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our Saviour and those disciples, whose feet he vouchsafed to wash.
And although this doctrine of subjecting ourselves to one another may seem to grate upon the pride and vanity of mankind, and
therefore be hard to be digested by those who value themselves upon their greatness or their wealth, yet it is really no more than what most men practise upon other occasions. For if our neighbour, who is our inferior, comes to see us, we rise to receive him, we place him above us, and respect him as if he were better than ourselves: and this is thought both decent and necessary, and is usually called good manners. Now the duty required by the apostle, is only that we should enlarge our minds, and that what we thus practise in the common course of life, we should imitate in all our actions and proceedings whatsoever ; since our Saviour tells us that every man is our neighbour, and since we are so ready, in the points of civility, to yield to others, in our own houses, where only we have any title to govern.
Having thus shown you what sort of subjection it is, which all men owe to another, and in what manner it ought to be paid, I shall now draw some observations from what hath been said.
And, first ; A thorough practice of this duty of subjecting ourselves to the wants and infirmities of each other, would utterly extinguish in us the vice of pride.
For, if God has pleased to entrust me with a talent, not for my own sake, but for the service of others, and at the same time hath left me full of wants and necessities, which others must supply, I can then have no cause to set any extraordinary
value upon myself, or to despise my brother, because he hath not the same talents which were lent to me. His being may probably be as useful to the public as mine; and, therefore, by the rules of right reason, I am in no sort preferable to him.
Secondly; 'Tis very manifest, from what has been said, that no man ought to look upon the advantages of life, such as riches, honour, power, and the like, as his property, but merely as a trust, which God hath deposited with him to be employed for the use of his brethren ; and God will certainly punish the breach of that trust, though the laws of man will not, or rather indeed cannot, because the trust was conferred only by God, who has not left it to any power on earth to decide infallibly, whether a man makes a good use of his talents or not, or to punish him where he fails. And therefore God seems to have more particularly taken this matter into his own hands, and will most certainly reward, or punish us, in proportion to our good or ill performance in it. Now although the advantages, which one possesseth more than another, may in some sense be called his property with respect to other men, yet with respect to God they are, as I said, only a trust; which will plainly appear from hence: if a man does not use those advantages to the good of the public, or the benefit of his neighbour, it is certain he doth not deserve them, and consequently that God never intended them for a blessing to him; and, on the other side, whoever does employ his talents as he ought, will find by his own experience, that they were chiefly lent him for the service of others; for to the service of others he will certainly employ them.
Thirdly; If we could all be brought to practise this duty of subjecting ourselves to each other
it would very much contribute to the general happiness of mankind: for this would root out envy and malice from the heart of man; because you cannot envy your neighbour's strength, if he make use of it to defend your life, or carry your burden; you cannot envy his wisdom, if he gives you good counsel; nor his riches, if he supplies you in your wants; nor his greatness, if he employs it to your protection. The miseries of life are not properly owing to the unequal distribution of things; but God Almighty, the great King of Heaven, is treated like the kings of the earth, who, although perhaps, intending well themselves, have often most abominable ministers and stewards, and those generally the vilest to whom they entrust the most talents. But here is the difference, that the princes of this world see by other men's eyes, but God sees all things; and therefore, whenever he permits his blessings to be dealt among those who are unworthy, we may certainly conclude that he intends them only as a punishment to an evil world, as well as to the owners. It were well, if those would consider this, whose riches serve them only as a spur to avarice, or as an instrument of their lusts; whose wisdom is only of this world, to put false colours upon things, to call good evil and evil good, against the conviction of their own consciences; and lastly, who employ their power and favour in acts of oppression or injustice, in misrepresenting persons and things, or in countenancing the wicked, to the ruin of the innocent.
Fourthly. The practice of this duty of being subject to one another, would make us rest contented in the several stations of life wherein God hath thought fit to place us; because it would, in the best and easiest manner, bring us back as it were to that early state of the gospel, when Christians had all things in common. For, if the poor found the rich disposed to supply their wants; if the ignorant found the wise ready to instruct and direct them; or if the weak might always find protection from the mighty; they could none of them, with the least pretence of justice, lament their own condition.
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? Thę wickedest man upon earth takes a pleasure in doing good to those he loves; and therefore surely a good Christian, who obeys our Saviour's commands of loving all men, cannot but take delight in doing good even to his enemies. God, who gives 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 the Creator: for which reason St Paul delivers it as a saying of our Savour, that“ it is more blessed to give than receive.” By this rule, what must become of those things, which the
world values as the greatest blessingsriches, 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 blessings in themselves; because the poor man, with the common necessaries of life, enjoys more health, and has 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 understanding, 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