Chapter 8: Of Company in General. Rules Concerning It. Part 2.
Thirdly, You must be wise and discreet in your carriage towards all, and that in divers particulars.
- Be not too open, nor too reserved; not over suspicious, 1 Cor. Xiii.7, nor over credulous, John ii.24. Jer. xl.14-16. For the simple believes every word, but the prudent looks well to his going, Prov. xiv.15.
- Apply yourself to the several conditions and dispositions of men in all indifferent things, so far as you may, without sin against God, or offence to your brother, becoming all things to all men, 1 Cor. ix. 19-23; suiting yourself to them in such a manner, that if it be possible, you may live in peace with them, Rom. xii.18, and may gain some interest in them, to do them good.
But far be it from you to do as many, who under this pretence, are for all companies; seeming religious with those that are religious; but profane and licentious with those that are profane and licentious; for this is carnal policy, and damnable hypocrisy, and not true wisdom.
- Intermeddle not with other men’s business, I Thess. iv.11, but upon due and necessary occasion.
- Know when to speak, and when to be silent, I Tim. v.13. How excellent is a word spoken in season! Eccles. iii.7. As either speech or silence will make for the glory of God, and for the cause of religion, and good one of another, so speak, and so hold your peace, Prov. xv.23, xxv, 11.
- Be not hasty to speak, Prov. xxix.11, nor be much in speaking, Prov. xvii. 27, Eccl. x.14, but only when just cause shall require; for as it is shame and folly to a man to answer a matter before he hears it, Prov.xviii.13, so is it for any to speak before his time and turn, Job xxxii.4-6. Likewise consider, that in the multitude of words there wants not sin; but he that refrains his lips is wise, Prov.x.19.
- Be sparing to speak of yourself or actions, to your own praise, except in case of necessary apology, 2 Cor xii.11, and defense of God’s cause maintained by you, and in the clearing of your wronged innocency, or needful manifestation of God’s power and grace in you; but then it must be with all modesty, giving the praise unto God, Phil. iv.12, 13. Neither must you cunningly hunt for praise, by debasing or excusing yourself and actions, that you may give occasion to draw forth commendations of yourself from others. Thus seeking of applause, argues pride and folly. But do praiseworthy actions, seeking therein the praise of God, that God may be glorified in you, then you shall have praise of God, Rom. ii.29, whatever you have of man. However, follow Solomon’s rule: Let another praise thee, not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips, Prov. xxvii. 2.
- As you must be wise in your carriage towards others, so you must be wise for yourself; which is to make a good use to yourself of all things that occur in company. Let the good you see, be matter of joy, and thankfulness to God, and improved for your own imitation, Rom. xii.9. Let the evil you see, be matter of grief and humiliation, and a warning to you, lest you commit the like, since you are made of the same mould that others are, and are liable to the same temptations. If men report good of you to your face, repress these speeches as soon and as wisely as you can, giving the praise of all things to God, Gen. xli. 15,16, Acts xi. 23; knowing this is be a temptation and a snare, Prov. xxvii. 14, and a means to breed self-love, pride, and vain-glory in you. If this good report be true, bless God that he has enabled you to deserve it, and study by virtuous living to continue it. If this good report be false, endeavor to make it good by being hereafter answerable to the report.
- If men report evil of you to your face, be not so much inquisitive who raised it, or how to confute them, or clear your reputation amongst men; as to make a good use of it to your own heart before God.
For you must know, this evil report does not rise without God’s providence, 2 Sam. xvi.11. If the report be true, then see God’s good providence; it is that you may see your error and failings, that you may repent. If the report be false, yet consider, if you have not run into the appearance and occasions of those evils. Then say, though this report be false, yet it comes justly upon me, because I did not shun the occasions and appearances. This should humble you, and cause you to be more circumspect in your ways. But if neither the thing reported be true, nor you have given occasion for it, yet see God’s wise and good providence; not only in discovering the folly and malice of evil men, who raise and take up an evil report against you without cause; but in giving you warning to look to yourself, lest you deserve thus to be spoken of. And how do you know, but that you should have fallen into the same, or the like evil, if by these reports you had not been forewarned? Make use therefore of the railings and revilings of an enemy, 2 Sam. xvi.10-12; though he be a bad judge, yet he may be a good remembrancer; for you shall hear from him those things, of which flatterers will not, and friends, being blinded, or over indulgent through love, do never admonish you.