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The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift, D. D., Volume IV: by Jonathan Swift

Part 3 out of 6

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From all that hath been hitherto said, it appears, that great abilities
of any sort, when they are employed as God directs, do but make the
owners of them greater and more painful servants to their neighbour, and
the public; however, we are by no means to conclude from hence, that
they are not really blessings, when they are in the hands of good men.
For first, what can be a greater honour than to be chosen one of the
stewards and dispensers of God's bounty to mankind? What is there, that
can give a generous spirit more pleasure and complacency of mind, than
to consider that he is an instrument of doing much good? that great
numbers owe to him, under God, their subsistence, their safety, their
health, and the good conduct of their lives? The wickedest man upon
earth taketh a pleasure in doing good to those he loveth; and therefore
surely a good Christian, who obeys our Saviour's command of loving all
men, cannot but take delight in doing good even to his enemies. God, who
giveth all things to all men, can receive nothing from any; and those
among men, who do the most good, and receive the fewest returns, do most
resemble their Creator: for which reason, St Paul delivereth it as a
saying of our Saviour, that "it is more blessed to give than to
receive." By this rule, what must become of those things which the world
valueth as the greatest blessings, riches, power, and the like, when our
Saviour plainly determines, that the best way to make them blessings, is
to part with them? Therefore, although the advantages which one man hath
over another, may be called blessings, yet they are by no means so in
the sense the world usually understands. Thus, for example, great riches
are no blessing in themselves; because the poor man, with the common
necessaries of life enjoys more health, and hath fewer cares without
them: How then do they become blessings? No otherwise, than by being
employed in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, rewarding worthy
men, and in short, doing acts of charity and generosity. Thus likewise,
power is no blessing in itself, because private men bear less envy, and
trouble, and anguish without it. But when it is employed to protect the
innocent, to relieve the oppressed, and to punish the oppressor, then it
becomes a great blessing. And so lastly even great wisdom is in the
opinion of Solomon not a blessing in itself: For "in much wisdom is much
sorrow;" and men of common understandings, if they serve God and mind
their callings, make fewer mistakes in the conduct of life than those
who have better heads. And yet, wisdom is a mighty blessing, when it is
applied to good purposes, to instruct the ignorant, to be a faithful
counsellor either in public or private, to be a director to youth, and
to many other ends needless here to mention.

To conclude: God sent us into the world to obey his commands, by doing
as much good as our abilities will reach, and as little evil as our many
infirmities will permit. Some he hath only trusted with one talent, some
with five, and some with ten. No man is without his talent; and he that
is faithful or negligent in a little, shall be rewarded or punished, as
well as he that hath been so in a great deal.

Consider what hath been said; and the Lord give you a right
understanding in all things. To whom with the Son and the Holy Ghost, be
all honour and glory, now and for ever.



"----For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience."

There is no word more frequently in the mouths of men, than that of
conscience, and the meaning of it is in some measure generally
understood: However, because it is likewise a word extremely abused by
many people, who apply other meanings to it, which God Almighty never
intended; I shall explain it to you in the clearest manner I am able.
The word conscience properly signifies, that knowledge which a man hath
within himself of his own thoughts and actions. And, because, if a man
judgeth fairly of his own actions by comparing them with the law of God,
his mind will either approve or condemn him according as he hath done
good or evil; therefore this knowledge or conscience may properly be
called both an accuser and a judge. So that whenever our conscience
accuseth us, we are certainly guilty; but we are not always innocent
when it doth not accuse us: For very often, through the hardness of our
hearts, or the fondness and favour we bear to ourselves, or through
ignorance or neglect, we do not suffer our conscience to take any
cognizance of several sins we commit. There is another office likewise
belonging to conscience, which is that of being our director and guide;
and the wrong use of this hath been the occasion of more evils under the
sun, than almost all other causes put together. For, as conscience is
nothing else but the knowledge we have of what we are thinking and
doing; so it can guide us no farther than that knowledge reacheth. And
therefore God hath placed conscience in us to be our director only in
those actions which Scripture and reason plainly tell us to be good or
evil. But in cases too difficult or doubtful for us to comprehend or
determine, there conscience is not concerned; because it cannot advise
in what it doth not understand, nor decide where it is itself in doubt:
but, by God's great mercy, those difficult points are never of absolute
necessity to our salvation. There is likewise another evil, that men
often say, a thing is against their conscience, when really it is not.
For instance: Ask any of those who differ from the worship established,
why they do not come to church? They will say, they dislike the
ceremonies, the prayers, the habits, and the like, and therefore it goes
against their conscience: But they are mistaken, their teacher hath put
those words into their mouths; for a man's conscience can go no higher
than his knowledge; and therefore until he has thoroughly examined by
Scripture, and the practice of the ancient church, whether those points
are blameable or no, his conscience cannot possibly direct him to
condemn them. Hence have likewise arisen those mistakes about what is
usually called "Liberty of Conscience"; which, properly speaking, is no
more than a liberty of knowing our own thoughts; which liberty no one
can take from us. But those words have obtained quite different
meanings: Liberty of conscience is now-a-days not only understood to be
the liberty of believing what men please, but also of endeavouring to
propagate the belief as much as they can, and to overthrow the faith
which the laws have already established, to be rewarded by the public
for those wicked endeavours: And this is the liberty of conscience which
the fanatics are now openly in the face of the world endeavouring at
with their utmost application. At the same time it cannot but be
observed, that those very persons, who under pretence of a public spirit
and tenderness towards their Christian brethren, are so zealous for such
a liberty of conscience as this, are of all others the least tender to
those who differ from them in the smallest point relating to government;
and I wish I could not say, that the Majesty of the living God may be
offended with more security than the memory of a dead prince. But the
wisdom of the world at present seems to agree with that of the heathen
Emperor, who said, if the gods were offended, it was their own concern,
and they were able to vindicate themselves.[1]

[Footnote 1: The saying of Tiberius as given by Tacitus ("Annals," bk.
i., c. lxxiii.), _Deorum offensa diis curae_. [T.S.]]

But although conscience hath been abused to those wicked purposes which
I have already related, yet a due regard to the directions it plainly
giveth us, as well as to its accusations, reproaches, and advices, would
be of the greatest use to mankind, both for their present welfare and
future happiness.

Therefore, my discourse at this time shall be directed to prove to you,
that there is no solid, firm foundation for virtue, but on a conscience
which is guided by religion.

In order to this, I shall first shew you the weakness and uncertainty of
two false principles, which many people set up in the place of
conscience, for a guide to their actions.

The first of these principles is, what the world usually calls _Moral
Honesty_. There are some people, who appear very indifferent as to
religion, and yet have the repute of being just and fair in their
dealings; and these are generally known by the character of good moral
men. But now, if you look into the grounds and the motives of such a
man's actions, you shall find them to be no other than his own ease and
interest. For example: You trust a moral man with your money in the way
of trade; you trust another with the defence of your cause at law, and
perhaps they both deal justly with you. Why? Not from any regard they
have for justice, but because their fortune depends upon their credit,
and a stain of open public dishonesty must be to their disadvantage. But
let it consist with such a man's interest and safety to wrong you, and
then it will be impossible you can have any hold upon him; because there
is nothing left to give him a check, or put in the balance against his
profit. For, if he hath nothing to govern himself by, but the opinion of
the world, as long as he can conceal his injustice from the world, he
thinks he is safe.

Besides, it is found by experience, that those men who set up for
morality without regard to religion, are generally but virtuous in part;
they will be just in their dealings between man and man; but if they
find themselves disposed to pride, lust, intemperance, or avarice, they
do not think their morality concerned to check them in any of these
vices, because it is the great rule of such men, that they may lawfully
follow the dictates of nature, wherever their safety, health, and
fortune, are not injured. So, that upon the whole, there is hardly one
vice which a mere moral man may not upon some occasions allow himself to

The other false principle, which some men set up in the place of
conscience to be their director in life, is what those who pretend to
it, call _Honour_.

This word is often made the sanction of an oath; it is reckoned a great
commendation to be a man of strict honour; and it is commonly
understood, that a man of honour can never be guilty of a base action.
This is usually the style of military men; of persons with titles; and
of others who pretend to birth and quality. It is true, indeed, that in
ancient times it was universally understood, that honour was the reward
of virtue; but if such honour as is now-a-days going will not permit a
man to do a base action, it must be allowed, there are very few such
things as base actions in nature. No man of honour, as that word is
usually understood, did ever pretend that his honour obliged him to be
chaste or temperate; to pay his creditors; to be useful to his country;
to do good to mankind; to endeavour to be wise, or learned; to regard
his word, his promise, or his oath; or if he hath any of these virtues,
they were never learned in the catechism of honour; which contains but
two precepts, the punctual payment of debts contracted at play, and the
right understanding the several degrees of an affront, in order to
revenge it by the death of an adversary.

But suppose, this principle of honour, which some men so much boast of,
did really produce more virtues than it ever pretended to; yet since the
very being of that honour dependeth upon the breath, the opinion, or the
fancy of the people, the virtues derived from it could be of no long or
certain duration. For example: Suppose a man from a principle of honour
should resolve to be just, or chaste, or temperate; and yet the
censuring world should take a humour of refusing him those characters;
he would then think the obligation at an end. Or, on the other side, if
he thought he could gain honour by the falsest and vilest action, (which
is a case that very often happens,) he would then make no scruple to
perform it. And God knows, it would be an unhappy state, to have the
religion, the liberty, or the property of a people lodged in such hands,
which however hath been too often the case.

What I have said upon this principle of honour may perhaps be thought of
small concernment to most of you who are my hearers: However, a caution
was not altogether unnecessary; since there is nothing by which not only
the vulgar, but the honest tradesman hath been so much deceived, as this
infamous pretence to honour in too many of their betters.

Having thus shewn you the weakness and uncertainty of those principles
which some men set up in the place of conscience to direct them in their
actions, I shall now endeavour to prove to you that there is no solid,
firm foundation of virtue, but in a conscience directed by the
principles of religion.

There is no way of judging how far we may depend upon the actions of
men, otherwise than by knowing the motives, and grounds, and causes of
them; and, if the motives of our actions be not resolved and determined
into the law of God, they will be precarious and uncertain, and liable
to perpetual changes. I will shew you what I mean, by an example:
Suppose a man thinks it his duty to obey his parents, because reason
tells him so, because he is obliged by gratitude, and because the laws
of his country command him to do so; but, if he stops here, his parents
can have no lasting security; for an occasion may happen, wherein it may
be extremely his interest to be disobedient, and where the laws of the
land can lay no hold upon him: therefore, before such a man can safely
be trusted, he must proceed farther, and consider, that his reason is
the gift of God; that God commanded him to be obedient to the laws, and
did moreover in a particular manner enjoin him to be dutiful to his
parents; after which, if he lays due weight upon those considerations,
he will probably continue in his duty to the end of his life: Because no
earthly interest can ever come in competition to balance the danger of
offending his Creator, or the happiness of pleasing him. And of all this
his conscience will certainly inform him, if he hath any regard to

_Secondly:_ Fear and hope are the two greatest natural motives of all
men's actions: But, neither of these passions will ever put us in the
way of virtue, unless they be directed by conscience. For although
virtuous men do sometimes accidentally make their way to preferment, yet
the world is so corrupted, that no man can reasonably hope to be
rewarded in it, merely upon account of his virtue. And consequently, the
fear of punishment in this life will preserve men from very few vices,
since some of the blackest and basest do often prove the surest steps to
favour; such as ingratitude, hypocrisy, treachery, malice, subornation,
atheism, and many more which human laws do little concern themselves
about. But when conscience placeth before us the hopes of everlasting
happiness, and the fears of everlasting misery, as the reward and
punishment of our good or evil actions, our reason can find no way to
avoid the force of such an argument, otherwise than by running into

_Lastly_: Conscience will direct us to love God, and to put our whole
trust and confidence in him. Our love of God will inspire us with a
detestation for sin, as what is of all things most contrary to his
divine nature; and if we have an entire confidence in him, _that_ will
enable us to subdue and despise all the allurements of the world.

It may here be objected, if conscience be so sure a director to us
Christians in the conduct of our lives, how comes it to pass, that the
ancient heathens, who had no other lights but those of nature and
reason, should so far exceed us in all manner of virtue, as plainly
appears by many examples they have left on record?

To which it may be answered; first, those heathens were extremely strict
and exact in the education of their children; whereas among us this care
is so much laid aside, that the more God hath blessed any man with
estate or quality, just so much the less in proportion is the care he
taketh in the education of his children, and particularly of that child
which is to inherit his fortune: Of which the effects are visible enough
among the great ones of the world. Again, those heathens did in a
particular manner instil the principle into their children, of loving
their country; which is so far otherwise now-a-days, that, of the
several parties among us, there is none of them that seems to have so
much as heard, whether there be such a virtue in the world; as plainly
appears by their practices, and especially when they are placed in those
stations where they can only have opportunity of shewing it. Lastly; the
most considerable among the heathens did generally believe rewards and
punishments in a life to come; which is the great principle for
conscience to work upon; Whereas too many of those who would be thought
the most considerable among us, do, both by their practices and their
discourses, plainly affirm, that they believe nothing at all of the

Wherefore, since it hath manifestly appeared that a religious conscience
is the only true solid foundation upon which virtue can be built, give
me leave, before I conclude, to let you see how necessary such a
conscience is, to conduct us in every station and condition of our

That a religious conscience is necessary in any station, is confessed
even by those who tell us, that all religion was invented by cunning
men, in order to keep the world in awe. For, if religion, by the
confession of its adversaries, be necessary towards the well-governing
of mankind; then every wise man in power will be sure not only to choose
out for every station under him such persons as are most likely to be
kept in awe by religion, but likewise to carry some appearance of it
himself, or else he is a very weak politician. And accordingly in any
country where great persons affect to be open despisers of religion,
their counsels will be found at last to be fully as destructive to the
state as to the church.

It was the advice of Jethro to his son-in-law Moses, to "provide able
men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness," and to place
such over the people; and Moses, who was as wise a statesman, at least,
as any in this age, thought fit to follow that advice. Great abilities,
without the fear of God, are most dangerous instruments, when they are
trusted with power. The laws of man have thought fit, that those who are
called to any office of trust should be bound by an oath to the faithful
discharge of it: But, an oath is an appeal to God, and therefore can
have no influence except upon those who believe that he is, and that he
is a rewarder of those that seek him, and a punisher of those who
disobey him: And therefore, we see, the laws themselves are forced to
have recourse to conscience in these cases, because their penalties
cannot reach the arts of cunning men, who can find ways to be guilty of
a thousand injustices without being discovered, or at least without
being punished. And the reason why we find so many frauds, abuses, and
corruptions, where any trust is conferred, can be no other, than that
there is so little conscience and religion left in the world, or at
least that men in their choice of instruments have private ends in view,
which are very different from the service of the public. Besides, it is
certain, that men who profess to have no religion, are full as zealous
to bring over proselytes as any Papist or fanatic can be. And therefore,
if those who are in station high enough to be of influence or example to
others; if those (I say) openly profess a contempt or disbelief of
religion, they will be sure to make all their dependents of their own
principles; and what security can the public expect from such persons,
whenever their interests, or their lusts, come into competition with
their duty? It is very possible for a man who hath the appearance of
religion, and is a great pretender to conscience, to be wicked and a
hypocrite; but, it is impossible for a man who openly declares against
religion, to give any reasonable security that he will not be false and
cruel, and corrupt, whenever a temptation offers, which he values more
than he does the power wherewith he was trusted. And, if such a man doth
not betray his cause and his master, it is only because the temptation
was not properly offered, or the profit was too small, or the danger was
too great. And hence it is, that we find so little truth or justice
among us, because there are so very few, who either in the service of
the public, or in common dealings with each other, do ever look farther
than their own advantage, and how to guard themselves against the laws
of the country; which a man may do by favour, by secrecy, or by cunning,
although he breaks almost every law of God.

Therefore to conclude: It plainly appears, that unless men are guided by
the advice and judgment of a conscience founded on religion, they can
give no security that they will be either good subjects, faithful
servants of the public, or honest in their mutual dealings; since there
is no other tie through which the pride, or lust, or avarice, or
ambition of mankind will not certainly break one time or other.

Consider what has been said, &c.



"For there are three that bear record in Heaven, the Father, the Word,
and the Holy Ghost; and these Three are One."

This day being set apart to acknowledge our belief in the Eternal
Trinity, I thought it might be proper to employ my present discourse
entirely upon that subject; and, I hope, to handle it in such a manner,
that the most ignorant among you may return home better informed of your
duty in this great point, than probably you are at present.

It must be confessed, that by the weakness and indiscretion of busy (or
at best, of well-meaning) people, as well as by the malice of those who
are enemies to all revealed religion, and are not content to possess
their own infidelity in silence, without communicating it to the
disturbance of mankind; I say, by these means, it must be confessed,
that the doctrine of the Trinity hath suffered very much, and made
Christianity suffer along with it. For these two things must be granted:
First, that men of wicked lives would be very glad there were no truth
in Christianity at all; and secondly, if they can pick out any one
single article in the Christian religion which appears not agreeable to
their own corrupted reason, or to the arguments of those bad people, who
follow the trade of seducing others, they presently conclude, that the
truth of the whole Gospel must sink along with that one article; which
is just as wise, as if a man should say, because he dislikes one law of
his country, he will therefore observe no law at all; and yet, that one
law may be very reasonable in itself, although he does not allow it, or
does not know the reason of the law-givers.

Thus it hath happened with the great doctrine of the Trinity; which word
is indeed not in the Scripture, but was a term of art invented in the
earlier times to express the doctrine by a single word, for the sake of
brevity and convenience. The doctrine then, as delivered in Holy
Scripture, although not exactly in the same words, is very short, and
amounts only to this, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, are
each of them God, and yet there is but one God. For, as to the word
Person, when we say there are three Persons; and as to those other
explanations in the Athanasian Creed this day read to you (whether
compiled by Athanasius or no) they were taken up three hundred years
after Christ, to expound this doctrine; and I will tell you upon what
occasion. About that time there sprang up a heresy of a people called
Arians, from one Arius the leader of them. These denied our Saviour to
be God, although they allowed all the rest of the Gospel (wherein they
were more sincere than their followers among us). Thus the Christian
world was divided into two parts, until at length, by the zeal and
courage of St Athanasius, the Arians were condemned in a general
council, and a creed formed upon the true faith, as St Athanasius hath
settled it. This creed is now read at certain times in our churches,
which, although it is useful for edification to those who understand it;
yet, since it containeth some nice and philosophical points which few
people can comprehend, the bulk of mankind is obliged to believe no more
than the Scripture doctrine, as I have delivered it. Because that creed
was intended only as an answer to the Arians in their own way, who were
very subtle disputers.

But this heresy having revived in the world about a hundred years ago,
and continued ever since; not out of a zeal to truth, but to give a
loose to wickedness, by throwing off all religion; several divines, in
order to answer the cavils of those adversaries to truth and morality,
began to find out farther explanations of this doctrine of the Trinity,
by rules of philosophy; which have multiplied controversies to such a
degree, as to beget scruples that have perplexed the minds of many sober
Christians, who otherwise could never have entertained them.

I must therefore be bold to affirm, that the method taken by many of
those learned men to defend the doctrine of the Trinity, hath been
founded upon a mistake.

It must be allowed, that every man is bound to follow the rules and
directions of that measure of reason which God hath given him; and
indeed he cannot do otherwise, if he will be sincere, or act like a man.
For instance: If I should be commanded by an angel from heaven to
believe it is midnight at noon-day; yet I could not believe him. So, if
I were directly told in Scripture that three are one, and one is three,
I could not conceive or believe it in the natural common sense of that
expression, but must suppose that something dark or mystical was meant,
which it pleased God to conceal from me and from all the world. Thus, in
the text, "There are Three that bear record," &c. Am I capable of
knowing and defining what union and what distinction there may be in the
divine nature, which possibly may be hid from the angels themselves?
Again, I see it plainly declared in Scripture, that there is but one
God; and yet I find our Saviour claiming the prerogative of God in
knowing men's thoughts; in saying, "He and his Father are one;" and,
"before Abraham was, I am." I read, that the disciples worshipped him;
that Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God." And St John, chap, 1st,
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word
was God." I read likewise that the Holy Ghost bestowed the gift of
tongues, and the power of working miracles; which, if rightly
considered, is as great a miracle as any, that a number of illiterate
men should of a sudden be qualified to speak all the languages then
known in the world; such as could be done by the inspiration of God
done. From these several texts it is plain, that God commands us to
believe that there is an union and there is a distinction; but what that
union, or what that distinction is, all mankind are equally ignorant,
and must continue so, at least till the day of judgment, without some
new revelation.

But because I cannot conceive the nature of this union and distinction
in the divine nature, am I therefore to reject them as absurd and
impossible; as I would, if any one told me that three men are one, and
one man is three? We are told, that a man and his wife are one flesh;
this I can comprehend the meaning of; yet, literally taken, it is a
thing impossible. But the apostle tell us, "We see but in part, and we
know but in part;" and yet we would comprehend all the secret ways and
workings of God.

Therefore I shall again repeat the doctrine of the Trinity, as it is
positively affirmed in Scripture: that God is there expressed in three
different names, as Father, as Son, and as Holy Ghost: that each of
these is God, and that there is but one God. But this union and
distinction are a mystery utterly unknown to mankind.

This is enough for any good Christian to believe on this great article,
without ever inquiring any farther: And, this can be contrary to no
man's reason, although the knowledge of it is hid from him.

But there is another difficulty of great importance among those who
quarrel with the doctrine of the Trinity, as well as with several other
articles of Christianity; which is, that our religion abounds in
mysteries, and these they are so bold as to revile as cant, imposture,
and priestcraft. It is impossible for us to determine for what reasons
God thought fit to communicate some things to us in part, and leave some
part a mystery. But so it is in fact, and so the Holy Scripture tells us
in several places. For instance: the resurrection and change of our
bodies are called mysteries by St Paul: and our Saviour's incarnation is
another: The Kingdom of God is called a mystery by our Saviour, to be
only known to his disciples; so is faith, and the word of God by St
Paul. I omit many others. So, that to declare against all mysteries
without distinction or exception, is to declare against the whole tenor
of the New Testament.

There are two conditions that may bring a mystery under suspicion.
First, when it is not taught and commanded in Holy Writ; or, secondly,
when the mystery turns to the advantage of those who preach it to
others. Now, as to the first, it can never be said, that we preach
mysteries without warrant from Holy Scripture, although I confess this
of the Trinity may have sometimes been explained by human invention,
which might perhaps better have been spared. As to the second, it will
not be possible to charge the Protestant priesthood with proposing any
temporal advantage to themselves by broaching or multiplying, or
preaching of mysteries. Does this mystery of the Trinity, for instance,
and the descent of the Holy Ghost, bring the least profit or power to
the preachers? No; it is as great a mystery to themselves as it is to
the meanest of their hearers; and may be rather a cause of humiliation,
by putting their understanding in that point upon a level with the most
ignorant of their flock. It is true indeed, the Roman church hath very
much enriched herself by trading in mysteries, for which they have not
the least authority from Scripture, and were fitted only to advance
their own temporal wealth and grandeur; such as transubstantiation, the
worshipping of images, indulgences for sins, purgatory, and masses for
the dead; with many more: But, it is the perpetual talent of those who
have ill-will to our Church, or a contempt for all religion, taken up by
the wickedness of their lives, to charge us with the errors and
corruptions of Popery, which all Protestants have thrown off near two
hundred years: whereas, those mysteries held by us have no prospect of
power, pomp, or wealth, but have been ever maintained by the universal
body of true believers from the days of the apostles, and will be so to
the resurrection; neither will the gates of hell prevail against them.

It may be thought perhaps a strange thing, that God should require us to
believe mysteries, while the reason or manner of what we are to believe
is above our comprehension, and wholly concealed from us: neither doth
it appear at first sight, that the believing or not believing them doth
concern either the glory of God, or contribute to the goodness or
wickedness of our lives. But this is a great and dangerous mistake. We
see what a mighty weight is laid upon faith, both in the Old and New
Testament. In the former we read how the faith of Abraham is praised,
who could believe that God would raise from him a great nation, at the
very time that he was commanded to sacrifice his only son, and despaired
of any other issue. And this was to him a great mystery. Our Saviour is
perpetually preaching faith to his disciples, or reproaching them with
the want of it: and St Paul produceth numerous examples of the wonders
done by faith. And all this is highly reasonable: For faith is an entire
dependence upon the truth, the power, the justice, and the mercy of God;
which dependence will certainly incline us to obey him in all things.
So, that the great excellency of faith, consists in the consequence it
hath upon our actions: as, if we depend upon the truth and wisdom of a
man, we shall certainly be more disposed to follow his advice.
Therefore, let no man think that he can lead as good a moral life
without faith as with it; for this reason, because he who hath no faith,
cannot, by the strength of his own reason or endeavours, so easily
resist temptations, as the other who depends upon God's assistance in
the overcoming his frailties, and is sure to be rewarded for ever in
heaven for his victory over them. "Faith," says the apostle, "is the
evidence of things not seen": he means, that faith is a virtue by which
anything commanded us by God to believe appears evident and certain to
us, although we do not see, nor can conceive it; because, by faith we
entirely depend upon the truth and power of God.

It is an old and true distinction, that things may be above our reason,
without being contrary to it. Of this kind are the power, the nature,
and the universal presence of God, with innumerable other points. How
little do those who quarrel with mysteries, know of the commonest
actions of nature! The growth of an animal, of a plant, or of the
smallest seed, is a mystery to the wisest among men. If an ignorant
person were told that a loadstone would draw iron at a distance, he
might say it was a thing contrary to his reason, and could not believe
before he saw it with his eyes.

The manner whereby the soul and body are united, and how they are
distinguished, is wholly unaccountable to us. We see but one part, and
yet we know we consist of two; and this is a mystery we cannot
comprehend, any more than that of the Trinity.

From what hath been said, it is manifest that God did never command us
to believe, nor his ministers to preach, any doctrine which is contrary
to the reason he hath pleased to endow us with; but for his own wise
ends has thought fit to conceal from us the nature of the thing he
commands; thereby to try our faith and obedience, and increase our
dependence upon him.

It is highly probable, that if God should please to reveal unto us this
great mystery of the Trinity, or some other mysteries in our holy
religion, we should not be able to understand them, unless he would at
the same time think fit to bestow on us some new powers or faculties of
the mind, which we want at present, and are reserved till the day of
resurrection to life eternal. "For now," as the apostle says, "we see
through a glass darkly, but then face to face."

Thus, we see, the matter is brought to this issue: We must either
believe what God directly commands us in Holy Scripture, or we must
wholly reject the Scripture, and the Christian religion which we pretend
to profess. But this, I hope, is too desperate a step for any of us to

I have already observed, that those who preach up the belief of the
Trinity, or of any other mystery, cannot propose any temporal advantage
to themselves by so doing. But this is not the case of those who oppose
these doctrines. Do _they_ lead better moral lives than a good
Christian? Are _they_ more just in their dealings? more chaste, or
temperate, or charitable? Nothing at all of this; but on the contrary,
their intent is to overthrow all religion, that they may gratify their
vices without any reproach from the world, or their own conscience: and
are zealous to bring over as many others as they can to their own
opinions; because it is some kind of imaginary comfort to have a
multitude on their side.

There is no miracle mentioned in Holy Writ, which, if it were strictly
examined, is not as much, contrary to common reason, and as much a
mystery, as this doctrine of the Trinity; and therefore we may, with
equal justice deny the truth of them all. For instance: It is against
the laws of nature, that a human body should be able to walk upon the
water, as St Peter is recorded to have done; or that a dead carcass
should be raised from the grave after three days, when it began to be
corrupted; which those who understand anatomy will pronounce to be
impossible by the common rules of nature and reason. Yet these miracles,
and many others, are positively affirmed in the Gospel; and these we
must believe, or give up our holy religion to atheists and infidels.

I shall now make a few inferences and observations upon what has been

_First_: It would be well, if people would not lay so much weight on
their own reason in matters of religion, as to think everything
impossible and absurd which they cannot conceive. How often do we
contradict the right rules of reason in the whole course of our lives!
Reason itself is true and just, but the reason of every particular man
is weak and wavering, perpetually swayed and turned by his interests,
his passions, and his vices. Let any man but consider, when he hath a
controversy with another, although his cause be ever so unjust, although
the world be against him, how blinded he is by the love of himself, to
believe that right is wrong, and wrong is right, when it maketh for his
own advantage. Where is then the right use of his reason, which he so
much boasts of, and which he would blasphemously set up to control the
commands of the Almighty?

_Secondly_: When men are tempted to deny the mysteries of religion, let
them examine and search into their own hearts, whether they have not
some favourite sin which is of their party in this dispute, and which is
equally contrary to other commands of God in the Gospel. For, why do men
love darkness rather than light? The Scripture tells us, "Because their
deeds are evil;" and there can be no other reason assigned. Therefore
when men are curious and inquisitive to discover some weak sides in
Christianity, and inclined to favour everything that is offered to its
disadvantage; it is plain they wish it were not true, and those wishes
can proceed from nothing but an evil conscience; because, if there be
truth in our religion, their condition must be miserable.

And therefore, _Thirdly_: Men should consider, that raising difficulties
concerning the mysteries in religion, cannot make them more wise,
learned, or virtuous; better neighbours, or friends, or more serviceable
to their country; but, whatever they pretend, will destroy their inward
peace of mind, by perpetual doubts and fears arising in their breasts.
And, God forbid we should ever see the times so bad, when dangerous
opinions in religion will be a means to get favour and preferment;
although, even in such a case, it would be an ill traffic, to gain the
world, and lose our own souls. So, that upon the whole, it will be
impossible to find any real use toward a virtuous or happy life, by
denying the mysteries of the Gospel.

_Fourthly_: Those strong unbelievers, who expect that all mysteries
should be squared and fitted to their own reason, might have somewhat to
say for themselves, if they could satisfy the general reason of mankind
in their opinions: But herein they are miserably defective, absurd, and
ridiculous; they strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel; they can believe
that the world was made by chance; that God doth not concern himself
with things below; will neither punish vice, nor reward virtue; that
religion was invented by cunning men to keep the world in awe; with many
other opinions equally false and detestable, against the common light of
nature as well as reason; against the universal sentiments of all
civilized nations, and offensive to the ears even of a sober heathen.

_Lastly_: Since the world abounds with pestilent books particularly
against this doctrine of the Trinity; it is fit to inform you, that the
authors of them proceed wholly upon a mistake: They would shew how
impossible it is that three can be one, and one can be three; whereas
the Scripture saith no such thing, at least in that manner they would
make it: but, only, that there is some kind of unity and distinction in
the divine nature, which mankind cannot possibly comprehend: thus, the
whole doctrine is short and plain, and in itself incapable of any
controversy: since God himself hath pronounced the fact, but wholly
concealed the manner. And therefore many divines, who thought fit to
answer those wicked books, have been mistaken too, by answering fools in
their folly; and endeavouring to explain a mystery, which God intended
to keep secret from us. And, as I would exhort all men to avoid reading
those wicked books written against this doctrine, as dangerous and
pernicious; so I think they may omit the answers, as unnecessary. This I
confess will probably affect but few or none among the generality of our
congregations, who do not much trouble themselves with books, at least
of this kind. However, many who do not read themselves, are seduced by
others that do; and thus become unbelievers upon trust and at
second-hand; and this is too frequent a case: for which reason I have
endeavoured to put this doctrine upon a short and sure foot, levelled to
the meanest understanding; by which we may, as the apostle directs, be
ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh us a reason of
the hope that is in us, with meekness and fear.

And, thus I have done with my subject, which probably I should not have
chosen, if I had not been invited to it by the occasion of this season,
appointed on purpose to celebrate the mysteries of the Trinity, and the
descent of the Holy Ghost, wherein we pray to be kept stedfast in this
faith; and what this faith is I have shewn you in the plainest manner I
could. For, upon the whole, it is no more than this: God commandeth us,
by our dependence upon His truth, and His Holy Word, to believe a fact
that we do not understand. And, this is no more than what we do every
day in the works of nature, upon the credit of men of learning. Without
faith we can do no works acceptable to God; for, if they proceed from
any other principle, they will not advance our salvation; and this
faith, as I have explained it, we may acquire without giving up our
senses, or contradicting our reason. May God of his infinite mercy
inspire us with true faith in every article and mystery of our holy
religion, so as to dispose us to do what is pleasing in his sight; and
this we pray through Jesus Christ, to whom, with the Father and the Holy
Ghost, the mysterious, incomprehensible ONE GOD, be all honour and glory
now and for evermore! _Amen_.


[Footnote: 1 Notwithstanding the text and title of this sermon, and the
many excellent observations which it contains in illustration of both,
there are several passages in it which the dissenters of the time would
hardly consider as propitiatory towards the continuance of brotherly
love. There are also various allusions to the parties which raged at the
time, and some which appear to have been written in defence of the
preacher's character, then severely arraigned by the Irish Whigs, and
held in abhorrence by the people of Dublin, by whom he was afterwards
idolized. [S.]]


"Let brotherly love continue."

In the early times of the Gospel, the Christians were very much
distinguished from all other bodies of men, by the great and constant
love they bore to each other; which, although it was done in obedience
to the frequent injunctions of our Saviour and his apostles, yet, I
confess, there seemeth to have been likewise a natural reason, that very
much promoted it. For the Christians then were few and scattered, living
under persecution by the heathens round about them, in whose hands was
all the civil and military power; and there is nothing so apt to unite
the minds and hearts of men, or to beget love and tenderness, as a
general distress. The first dissensions between Christians took their
beginning from the errors and heresies that arose among them; many of
those heresies, sometimes extinguished, and sometimes reviving, or
succeeded by others, remain to this day; and having been made
instruments to the pride, avarice, or ambition, of ill-designing men, by
extinguishing brotherly love, have been the cause of infinite
calamities, as well as corruptions of faith and manners, in the
Christian world.

The last legacy of Christ was peace and mutual love; but then he
foretold, that he came to send a sword upon the earth: The primitive
Christians accepted the legacy, and their successors down to the present
age have been largely fulfilling his prophecy. But whatever the practice
of mankind hath been, or still continues, there is no duty more
incumbent upon those who profess the Gospel, than that of brotherly
love; which, whoever could restore in any degree among men, would be an
instrument of more good to human society, than ever was, or will be,
done by all the statesmen and politicians in the world.

It is upon this subject of brotherly love, that I intend to discourse at
present, and the method I observe shall be as follows:--

I. _First_, I will inquire into the causes of this great want of
brotherly love among us.

II. _Secondly_, I will lay open the sad effects and consequences, which
our animosities and mutual hatred have produced.

III. _Lastly_, I will use some motives and exhortations, that may
persuade you to embrace brotherly love, and continue in it.

I. _First_, I shall enquire into the causes of this great want of
brotherly love among us.

This nation of ours hath, for an hundred years past, been infested by
two enemies, the Papists and fanatics, who, each in their turns, filled
it with blood and slaughter, and, for a time, destroyed both the Church
and government. The memory of these events hath put all true Protestants
equally upon their guard against both these adversaries, who, by
consequence, do equally hate us. The fanatics revile us, as too nearly
approaching to Popery; and the Papists condemn us, as bordering too much
on fanaticism. The Papists, God be praised, are, by the wisdom of our
laws, put out of all visible possibility of hurting us; besides, their
religion is so generally abhorred, that they have no advocates or
abettors among Protestants to assist them. But the fanatics are to be
considered in another light; they have had of late years the power, the
luck, or the cunning, to divide us among ourselves; they have
endeavoured to represent all those who have been so bold as to oppose
their errors and designs, under the character of persons disaffected to
the government; and they have so far succeeded, that, now-a-days, if a
clergyman happens to preach with any zeal and vehemence against the sin
and danger of schism, there will not want too many, in his congregation,
ready enough to censure him as hot and high-flying, an inflamer of men's
minds, an enemy to moderation, and disloyal to his prince. This hath
produced a formed and settled division between those who profess the
same doctrine and discipline; while they who call themselves moderate
are forced to widen their bottom, by sacrificing their principles and
their brethren to the encroachments and insolence of dissenters, who are
therefore answerable, as a principal cause of all that hatred and
animosity now reigning among us.

Another cause of the great want of brotherly love is the weakness and
folly of too many among you of the lower sort, who are made the tools
and instruments of your betters to work their designs, wherein you have
no concern. Your numbers make you of use, and cunning men take the
advantage, by putting words into your mouths, which you do not
understand; then they fix good or ill characters to those words, as it
best serves their purposes: And thus you are taught to love or hate, you
know not what or why; you often suspect your best friends, and nearest
neighbours, even your teacher himself, without any reason, if your
leaders once taught you to call him by a name, which they tell you
signifieth some very bad thing.

A third cause of our great want of brotherly love seemeth to be, that
this duty is not so often insisted on from the pulpit, as it ought to be
in such times as these; on the contrary, it is to be doubted, whether
doctrines are not sometimes delivered by an ungoverned zeal, a desire to
be distinguished, or a view of interest, which produce quite different
effects; when, upon occasions set apart to return thanks to God for some
public blessing, the time is employed in stirring up one part of the
congregation against the other, by representations of things and
persons, which God, in his mercy, forgive those who are guilty of.

The last cause I shall mention of the want of brotherly love is, that
unhappy disposition towards politics among the trading people, which has
been industriously instilled into them. In former times, the middle and
lower sorts of mankind seldom gained or lost by the factions of the
kingdom, and therefore were little concerned in them, further than as
matter of talk and amusement; but now the meanest dealer will expect to
turn the penny by the merits of his party. He can represent his
neighbour as a man of dangerous principles, can bring a railing
accusation against him, perhaps a criminal one, and so rob him of his
livelihood, and find his own account by that much more than if he had
disparaged his neighbour's goods, or defamed him as a cheat. For so it
happens, that, instead of enquiring into the skill or honesty of those
kind of people, the manner is now to enquire into their party, and to
reject or encourage them accordingly; which proceeding hath made our
people, in general, such able politicians, that all the artifice,
flattery, dissimulation, diligence, and dexterity, in undermining each
other, which the satirical wit of men hath charged upon courts; together
with all the rage and violence, cruelty and injustice, which have been
ever imputed to public assemblies; are with us (so polite are we grown)
to be seen among our meanest traders and artificers in the greatest
perfection. All which, as it may be matter of some humiliation to the
wise and mighty of this world, so the effects thereof may, perhaps, in
time, prove very different from what, I hope in charity, were ever
foreseen or intended.

II. I will therefore now, in the second place, lay open some of the sad
effects and consequences which our animosities and mutual hatred have

And the first ill consequence is, that our want of brotherly love hath
almost driven out all sense of religion from among us, which cannot well
be otherwise; for since our Saviour laid so much weight upon his
disciples loving one another, that he gave it among his last
instructions; and since the primitive Christians are allowed to have
chiefly propagated the faith by their strict observance of that
instruction, it must follow that, in proportion as brotherly love
declineth, Christianity will do so too. The little religion there is in
the world, hath been observed to reside chiefly among the middle and
lower sorts of people, who are neither tempted to pride nor luxury by
great riches, nor to desperate courses by extreme poverty: And truly I,
upon that account, have thought it a happiness, that those who are under
my immediate care are generally of that condition; but where party hath
once made entrance, with all its consequences of hatred, envy,
partiality, and virulence, religion cannot long keep its hold in any
state or degree of life whatsoever. For, if the great men of the world
have been censured in all ages for mingling too little religion with
their politics, what a havoc of principles must they needs make in
unlearned and irregular heads; of which indeed the effects are already
too visible and melancholy all over the kingdom!

Another ill consequence from our want of brotherly love is, that it
increaseth the insolence of the fanatics; and this partly ariseth from a
mistaken meaning of the word moderation; a word which hath been much
abused, and bandied about for several years past. There are too many
people indifferent enough to all religion; there are many others, who
dislike the clergy, and would have them live in poverty and dependence;
both these sorts are much commended by the fanatics for moderate men,
ready to put an end to our divisions, and to make a general union among
Protestants. Many ignorant well-meaning people are deceived by these
appearances, strengthened with great pretences to loyalty: and these
occasions the fanatics lay hold on, to revile the doctrine and
discipline of the Church, and even insult and oppress the clergy
wherever their numbers or favourers will bear them out; insomuch, that
one wilful refractory fanatic hath been able to disturb a whole parish
for many years together. But the most moderate and favoured divines dare
not own, that the word moderation, with respect to the dissenters, can
be at all applied to their religion, but is purely personal or
prudential. No good man repineth at the liberty of conscience they
enjoy; and, perhaps a very moderate divine may think better of their
loyalty than others do; or, to speak after the manner of men, may think
it necessary, that all Protestants should be united against the common
enemy; or out of discretion, or other reasons best known to himself, be
tender of mentioning them at all. But still the errors of the dissenters
are all fixed and determined, and must, upon demand, be acknowledged by
all the divines of our church, whether they be called, in party phrase,
high or low, moderate or violent. And further, I believe it would be
hard to find many moderate divines, who, if their opinion were asked
whether dissenters should be trusted with power, could, according to
their consciences, answer in the affirmative; from whence it is plain,
that all the stir which the fanatics have made with this word
moderation, was only meant to increase our divisions, and widen them so
far as to make room for themselves to get in between. And this is the
only scheme they ever had (except that of destroying root and branch)
for the uniting of Protestants, they so much talk of.

I shall mention but one ill consequence more, which attends our want of
brotherly love; that it hath put an end to all hospitality and
friendship, all good correspondence and commerce between mankind. There
are indeed such things as leagues and confederacies among those of the
same party; but surely God never intended that men should be so limited
in the choice of their friends: However, so it is in town and country,
in every parish and street; the pastor is divided from his flock, the
father from his son, and the house often divided against itself. Men's
very natures are soured, and their passions inflamed, when they meet in
party clubs, and spend their time in nothing else but railing at the
opposite side; thus every man alive among us is encompassed with a
million of enemies of his own country, among which his oldest
acquaintance and friends, and kindred themselves, are often of the
number; neither can people of different parties mix together without
constraint, suspicion, or jealousy, watching every word they speak, for
fear of giving offence, or else falling into rudeness and reproaches,
and so leaving themselves open to the malice and corruption of
informers, who were never more numerous or expert in their trade. And as
a further addition to this evil, those very few, who, by the goodness
and generosity of their nature, do in their own hearts despise this
narrow principle of confining their friendship and esteem, their charity
and good offices, to those of their own party, yet dare not discover
their good inclinations, for fear of losing their favour and interest.
And others again, whom God had formed with mild and gentle dispositions,
think it necessary to put a force upon their own tempers, by acting a
noisy, violent, malicious part, as a means to be distinguished. Thus hath
party got the better of the very genius and constitution of our people;
so that whoever reads the character of the English in former ages, will
hardly believe their present posterity to be of the same nation or

III. I shall now, in the last place, make use of some motives and
exhortations, that may persuade you to embrace brotherly love, and
continue in it. Let me apply myself to you of the lower sort, and desire
you will consider, when any of you make use of fair and enticing words
to draw in customers, whether you do it for their sakes or your own. And
then, for whose sakes do you think it is, that your leaders are so
industrious to put into your heads all that party rage and virulence? Is
it not to make you the tools and instruments, by which they work out
their own designs? Has this spirit of faction been useful to any of you
in your worldly concerns, except to those who have traded in whispering,
backbiting, or informing, and wanted skill or honesty to thrive by
fairer methods? It is no business of yours to inquire, who is at the
head of armies, or of councils, unless you had power and skill to
choose, neither of which is ever likely to be your case; and therefore
to fill your heads with fears, and hatred of persons and things, of
which it is impossible you can ever make a right judgment, or to set you
at variance with your neighbour, because his thoughts are not the same
as yours, is not only in a very gross manner to cheat you of your time
and quiet, but likewise to endanger your souls.

_Secondly_: In order to restore brotherly love, let me earnestly exhort
you to stand firm in your religion; I mean, the true religion hitherto
established among us, without varying in the least either to Popery on
the one side, or to fanaticism on the other; and in a particular manner
beware of that word, moderation; and believe it, that your neighbour is
not immediately a villain, a Papist, and a traitor, because the fanatics
and their adherents will not allow him to be a moderate man.

Nay, it is very probable, that your teacher himself may be a loyal,
pious, and able divine, without the least grain of moderation, as the
word is too frequently understood. Therefore, to set you right in this
matter, I will lay before you the character of a truly moderate man, and
then I will give you the description of such a one as falsely pretendeth
to that title.

A man truly moderate is steady in the doctrine and discipline of the
Church, but with a due Christian charity to all who dissent from it out
of a principle of conscience; the freedom of which, he thinketh, ought
to be fully allowed, as long as it is not abused, but never trusted with
power. He is ready to defend with his life and fortune the Protestant
succession, and the Protestant established faith, against all invaders
whatsoever. He is for giving the Crown its just prerogative, and the
people their just liberties. He hateth no man for differing from him in
political opinions; nor doth he think it a maxim infallible, that virtue
should always attend upon favour, and vice upon disgrace. These are some
few lineaments in the character of a truly moderate man; let us now
compare it with the description of one who usually passeth under that

A moderate man, in the new meaning of the word, is one to whom all
religion is indifferent; who although he denominates himself of the
Church, regardeth it no more than a conventicle. He perpetually raileth
at the body of the clergy, with exceptions only to a very few, who, he
hopeth, and probably upon false grounds, are as ready to betray their
rights and properties as himself. He thinketh the power of the people
can never be too great, nor that of the prince too little; and yet this
very notion he publisheth, as his best argument, to prove him a most
loyal subject. Every opinion in government, that differeth in the least
from his, tendeth directly to Popery, slavery, and rebellion. Whoever
lieth under the frown of power, can, in his judgment, neither have
common sense, common honesty, nor religion. Lastly, his devotion
consisteth in drinking gibbets, confusion, and damnation[1]; in
profanely idolizing the memory of one dead prince,[2] and ungratefully
trampling upon the ashes of another.[3]

[Footnote 1: The subject of these political toasts was the theme of much
discussion in Ireland. [S.]]

[Footnote 2: King William.]

[Footnote 3: Queen Anne.]

By these marks you will easily distinguish a truly moderate man from
those who are commonly, but very falsely, so called; and while persons
thus qualified are so numerous and so noisy, so full of zeal and
industry to gain proselytes, and spread their opinions among the people,
it cannot be wondered at that there should be so little brotherly love
left among us.

_Lastly_: It would probably contribute to restore some degree of
brotherly love, if we would but consider, that the matter of those
disputes, which inflame us to this degree, doth not, in its own nature,
at all concern the generality of mankind. Indeed as to those who have
been great gainers or losers by the changes of the world, the case is
different; and to preach moderation to the first, and patience to the
last, would perhaps be to little purpose: But what is that to the bulk
of the people, who are not properly concerned in the quarrel, although
evil instruments have drawn them into it? For, if the reasonable men on
both sides were to confer opinions, they would find neither religion,
loyalty, nor interest, are at all affected in this dispute. Not
religion, because the members of the Church, on both sides, profess to
agree in every article: Not loyalty to our prince, which is pretended to
by one party as much as the other, and therefore can be no subject for
debate: Not interest, for trade and industry lie open to all; and, what
is further, concerns only those who have expectations from the public:
So that the body of the people, if they knew their own good, might yet
live amicably together, and leave their betters to quarrel among
themselves, who might also probably soon come to a better temper, if
they were less seconded and supported by the poor deluded multitude.

I have now done with my text, which I confess to have treated in a
manner more suited to the present times, than to the nature of the
subject in general. That I have not been more particular in explaining
the several parts and properties of this great duty of brotherly love,
the apostle to the Thessalonians will plead my excuse.--"Touching
brotherly love" (saith he) "ye need not that I write unto you, for ye
yourselves are taught of God to love one another[4]." So that nothing
remains to add, but our prayers to God, that he would please to restore
and continue this duty of brotherly love or charity among us, the very
bond of peace and of all virtues.

[Footnote 4: 1 Thess. iv. 9.]

_Nov._ 29, 1717.


[Footnote 1: Prefixed to the issue in volume ten, "Miscellanies," 1745,
is the following:


"The manuscript title page of the following sermon being lost, and no
memorandum writ upon it, as there were upon the others, when and where
it was preached, made the editor doubtful whether he should print it as
the Dean's, or not. But its being found amongst the same papers; and the
hand, though writ somewhat better, bearing a great similitude to the
Dean's, made him willing to lay it before the public, that they might
judge whether the style and manner also does not render it still more
probable to be his." [T.S.]]


"And Hazael said, But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this
great thing?"

We have a very singular instance of the deceitfulness of the heart,
represented to us in the person of Hazael; who was sent to the prophet
Elisha, to enquire of the Lord concerning his master the King of Syria's
recovery. For the man of God, having told him that the king might
recover from the disorder he was then labouring under, begun to set and
fasten his countenance upon him of a sudden, and to break out into the
most violent expressions of sorrow, and a deep concern for it;
whereupon, when Hazael, full of shame and confusion, asked, "Why weepeth
my lord?" he answered, "Because I know all the evil that thou wilt do
unto the children of Israel; their strongholds wilt thou set on fire,
and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their
children, and rip up their women with child." Thus much did the man of
God say and know of him, by a light darted into his mind from heaven.
But Hazael not knowing himself so well as the other did, was startled
and amazed at the relation, and would not believe it possible that a man
of his temper could ever run out into such enormous instances of cruelty
and inhumanity. "What!" says he, "is thy servant a dog, that he should
do this great thing?"

And yet, for all this, it is highly probable that he was then that man
he could not imagine himself to be; for we find him, on the very next
day after his return, in a very treacherous and disloyal manner
murdering his own master, and usurping his kingdom; which was but a
prologue to the sad tragedy which he afterwards acted upon the people of

And now the case is but very little better with most men, than it was
with Hazael; however it comes to pass, they are wonderfully unacquainted
with their own temper and disposition, and know very little of what
passes within them: For of so many proud, ambitious, revengeful,
envying, and ill-natured persons, that are in the world, where is there
one of them, who, although he has all the symptoms of the vice appearing
upon every occasion, can look with such an impartial eye upon himself,
as to believe that the imputation thrown upon him is not altogether
groundless and unfair? Who, if he were told by men of a discerning
spirit and a strong conjecture, of all the evil and absurd things which
that false heart of his would at one time or other betray him into,
would not believe as little, and wonder as much, as Hazael did before
him? Thus, for instance; tell an angry person that he is weak and
impotent, and of no consistency of mind; tell him, that such or such a
little accident, which he may then despise and think much below a
passion, shall hereafter make him say and do several absurd, indiscreet,
and misbecoming things: He may perhaps own that he has a spirit of
resentment within him, that will not let him be imposed on, but he
fondly imagines that he can lay a becoming restraint upon it when he
pleases, although 'tis ever running away with him into some indecency or

Therefore, to bring the words of my text to our present occasion, I
shall endeavour, in a further prosecution of them, to evince the great
necessity of a nice and curious inspection into the several recesses of
the heart, being the surest and the shortest method that a wicked man
can take to reform himself: For let us but stop the fountain, and the
streams will spend and waste themselves away in a very little time; but
if we go about, like children, to raise a bank, and to stop the current,
not taking notice all the while of the spring which continually feeds
it, when the next flood of temptation rises, and breaks in upon it, then
we shall find that we have begun at the wrong end of our duty, and that
we are very little more the better for it, than if we had sat still, and
made no advances at all.

But, in order to a clearer explanation of the point, I shall speak to
these following particulars:--

_First_: By endeavouring to prove, from particular instances, that man
is generally the most ignorant creature in the world of himself.

_Secondly_: By inquiring into the grounds and reasons of his ignorance.

_Thirdly_ and _Lastly_: By proposing several advantages that do most
assuredly attend a due improvement in the knowledge of ourselves.

_First_, then: To prove that man is generally the most ignorant creature
in the world, of himself.

To pursue the heart of man through all the instances of life, in all its
several windings and turnings, and under that infinite variety of shapes
and appearances which it puts on, would be a difficult and almost
impossible undertaking; so that I shall confine myself to such as have a
nearer reference to the present occasion, and do, upon a closer view,
shew themselves through the whole business of repentance. For we all
know what it is to repent, but whether he repents him truly of his sins
or not, who can know it?

Now the great duty of repentance is chiefly made up of these two parts,
a hearty sorrow for the follies and miscarriages of the time past, and a
full purpose and resolution of amendment for the time to come. And now,
to shew the falseness of the heart in both these parts of repentance,

_First_: As to a hearty sorrow for the sins and miscarriages of the time
past. Is there a more usual thing than for a man to impose upon himself,
by putting on a grave and demure countenance, by casting a severe look
into his past conduct, and making some few pious and devout reflections
upon it, and then to believe that he has repented to an excellent
purpose, without ever letting it step forth into practice, and shew
itself in a holy conversation? Nay, some persons do carry the deceit a
little higher; who if they can but bring themselves to weep for their
sins, they are then full of an ill-grounded confidence and security;
never considering that all this may prove to be no more than the very
garb and outward dress of a contrite heart, which another heart, as hard
as the nether millstone, may as well put on. For tears and sighs,
however in some persons they may be decent and commendable expressions
of a godly sorrow, are neither necessary, nor infallible signs of a true
and unfeigned repentance. Not necessary, because sometimes, and in some
persons, the inward grief and anguish of the mind may be too big to be
expressed by so little a thing as a tear, and then it turneth its edge
inward upon the mind; and like those wounds of the body which bleed
inwardly, generally proves the most fatal and dangerous to the whole
body of sin: Not infallible, because a very small portion of sorrow may
make some tender dispositions melt, and break out into tears; or a man
may perhaps weep at parting with his sins, as he would bid the last
farewell to an old friend.

But there is still a more pleasant cheat in this affair, that when we
find a deadness, and a strange kind of unaptness and indisposition to
all impressions of religion, and that we cannot be as truly sorry for
our sins as we should be, we then pretend to be sorry that we are not
more sorry for them; which is not more absurd and irrational, than that
a man should pretend to be very angry at a thing, because he did not
know how to be angry at all.

But after all, what is wanting in this part of repentance, we expect to
make up in the next; and to that purpose we put on a resolution of
amendment, which we take to be as firm as a house built upon a rock; so
that let the floods arise, and the winds blow, and the streams beat
vehemently upon it, nothing shall shake it into ruin or disorder. We
doubt not, upon the strength of this resolve, to stand fast and unmoved
amid the storm of a temptation; and do firmly believe, at the time we
make it, that nothing in the world will ever be able to make us commit
those sins over again, which we have so firmly resolved against.

Thus many a time have we come to the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper,
with a full purpose of amendment, and with as full a persuasion of
putting that same purpose into practice; and yet have we not all as
often broke that good purpose, and falsified that same persuasion, by
starting aside, like a broken bow, into those very sins, which we then
so solemnly and so confidently declared against?

Whereas had but any other person entered with us into a vow so solemn,
that he had taken the Holy Sacrament upon it, I believe had he but once
deceived us by breaking in upon the vow, we should hardly ever after be
prevailed upon to trust that man again, though we still continue to
trust our own fears, against reason and against experience.

This indeed is a dangerous deceit enough, and will of course betray all
those well-meaning persons into sin and folly, who are apt to take
religion for a much easier thing than it is. But this is not the only
mistake we are apt to run into; we do not only think sometimes that we
can do more than we can do, but sometimes that we are incapable of doing
less; an error of another kind indeed, but not less dangerous, arising
from a diffidence and false humility. For how much a wicked man can do
in the business of religion, if he would but do his best, is very often
more than he can tell.

Thus nothing is more common than to see a wicked man running headlong
into sin and folly, against his reason, against his religion, and
against his God. Tell him, that what he is going to do will be an
infinite disparagement to his understanding, which, at another time, he
sets no small value upon; tell him that it will blacken his reputation,
which he had rather die for than lose; tell him that the pleasure of sin
is short and transient, and leaves a vexatious kind of sting behind it,
which will very hardly be drawn forth; tell him that this is one of
those things for which God will most surely bring him to judgment, which
he pretends to believe with a full assurance and persuasion: And yet for
all this, he shuts his eyes against all conviction, and rusheth into the
sin like a horse into battle; as if he had nothing left to do, but, like
a silly child to wink hard, and to think to escape a certain and
infinite mischief, only by endeavouring not to see it.

And now to shew that the heart has given in a false report of the
temptation, we may learn from this, that the same weak man would resist
and master the same powerful temptation, upon considerations of
infinitely less value than those which religion offers, nay such vile
considerations, that the grace of God cannot without blasphemy be
supposed to add any manner of force and efficacy to them. Thus for
instance, it would be a hard matter to dress up a sin in such soft and
tempting circumstances, that a truly covetous man would not resist for a
considerable sum of money; when neither the hopes of heaven nor the
fears of hell could make an impression upon him before. But can anything
be a surer indication of the deceitfulness of the heart, than thus to
shew more courage, resolution, and activity, in an ill cause, than it
does in a good one? And to exert itself to better purpose, when it is to
serve its own pride, or lust, or revenge, or any other passion, than
when it is to serve God upon motives of the Gospel, and upon all the
arguments that have ever been made use of to bring men over to religion
and a good life? And thus having shewn that man is wonderfully apt to
deceive and impose upon himself, in passing through the several stages
of that great duty, repentance, I proceed now, in the

_Second place_: To inquire into the grounds and reasons of this
ignorance, _and to shew whence it comes to pass that man, the only
creature in the world that can reflect and look into himself, should
know so little of what passes within him, and be so very much
unacquainted even with the standing dispositions and complexion of his
own heart_. The prime reason of it is, because we so very seldom
converse with ourselves, and take so little notice of what passes within
us: For a man can no more know his own heart than he can know his own
face, any other way than by reflection: He may as well tell over every
feature of the smaller portions of his face without the help of a
looking-glass, as he can tell all the inward bents and tendencies of his
soul, those standing features and lineaments of the inward man, and know
all the various changes that this is liable to from custom, from
passion, and from opinion, without a very frequent use of looking within

For our passions and inclinations are not always upon the wing, and
always moving toward their respective objects, but retire now and then
into the more dark and hidden recesses of the heart, where they lie
concealed for a while, until a fresh occasion calls them forth again: So
that not every transient, oblique glance upon the mind can bring a man
into a thorough knowledge of all its strength and weaknesses; for a man
may sometimes turn the eye of the mind inward upon itself, as he may
behold his natural face in a glass, and go away, "and straight forget
what manner of man he was." But a man must rather sit down and unravel
every action of the past day into all its circumstances and
particularities, and observe how every little thing moved and affected
him, and what manner of impression it made upon his heart; this done
with that frequency and carefulness which the importance of the duty
does require, would in a short time bring him into a nearer and more
intimate acquaintance with himself.

But when men instead of this do pass away months and years in a perfect
slumber of the mind, without once awaking it, it is no wonder they
should be so very ignorant of themselves, and know very little more of
what passes within them than the very beasts which perish. But here it
may not be amiss to inquire into the reasons why most men have so little
conversation with themselves.

And, _first:_ Because this reflection is a work and labour of the mind,
and cannot be performed without some pain and difficulty: For, before a
man can reflect upon himself, and look into his heart with a steady eye,
he must contract his sight, and collect all his scattering and roving
thoughts into some order and compass, that he may be able to take a
clear and distinct view of them; he must retire from the world for a
while, and be unattentive to all impressions of sense; and how hard and
painful a thing must it needs be to a man of passion and infirmity, amid
such a crowd of objects that are continually striking upon the sense,
and soliciting the affections, not to be moved and interrupted by one or
other of them. But,

_Secondly:_ Another reason why we so seldom converse with ourselves, is,
because the business of the world takes up all our time, and leaveth us
no portion of it to spend upon this great work and labour of the mind.
Thus twelve or fourteen years pass away before we can well discern good
from evil; and of the rest so much goes away in sleep, so much in the
proper business of our calling, that we have none to lay out upon the
more serious and religious employments. Every man's life is an imperfect
sort of a circle, which he repeats and runs over every day; he has a set
of thoughts, desires, and inclinations, which return upon him in their
proper time and order, and will very hardly be laid aside, to make room
for anything new and uncommon: So that call upon him when you please, to
set about the study of his own heart, and you are sure to find him
pre-engaged; either he has some business to do, or some diversion to
take, some acquaintance that he must visit, or some company that he must
entertain, or some cross accident has put him out of humour, and
unfitted him for such a grave employment. And thus it cometh to pass
that a man can never find leisure to look into himself, because he does
not set apart some portion of the day for that very purpose, but
foolishly defers it from one day to another, till his glass is almost
run out, and he is called to give a miserable account of himself in the
other world. But,

_Thirdly_, Another reason why a man does not more frequently converse
with himself, is, because such conversation with his own heart may
discover some vice or some infirmity lurking within him, which he is
very unwilling to believe himself guilty of. For can there be a more
ungrateful thing to a man, than to find that upon a nearer view he is
not that person he took himself to be? That he had neither the courage,
nor the honesty, nor the piety, nor the humility that he dreamed he had?
That a very little pain, for instance, putteth him out of patience, and
as little pleasure softens and disarms him into ease and wantonness?
That he has been at more pains, and labour, and cost, to be revenged of
an enemy, than to oblige the best friend he has in the world? That he
cannot bring himself to say his prayers, without a great deal of
reluctancy; and when he does say them, the spirit and fervour of
devotion evaporate in a very short time, and he can scarcely hold out a
prayer of ten lines, without a number of idle and impertinent, if not
vain and wicked thoughts coming into his head? These are very unwelcome
discoveries that a man may make of himself; so that 'tis no wonder that
every one who is already flushed with a good opinion of himself, should
rather study how to run away from it, than how to converse with his own

But further, if a man were both able and willing to retire into his own
heart, and to set apart some portion of the day for that very purpose;
yet he is still disabled from passing a fair and impartial judgment upon
himself, by several difficulties, arising partly from prejudice and
prepossession, partly from the lower appetites and inclinations. And,

_First_: That the business of prepossession may lead and betray a man
into a false judgment of his own heart. For we may observe, that the
first opinion we take up of anything, or any person, does generally
stick close to us; the nature of the mind being such, that it cannot but
desire, and consequently endeavour to have some certain principles to go
upon, something fixed and unmoveable, whereon it may rest and support
itself. And hence it comes to pass, that some persons are with so much
difficulty brought to think well of a man they have once entertained an
ill opinion of: and perhaps that too for a very absurd and unwarrantable
reason. But how much more difficult then must it be for a man, who takes
up a fond opinion of his own heart long before he has either years or
sense enough to understand it, either to be persuaded out of it by
himself, whom he loveth so well, or by another, whose interest or
diversion it may be to make him ashamed of himself! Then,

_Secondly_: As to the difficulties arising from the inferior appetites
and inclinations, let any man look into his own heart, and observe in
how different a light, and under what different complexions, any two
sins of equal turpitude and malignity do appear to him, if he has but a
strong inclination to the one, and none at all to the other. That which
he has an inclination to, is always drest up in all the false beauty
that a fond and busy imagination can give it; the other appears naked
and deformed, and in all the true circumstances of folly and dishonour.
Thus stealing is a vice that few gentlemen are inclined to; and they
justly think it below the dignity of a man to stoop to so base and low a
sin; but no principle of honour, no workings of the mind and conscience,
not the still voice of mercy, not the dreadful call of judgment, nor any
considerations whatever, can put a stop to that violence and oppression,
that pride and ambition, that revelling and wantonness, which we every
day meet with in the world. Nay, it is easy to observe very different
thoughts in a man, of the sin that he is most fond of, according to, the
different ebbs and flows of his inclination to it For as soon as the
appetite is alarmed, and seizeth upon the heart, a little cloud
gathereth about the head, and spreads a kind of darkness over the face
of the soul, whereby 'tis hindered from taking a clear and distinct view
of things; but no sooner is the appetite tired and satiated, but the
same cloud passes away like a shadow, and a new light springing up in
the mind of a sudden, the man sees much more, both of the folly and of
the danger of the sin, than he did before.

And thus having done with the several reasons why man, the only creature
in the world that can reflect and look into himself, is so very ignorant
of what passes within him, and so much unacquainted with the standing
dispositions and complexions of his own heart: I proceed now, in the

_Third_ and _Last_ place, to lay down several advantages, that do _most
assuredly_ attend a due improvement in the knowledge of ourselves. And,

_First_: One great advantage is, that it tends very much to mortify and
humble a man into a modest and low opinion of himself. For let a man
take a nice and curious inspection into all the several regions of the
heart, and observe every thing irregular and amiss within him: for
instance, how narrow and short-sighted a thing is the understanding;
upon how little reason do we take up an opinion, and upon how much
less sometimes do we lay it down again, how weak and false ground do we
often walk upon with the biggest confidence and assurance, and how
tremulous and doubtful are we very often where no doubt is to be made.
Again; how wild and impertinent, how busy and incoherent a thing is the
imagination, even in the best and wisest men; insomuch that every man
may be said to be mad, but every man does not shew it. Then as to the
passions; how noisy, how turbulent, and how tumultuous are they, how
easy they are stirred and set a-going, how eager and hot in the pursuit,
and what strange disorder and confusion do they throw a man into; so
that he can neither think, nor speak, nor act as he should do, while he
is under the dominion of any one of them.

Thus let every man look with a severe and impartial eye into all the
distinct regions of the heart, and no doubt, several deformities and
irregularities, that he never thought of, will open and disclose
themselves upon so near a view; and rather make the man ashamed of
himself, than proud.

_Secondly:_ A due improvement in the knowledge of ourselves does
certainly secure us from the sly and insinuating assaults of flattery.
There is not in the world a baser and more hateful thing than flattery;
it proceeds from so much falseness and insincerity in the man that gives
it, and often discovers so much weakness and folly in the man that takes
it, that it is hard to tell which of the two is most to be blamed. Every
man of common sense can demonstrate in speculation, and may be fully
convinced, that all the praises and commendations of the whole world can
add no more to the real and intrinsic value of a man, than they can add
to his stature. And yet, for all this, men of the best sense and piety,
when they come down to the practice, cannot forbear thinking much better
of themselves, when they have the good fortune to be spoken well of by
other persons.

But the meaning of this absurd proceeding seems to be no other than
this; there are few men that have so intimate an acquaintance with their
own heart, as to know their own real worth, and how to set a just rate
upon themselves, and therefore they do not know but that he who praises
them most, may be most in the right of it. For, no doubt, if a man were
ignorant of the true value of a thing he loved as well as himself, he
would measure the worth of it according to the esteem of him who bids
most for it, rather than of him that bids less.

Therefore, the most infallible way to disentangle a man from the snares
of flattery, is, to consult and study his own heart; for whoever does
that well, will hardly be so absurd, as to take another man's word,
before his own sense and experience.

_Thirdly:_ Another advantage from this kind of study, is this, that it
teaches a man how to behave himself patiently, when he has the ill
fortune to be censured and abused by other people. For a man who is
thoroughly acquainted with his own heart, does already know more evil of
himself, than anybody else can tell him; and when any one speaks ill of
him, he rather thanks God that he can say no worse. For could his enemy
but look into the dark and hidden recesses of the heart, he considers
what a number of impure thoughts he might there see brooding and
hovering, like a dark cloud, upon the face of the soul; that there he
might take a prospect of the fancy, and view it acting over the several
scenes of pride, of ambition, of envy, of lust, and revenge; that there
he might tell how often a vicious inclination has been restrained, for
no other reason but just to save the man's credit or interest in the
world; and how many unbecoming ingredients have entered into the
composition of his best actions. And now, what man in the whole world
would be able to bear so severe a test, to have every thought and inward
motion of the heart laid open and exposed to the views of his enemies?

_Fourthly_, and _Lastly:_ Another advantage of this kind is, that it
makes men less severe upon other people's faults, and less busy and
industrious in spreading them. For a man, employed at home, inspecting
into his own failings, has not leisure to take notice of every little
spot and blemish that lies scattered upon others. Or if he cannot escape
the sight of them, he always passes the most easy and favourable
construction upon them. Thus, for instance; does the ill he knows of a
man proceed from an unhappy temper and constitution of body? He then
considers with himself, how hard a thing it is, not to be borne down
with the current of the blood and spirits, and accordingly lays some
part of the blame upon the weakness of human nature, for he has felt the
force and rapidity of it within his own breast; though perhaps, in
another instance, he remembers how it rages and swells by opposition;
and though it may be restrained, or diverted for a while, yet it can
hardly ever be totally subdued.

Or has the man sinned out of custom? He then, from his own experience,
traces a habit into the very first rise and imperfect beginnings of it;
and can tell by how slow and insensible advances it creeps upon the
heart; how it works itself by degrees into the very frame and texture of
it, and so passes into a second nature; and consequently he has a just
sense of the great difficulty for him to learn to do good, who has been
long accustomed to do evil.

Or, lastly, has a false opinion betrayed him into a sin? He then calls
to mind what wrong apprehensions he has made of some things himself; how
many opinions, that he once made no doubt of, he has, upon a stricter
examination found to be doubtful and uncertain; how many more to be
unreasonable and absurd. He knows further, that there are a great many
more opinions that he has never yet examined into at all, and which,
however, he still believes, for no other reason, but because he has
believed them so long already without a reason. Thus, upon every
occasion, a man intimately acquainted with himself, consults his own
heart, and makes every man's case to be his own, (and so puts the most
favourable interpretation upon it). Let every man therefore look into
his own heart, before he beginneth to abuse the reputation of another,
and then he will hardly be so absurd as to throw a dart that will so
certainly rebound and wound himself. And thus, through the whole course
of his conversation, let him keep an eye upon that one great
comprehensive rule of Christian duty, on which hangs, not only the law
and the prophets, but the very life and spirit of the Gospel too:
"Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto
them." Which rule, that we may all duly observe, by throwing aside all
scandal and detraction, all spite and rancour, all rudeness and
contempt, all rage and violence, and whatever tends to make conversation
and commerce either uneasy, or troublesome, may the God of peace grant
for Jesus Christ his sake, &c.

Consider what has been said, &c.



"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour."

In those great changes that are made in a country by the prevailing of
one party over another, it is very convenient that the prince, and those
who are in authority under him, should use all just and proper methods
for preventing any mischief to the public from seditious men. And
governors do well, when they encourage any good subject to discover (as
his duty obligeth him) whatever plots or conspiracies may be anyway
dangerous to the state: Neither are they to be blamed, even when they
receive informations from bad men, in order to find out the truth, when
it concerns the public welfare. Every one indeed is naturally inclined
to have an ill opinion of an informer; although it is not impossible but
an honest man may be called by that name. For whoever knoweth anything,
the telling of which would prevent some great evil to his prince, his
country, or his neighbour, is bound in conscience to reveal it. But the
mischief is, that, when parties are violently enflamed, which seemeth
unfortunately to be our case at present, there is never wanting a set of
evil instruments, who, either out of mad zeal, private hatred, or filthy
lucre, are always ready to offer their service to the prevailing side,
and become accusers of their brethren, without any regard to truth or
charity. Holy David numbers this among the chief of his sufferings;
"False witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out
cruelty."[1] Our Saviour and his apostles did likewise undergo the same
distress, as we read both in the Gospels and the Acts.

[Footnote 1: Psalm xxvii. 12.]

Now, because the sign of false witnessing is so horrible and dangerous
in itself, and so odious to God and man; and because the bitterness of
too many among us is risen to such a height, that it is not easy to know
where it will stop, or how far some weak and wicked minds may be carried
by a mistaken zeal, a malicious temper, or hope of reward, to break this
great commandment delivered in the text; therefore, in order to prevent
this evil, and the consequences of it, at least among you who are my
hearers, I shall,

I. _First_: Shew you several ways by which a man may be called a false
witness against his neighbour.

II. _Secondly_: I shall give you some rules for your conduct and
behaviour, in order to defend yourselves against the malice and cunning
of false accusers.

III. And _lastly_: I shall conclude with shewing you very briefly, how
far it is your duty, as good subjects and good neighbours, to bear
faithful witness, when you are lawfully called to it by those in
authority, or by the sincere advice of your own consciences,

I. As to the first, there are several ways by which a man may be justly
called a false witness against his neighbour.

_First_, According to the direct meaning of the word, when a man
accuseth his neighbour without the least ground of truth. So we read,
that Jezebel hired two sons of Belial to accuse Naboth for blaspheming
God and the King, for which, although he was entirely innocent, he was
stoned to death.[2] And in our age it is not easy, to tell how many men
have lost their lives, been ruined in their fortunes, and put to
ignominious punishment by the downright perjury of false witnesses! The
law itself in such cases being not able to protect the innocent. But
this is so horrible a crime, that it doth not need to be aggravated by

[Footnote 2: i Kings, xxi. 8-13.]

A second way by which a man becometh a false witness is, when he mixeth
falsehood and truth together, or concealeth some circumstances, which,
if they were told; would destroy the falsehoods he uttereth. So the two
false witnesses who accused our Saviour before the chief priests, by a
very little perverting his words, would have made him guilty of a
capital crime: for so it was among the Jews to prophesy any evil against
the Temple: "This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God,
and to build it in three days;"[3] whereas the words, as our Saviour
spoke them, were to another end, and differently expressed: For when the
Jews asked him to shew them a sign, he said, "Destroy this temple, and
in three days I will raise it up." In such cases as these, an innocent
man is half confounded, and looketh as if he were guilty, since he
neither can deny his words, nor perhaps readily strip them from the
malicious additions of a false witness.

[Footnote 3: Mat. xxvi. 6]

_Thirdly_: A man is a false witness, when, in accusing his neighbour, he
endeavoureth to aggravate by his gestures and tone of his voice, or when
he chargeth a man with words which were only repeated or quoted from
somebody else. As if any one should tell me that he heard another speak
certain dangerous and seditious speeches, and I should immediately
accuse him for speaking them himself; and so drop the only circumstance
that made him innocent. This was the case of St Stephen. The false
witness said, "This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against
this holy place and the law."[4] Whereas St Stephen said no such words;
but only repeated some prophecies of Jeremiah or Malachi, which
threatened Jerusalem with destruction if it did not repent. However, by
the fury of the people, this innocent holy person was stoned to death
for words he never spoke.

[Footnote 4: Acts, vi. 13.]

_Fourthly_: The blackest kind of false witnesses are those who do the
office of the devil, by tempting their brethren in order to betray them.
I cannot call to mind any instances of this kind mentioned in Holy
Scripture. But I am afraid, this vile practice hath been too much
followed in the world. When a man's temper hath been so soured by
misfortunes and hard usage, that perhaps he hath reason enough to
complain; then one of these seducers, under the pretence of friendship,
will seem to lament his case, urge the hardships he hath suffered, and
endeavour to raise his passions, until he hath said something that a
malicious informer can pervert or aggravate against him in a court of

_Fifthly_: Whoever beareth witness against his neighbour, out of a
principle of malice and revenge, from any old grudge, or hatred to his
person; such a man is a false witness in the sight of God, although what
he says be true; because the motive or cause is evil, not to serve his
prince or country, but to gratify his own resentments. And therefore,
although a man thus accused may be very justly punished by the law, yet
this doth by no means acquit the accuser, who, instead of regarding the
public service, intended only to glut his private rage and spite.

_Sixthly_: I number among false witnesses, all those who make a trade of
being informers in hope of favour or reward; and to this end employ
their time, either by listening in public places, to catch up an
accidental word; or in corrupting men's servants to discover any unwary
expression of their master; or thrusting themselves into company, and
then using the most indecent scurrilous language; fastening a thousand
falsehoods and scandals upon a whole party, on purpose to provoke such
an answer as they may turn to an accusation. And truly this ungodly race
is said to be grown so numerous, that men of different parties can
hardly converse together with any security. Even the pulpit hath not
been free from the misrepresentation of these informers; of whom the
clergy have not wanted occasions to complain with holy David: "They
daily mistake my words, all they imagine is to do me evil." Nor is it
any wonder at all, that this trade of informing should be now in a
flourishing condition, since our case is manifestly thus: We are divided
into two parties, with very little charity or temper toward each other;
the prevailing side may talk of past things as they please, with
security; and generally do it in the most provoking words they can
invent; while those who are down, are sometimes tempted to speak in
favour of a lost cause, and therefore, without great caution, must needs
be often caught tripping, and thereby furnish plenty of materials for
witnesses and informers.

_Lastly_: Those may be well reckoned among false witnesses against their
neighbour, who bring him into trouble and punishment by such accusations
as are of no consequence at all to the public, nor can be of any other
use but to create vexation. Such witnesses are those who cannot hear an
idle intemperate expression, but they must immediately run to the
magistrate to inform; or perhaps wrangling in their cups over night,
when they were not able to speak or apprehend three words of common
sense, will pretend to remember everything the next morning, and think
themselves very properly qualified to be accusers of their brethren. God
be thanked, the throne of our King[5] is too firmly settled to be shaken
by the folly and rashness of every sottish companion. And I do not in
the least doubt, that when those in power begin to observe the
falsehood, the prevarication, the aggravating manner, the treachery and
seducing, the malice and revenge, the love of lucre, and lastly, the
trifling accusations in too many wicked people, they will be as ready to
discourage every sort of those whom I have numbered among false
witnesses, as they will be to countenance honest men, who, out of a true
zeal to their prince and country, do, in the innocence of their hearts,
freely discover whatever they may apprehend to be dangerous to either. A
good Christian will think it sufficient to reprove his brother for a
rash unguarded word, where there is neither danger nor evil example to
be apprehended; or, if he will not amend by reproof, avoid his

[Footnote 5: George I.]

II. And thus much may serve to shew the several ways whereby a man may
be said to be a false witness against his neighbour. I might have added
one kind more, and it is of those who inform against their neighbour out
of fear of punishment to themselves, which, although it be more
excusable, and hath less of malice than any of the rest, cannot,
however, be justified. I go on, therefore, upon the second head, to give
you some rules for your conduct and behaviour, in order to defend
yourselves against the malice and cunning of false accusers.

It is readily agreed, that innocence is the best protection in the
world; yet that it is not always sufficient without some degree of
prudence, our Saviour himself intimateth to us, by instructing his
disciples "to be wise as serpents, as well as innocent as doves." But if
ever innocence be too weak a defence, it is chiefly so in jealous and
suspicious times, when factions are arrived to an high pitch of
animosity, and the minds of men, instead of being warmed by a true zeal
for religion, are inflamed only by party fury. Neither is virtue itself
a sufficient security in such times, because it is not allowed to be
virtue, otherwise than as it hath a mixture of party.

However, although virtue and innocence are no infallible defence against
perjury, malice, and subornation, yet they are great supports for
enabling us to bear those evils with temper and resignation; and it is
an unspeakable comfort to a good man under the malignity of evil
mercenary tongues, that a few years will carry his appeal to an higher
tribunal, where false witnesses, instead of daring to bring accusations
before an all-seeing Judge, will call for mountains to cover them. As
for earthly judges, they seldom have it in their power; and, God knows,
whether they have it in their will, to mingle mercy with justice; they
are so far from knowing the hearts of the accuser or the accused, that
they cannot know their own; and their understanding is frequently
biassed, although their intentions be just. They are often prejudiced to
causes, parties, and persons, through the infirmity of human nature,
without being sensible themselves that they are so: And therefore,
although God may pardon their errors here, he certainly will not ratify
their sentences hereafter.

However, since as we have before observed, our Saviour prescribeth to us
to be not only harmless as doves, but wise as serpents; give me leave to
prescribe to you some rules, which the most ignorant person may follow
for the conduct of his life, with safety in perilous times, against
false accusers.

1st, Let me advise you to have nothing at all to do with that which is
commonly called politics, or the government of the world, in the nature
of which it is certain you are utterly ignorant, and when your opinion
is wrong, although it proceeds from ignorance, it shall be an accusation
against you. Besides, opinions in government are right or wrong, just
according to the humour and disposition of the times; and, unless you
have judgment to distinguish, you may be punished at one time for what
you would be rewarded in another.

2dly, Be ready at all times, in your words and actions, to shew your
loyalty to the king that reigns over you. This is the plain manifest
doctrine of Holy Scripture: "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man
for the Lord's sake, whether it be to the king as supreme," &c.[6] And
another apostle telleth us, "The powers that be are ordained of God."
Kings are the ordinances of man by the permission of God, and they are
ordained of God by his instrument man. The powers that be, the present
powers, which are ordained by God, and yet in some sense are the
ordinances of man, are what you must obey, without presuming to examine
into rights and titles; neither can it be reasonably expected, that the
powers in being, or in possession, should suffer their title to be
publicly disputed by subjects without severe punishment. And to say the
truth, there is no duty in religion more easy to the generality of
mankind, than obedience to government: I say to the generality of
mankind; because while their law, and property, and religion are
preserved, it is of no great consequence to them by whom they are
governed, and therefore they are under no temptation to desire a change.

[Footnote 6: I Peter, ii. 13.]

3dly, In order to prevent any charge from the malice of false witnesses,
be sure to avoid intemperance. If it be often so hard for men to govern
their tongues when they are in their right senses, how can they hope to
do it when they are heated with drink? In those cases most men regard
not what they say, and too many not what they swear; neither will a
man's memory, disordered with drunkenness, serve to defend himself, or
satisfy him whether he were guilty or no.

4thly, Avoid, as much as possible, the conversation of those people, who
are given to talk of public persons and affairs, especially of those
whose opinions in such matters are different from yours. I never once
knew any disputes of this kind managed with tolerable temper; but on
both sides they only agree as much as possible to provoke the passions
of each other, indeed with this disadvantage, that he who argueth on the
side of power may speak securely the utmost his malice can invent; while
the other lieth every moment at the mercy of an informer; and the law,
in these cases, will give no allowance at all for passion, inadvertency,
or the highest provocation.

I come now in the last place to shew you how far it is your duty as good
subjects and good neighbours to bear faithful witness, when you are
lawfully called to it by those in authority, or by the sincere advice of
your own consciences.

In what I have hitherto said, you easily find, that I do not talk of
bearing witness in general, which is and may be lawful upon a thousand
accounts in relation to property and other matters, and wherein there
are many scandalous corruptions, almost peculiar to this country, which
would require to be handled by themselves. But I have confined my
discourse only to that branch of bearing false witness, whereby the
public is injured in the safety or honour of the prince, or those in
authority under him.

In order therefore to be a faithful witness, it is first necessary that
a man doth not undertake it from the least prospect of any private
advantage to himself. The smallest mixture of that leaven will sour the
whole lump. Interest will infallibly bias his judgment, although he be
ever so firmly resolved to say nothing but truth. He cannot serve God
and Mammon; but as interest is his chief end, he will use the most
effectual means to advance it. He will aggravate circumstances to make
his testimony valuable; he will be sorry if the person he accuseth
should be able to clear himself; in short, he is labouring a point which
he thinks necessary to his own good; and it would be a disappointment to
him, that his neighbour should prove innocent.

5thly, Every good subject is obliged to bear witness against his
neighbour, for any action or words, the telling of which would be of
advantage to the public, and the concealment dangerous, or of ill
example. Of this nature are all plots and conspiracies against the peace
of a nation, all disgraceful words against a prince, such as clearly
discover a disloyal and rebellious heart: But where our prince and
country can possibly receive no damage or disgrace; where no scandal or
ill example is given; and our neighbour, it may be, provoked by us,
happeneth privately to drop a rash or indiscreet word, which in
strictness of law might bring him under trouble, perhaps to his utter
undoing; there we are obliged, we ought, to proceed no further than
warning and reproof.

In describing to you the several kinds of false witnesses, I have made
it less necessary to dwell much longer upon this head; because a
faithful witness like everything else is known by his contrary:
Therefore it would be only a repetition of what I have already said to
tell you, that the strictest truth is required in a witness; that he
should be wholly free from malice against the person he accuses; that he
should not aggravate the smallest circumstance against the criminal, nor
conceal the smallest in his favour; and to crown all, though I have
hinted it before, that the only cause or motive of his undertaking an
office, so subject to censure, and so difficult to perform, should be
the safety and service of his prince and country.

Under these conditions and limitations (but not otherwise,) there is no
manner of doubt but a good man may lawfully and justly become a witness
in behalf of the public, and may perform that office (in its own nature
not very desirable) with honour and integrity. For the command in the
text is positive as well as negative; that is to say, as we are directed
not to bear false witness against our neighbour, so we are to bear true.
Next to the word of God, and the advice of teachers, every man's
conscience, strictly examined, will be his best director in this weighty
point; and to that I shall leave him.

It might perhaps be thought proper to have added something by way of
advice to those who are unhappily engaged in this abominable trade and
sin of bearing false witness; but I am far from believing or supposing
any of that destructive tribe are now my hearers. I look upon them as a
sort of people that seldom frequent these holy places, where they can
hardly pick up any materials to serve their turn, unless they think it
worth their while to misrepresent or pervert the words of the preacher:
And whoever is that way disposed, I doubt, cannot be in a very good
condition to edify and reform himself by what he heareth. God in his
mercy preserve us from all the guilt of this grievous sin forbidden in
my text, and from the snares of those who are guilty of it!

I shall conclude with one or two precepts given by Moses, from God, to
the children of Israel, in the xxiiid of Exod. 1, 2.

"Thou shalt not raise a false report: Put not thine hand with the
wicked, to be an unrighteous witness.

"Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil, neither shalt them speak
in a cause to decline after many, to wrest judgment."

Now to God the Father, &c.


[Footnote 1: The title of this sermon as given in Contents of Swift's
"Works," vol. viii., pt. i. (4to, 1765) is, "A Sermon upon the
Excellence of Christianity in Opposition to Heathen Philosophy." [T.S.]]

I COR. III. 19.

"The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God."

It is remarkable that, about the time of our Saviour's coming into the
world, all kinds of learning flourished to a very great degree, insomuch
that nothing is more frequent in the mouths of many men, even such who
pretend to read and to know, than an extravagant praise and opinion of
the wisdom and virtue of the Gentile sages of those days, and likewise
of those ancient philosophers who went before them, whose doctrines are
left upon record either by themselves or other writers. As far as this
may be taken for granted, it may be said, that the providence of God
brought this about for several very wise ends and purposes: For, it is
certain that these philosophers had been a long time before searching
out where to fix the true happiness of man; and, not being able to agree
upon any certainty about it, they could not possibly but conclude, if
they judged impartially, that all their enquiries were, in the end, but
vain and fruitless; the consequence of which must be not only an
acknowledgment of the weakness of all human wisdom, but likewise an open
passage hereby made, for the letting in those beams of light, which the
glorious sunshine of the Gospel then brought into the world, by
revealing those hidden truths, which they had so long before been
labouring to discover, and fixing the general happiness of mankind
beyond all controversy and dispute. And therefore the providence of God
wisely suffered men of deep genius and learning then to arise, who
should search into the truth of the Gospel now made known, and canvass
its doctrines with all the subtilty and knowledge they were masters of,
and in the end freely acknowledge that to be the true wisdom only "which
cometh from above." (James, iii. 15, 16, 17.)

However, to make a further enquiry into the truth of this observation, I
doubt not but there is reason to think that a great many of those
encomiums given to ancient philosophers are taken upon trust, and by a
sort of men who are not very likely to be at the pains of an enquiry
that would employ so much time and thinking. For the usual ends why men
affect this kind of discourse, appear generally to be either out of
ostentation, that they may pass upon the world for persons of great
knowledge and observation; or, what is worse, there are some who highly
exalt the wisdom of those Gentile sages, thereby obliquely to glance at
and traduce Divine Revelation, and more especially that of the Gospel;
for the consequence they would have us draw is this: That, since those
ancient philosophers rose to a greater pitch of wisdom and virtue than
was ever known among Christians, and all this purely upon the strength
of their own reason and liberty of thinking, therefore it must follow,
that either all Revelation is false, or, what is worse, that it has
depraved the nature of man, and left him worse than it found him.

But this high opinion of heathen wisdom is not very ancient in the
world, nor at all countenanced from primitive times: Our Saviour had but
a low esteem of it, as appears by His treatment of the Pharisees and
Sadducees, who followed the doctrines of Plato and Epicurus. St Paul
likewise, who was well versed in all the Grecian literature, seems very
much to despise their philosophy, as we find in his writings, cautioning
the Colossians to "beware lest any man spoil them through philosophy and
vain deceit." And, in another place, he advises Timothy to "avoid
profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science, falsely so
called;" that is, not to introduce into the Christian doctrine the
janglings of those vain philosophers, which they would pass upon the
world for science. And the reasons he gives are, first, That those who
professed them did err concerning the faith:

Secondly, Because the knowledge of them did encrease ungodliness, vain
babblings being otherways expounded vanities, or empty sounds; that is,
tedious disputes about words, which the philosophers were always so full
of, and which were the natural product of disputes and dissensions
between several sects.

Neither had the primitive fathers any great or good opinion of the
heathen philosophy, as it is manifest from several passages in their
writings: So that this vein of affecting to raise the reputation of
those sages so high, is a mode and a vice but of yesterday, assumed
chiefly, as I have said, to disparage revealed knowledge, and the
consequences of it among us.

Now, because this is a prejudice which may prevail with some persons, so
far as to lessen the influence of the Gospel, and whereas therefore this
is an opinion which men of education are like to be encountered with,
when they have produced themselves into the world; I shall endeavour to
shew that their preference of heathen wisdom and virtue, before that of
the Christian, is every way unjust, and grounded upon ignorance or
mistake: In order to which I shall consider four things.

_First_, I shall produce certain points, wherein the wisdom and virtue
of all unrevealed philosophy in general, fell short, and was very

_Secondly_, I shall shew, in several instances, where some of the most
renowned philosophers have been grossly defective in their lessons of

_Thirdly_, I shall prove the perfection of Christian wisdom, from the
proper characters and marks of it.

_Lastly_, I shall shew that the great examples of wisdom and virtue
among the heathen wise men, were produced by personal merit, and not
influenced by the doctrine of any sect; whereas, in Christianity, it is
quite the contrary.

_First_, I shall produce certain points, wherein the wisdom and virtue
of all unrevealed philosophy in general fell short, and was very

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