharp fit of sickness : so may our character for suffering a severe trial. At least, such an exercise of our patience and meekness, if we preserve them, will do us a great deal more service, than the loss of a little esteem can do us harm. But it must be said again, that let persons only be virtuous and discreet, mild and humble, peaceful and charitable; that is, let them be truly good, and use but common precautions, that their good be not evil spoken of* : and they will seldom fail of supporting a fair reputation.
As for a high one, that is not so easy to be gained : but neither is it so proper to be much desired. He indeed who is conscious, that, were his merit known, it would enable him to be singularly useful, may and should, if he is sure that this is both true and his true motive, strive earnestly to be conspicuous; but we are strangely apt to deceive ourselves in each of
* Rom. xiv. 16.
these points. And, if we have little more than selfgratification in view : vehement solicitude, in most cases, gives more uneasiness, than success gives plea
But solicitude for fame hath this further unhappiness, that, as very few have really any considerable title to it, most of the candidates for it must be disappointed : and so much the more certainly the more forward they are in their pretensions. For in proportion as we betray that weakness, we strongly tempt the world, not only to withhold the esteem which we deserve, but even to withdraw that which they had bestowed upon us.
And further, if persons will affect to raise themselves to a vast height in popular opinion, though it should provoke nobody to pull their building down, it would in all likelihood, after a while, overturn of itself, or sink under its own weight. Our business therefore is to take the utmost care, that our foundation be solid : but a lofty superstructure is rather to be feared than wished.
And, besides the imprudence of the thing, it is really injustice to demand of the world more regard than we have a right to, and charge them with what they do not owe us. Nor is even this the worst of the case. Persons, who claim too much, are frequently driven to unfair and even criminal methods of getting their claim allowed : and there are many in the world, who would have deserved a very good name, if they had not been too earnest and too hasty for a great one. Here then, the truly valuable reputation is lost in pursuit of a shadow, which is seldom overtaken. To be admired is what we long for: to be disliked and despised is what we usually get. Or, if we succeed better, perhaps the passion to which we make so costly a sacrifice, is only that of being celebrated for some errant trifle : though indeed, be
it what it will, every thing is a trifle, compared to a right state of mind and right conduct of life. The reputation of making these things our study is what we should aim at: and as, in virtue, the chief point is, to do nothing ill; so, in character, it is to have nothing ill said of us. After that, it cannot but be desirable to have good said; and, in the main, to know it. But a general and a slight knowledge is quite sufficient. We may have full as much pleasure from that, as will be of any use to us.
And listening after particulars, and wanting to hear a great deal of ourselves, both is wrong and leads wrong. They, whose praise is worth having, we may be sure, will never give us a large quantity of it before our faces, And therefore such as do, either are bad or weak persons themselves, or think us so. At least they take the ready way to make us $o. For there is not upon earth a more ensnaring temptation, than that of too fond a self-complacency. Correcting our many and great faults is our proper employment: delighting in our own praises and imagined excellencies, a very unsafe and pernicious one. Let it be our care then to mind our work by an humble and patient continuance in well-doing : and as to our reward, the less eager we are for it in this world, the more abundantly we shall receive, in the next, glory, and honour, and immortality *.
GAL. VI. 15.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any
thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
THESE words relate to that first dispute amongst Christians, whether the law of Moses was still to be observed: which, though it hath long been out of question, and now perhaps the difficulty seems to be only, how the observation of such a law could ever be required at all, was yet a very natural subject of controversy, and plainly a very important one, when our religion began to spread in the world : and there is such perpetual reference to it in St. Paul's epistles, that they have been greatly misunderstood for want of carrying it in mind. And therefore, I shall, in two discourses on these words,
I. Vindicate the justice and goodness of God, in distinguishing the Jews by a peculiar covenant:
II. Give an account of the expiration of that covenant, and its ceasing to oblige or avail any part of mankind :
III. Shew, what alone can avail men ; and explain the phrase of a new creature, by which the Apostle here expresses it.
I. I shall vindicate the justice and goodness of Providence, in distinguishing the Jews, from the rest of the world, by a peculiar covenant.
God is no respecter of persons : but in every age and nation, they who feared him and worked righteous
ness, have always been accepted with him *. The rewards of innocence, had man continued innocent, would have extended to the whole human race: as did the sad consequences of our first parents' fall. From these God equally relieved all their descendants: and received them into a second covenant of grace and forgiveness, on the equitable terms of a sincere though imperfect obedience, having for its principle, the belief more or less explicit, in proportion as revelation was, that he is, and is a rewarder of them that seek him t. This faith saved Noah, the preacher and practiser of Righteousness I, with his family, when all flesh besides, having corrupted their way s, were destroyed by the deluge: that, after so exemplary a punishment of sin, the world might begin anew from that good man, with better hopes of their observing for the future the laws of the Almighty. Again, to all the descendants of Noah, without exception, God equally delivered his precepts and his promises : nor made any distinction amongst them, till they had made one amongst themselves, by revolting in great numbers from true religion to idolatry and wicked
And then, as he had enabled them to see originally, from the things that were made, his eternal power and Godheadl; as he had formed them to be a law to themselves , by the authority of natural conscience within them; as he had superadded such strong manifestations of his acceptance of piety and virtue, and his abhorrence of sin : what ground could there have been for complaint, if he had left them to observe, or neglect at their peril, the notices already given them; without interposing any farther to direct them in this world; only reserving for the next
* Acts x. 34, 35. + Heb. xi. 6. * 2 Pet. ii. 5. Ø Gen, vi. 12. | Rom. i. 20. Rom. ij. 14.