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ON PLEASING ALL MEN.
Romans XV. 2.
"Let every Man please his Neighbour for his Good to Edification."
1. UNDOUBTEDLY the duty here prescribed is incumbent on all mankind: at least on every one of those, to whom are entrusted the Oracles of God. For it is here enjoined to every one without exception, that names the Name of Christ. And the person whom every one is commanded to please is his Neighbour, that is, every child of man. Only we are to remember here, what the same Apostle speaks upon a similar occasion, " If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." In like manner we are to please all men, if it be possible, as much as lieth in us: but, strictly speaking, it is not possible; it is what no man ever did, nor ever will perform. But suppose we use our utmost diligence; be the event as it may, we fulfil our duty.
2. We may farther observe, in how admirable a manner the Apostle limits this direction; otherwise, were it pursued without any limitation, it might produce the most mischievous consequences. We are directed to please them for their good: not barely for the sake of pleasing them, or pleasing ourselves: much less of pleasing them to their hurt, which is so frequently done: indeed continually done, by those who do not love their neighbour as themselves. Nor is it only their temporal good, which we are to aim at in pleasing our neighbour; but what is of infinitely greater consequence; we are to do it for their edification. In such a manner as may conduce to their, spiritual and eternal good. We are so to please them, that the pleasure may not perish in the using, but may redound to their lasting advantage: may make them wiser and better, holier and happier, both in time and in eternity.
3. Many are the treatises and discourses which have been published on this important subject. But all of them that I have either seen or heard were miserably defective. Hardly one of them proposed the right end: one and all had some lower design in pleasing men, than to save their souls, to build them up in love and holiness. Of consequence, they were not likely to propose the right means, for the attainment of that end. One celebrated tract of this kind, entitled—The Courtier, was published in Spain, about two hundred years ago, and translated into various languages. But it has nothing to do with edification, and is therefore quite wide of the mark. Another treatise, entitled, The Complete Courtier, was published in our own country, in the reign of King Charles the Second, and (as it seems) by a retainer to his court: in this there are several very sensible advices, concerning our outward behaviour: and many little improprieties in word or action are observed, whereby men displease others without intending it: but this Author, likewise, has no view at all to the spiritual or eternal good of his neighbour. Seventy or eighty years ago, another book was printed in London, entitled, The Art of Pleasing. But as it was written in a languid manner, and contained only common, trite observations, it was not likely to be of use to men of understanding, and still less to men of piety.
4. But it may be asked, Has not the subject been since treated of by a writer of very different character? Is it not exhausted, by one who was a consummate master of
the Art of Pleasing? And who, writing to one he tenderly loved, to a favourite son, gives him all the advices which his great understanding, improved by various learning, and the experience of many years, and much converse with all sorts of men, could suggest? I mean, the late Lord Chesterfield, the general darling of all the Irish, as well as of the English nation.
5. The means of pleasing, which this wise and indulgent parent continually and earnestly recommends to his darling child, and on which he, doubtless, formed both his tempers and outward conduct,
"Till death untimely stopp'd his tuneful tongue," were, first, Making love, in the grossest sense, to all the married women, whom he conveniently could. (Single women he advises him to refrain from, for fear of disagreeable consequences.) Secondly, Constant and careful dissimulation, always wearing a mask: trusting no man upon earth, so as to let him know his real thoughts, but perpetually seeming to mean what he did not mean, and seeming to be what he was not. Thirdly, Well-devised lying to all sorts of people, speaking what was farthest from his heart: and, in particular, flattering men, women, and children, as the infallible way of pleasing them.
It needs no great art to shew that this is not the way to please our neighbour for his good, or to edification. I shall endeavour to shew, that there is a better way of doing it: and indeed a way diametrically opposite to this. It consists,
I. In removing Hindrances out of the way ; and,
.1-1-1 advise all that desire to "please their neighbour
and genuine piety. There is likewise another temper, nearly related to these, only in a lower kind, and which is usually found in common life, wherewith men in general are not pleased. We commonly call it ill-nature. With all possible care avoid all these: nay, and whatever bears any resemblance to them: as sourness, sternness, sullenness, on the one hand; peevishness and fretfulness on the other: if ever you hope to "please your neighbour for his good to edification."
2. Next to cruelty, malice and similar tempers, with the words and actions that naturally spring therefrom, nothing is more disgustful, not only to persons of sense and religion, but even to the generality of men, than pride, haughtiness of spirit, assuming, arrogant, overbearing behaviour. Even uncommon learning joined with shining talents, will not make amends for this: but a man of eminent endowments, if he be eminently haughty, will be despised by many, and disliked by all. Of this the famous Master of Trinity College in Cambridge, was a remarkable instance. How few persons of his time had a stronger understanding or deeper learning than Dr. Bentley! And yet how few were less beloved! Unless one who was little, if at all inferior to him in sense or learning, and equally distant from humility, the Author of the Divine Legation of Moses. Whoever, therefore, desires to please his neighbour for his good, must take care of splitting upon this rock. Otherwise the same pride which impels him to seek the esteem of his neighbour, will infallibly hinder his attaining it.
3. Almost as disgustful to the generality of men as haughtiness itself, is a passionate temper and behaviour. Men of a tender disposition are afraid even to converse with persons of this spirit. And others are not fond of their acquaintance, as frequently, (perhaps when they expected nothing less,) meeting with shocks, which if they bear for the present, yet they do not willingly put themselves in the way of meeting with again. Hence passionate men have seldom many friends; at least, not for any length of
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time. Crowds, indeed, may attend them for a season, especially when it may promote their interest. But they are usually disgusted one after another, and fall off like leaves in Autumn. If, therefore, you desire lastingly to please your neighbour for his good, by all possible means, avoid violent passion. 4. Yea, and if you desire to please, even on this account, take that advice of the Apostle, “Put away all lying.” It is the remark of an ingenious Author, that of all vices, lying never yet found an apologist, any that would openly plead in its favour, whatever his private sentiments might be. But it should be remembered, Mr. Addison went to a better world, before Lord Chesterfield's Letters were published. Perhaps his apology for it was the best that ever was, or can be made for so bad a cause. But after all, the labour he has bestowed upon it “has only semblance of worth; not substance.” It has no solidity in it; it is nothing better than a shining phantom. And as lying can never be commendable or innocent, so neither can it be pleasing: at least when it is stripped of its disguise, and appears in its own shape. Consequently it ought to be carefully avoided, by all those who wish to please their neighbour for his good to edification. 5. But is not flattery, a man may say, one species of lying And has not this been allowed in all ages, to be the sure mean of pleasing: Has not that observation been confirmed by numberless experiments, “Obsequium amicos, veritas odium parit 2" “Flattery creates friends, plain-dealing enemies.” Has not a late witty writer, in his “Sentimental Journal,” related some striking instances of this I answer, It is true. Flattery is pleasing for awhile, and that not only to weak minds: as the desire of praise, whether deserved or undeserved, is planted in every child of man. But it is only for awhile. As soon as the mask drops off, as soon as it appears that the speaker meant nothing by his soft words, we are pleased no longer. Every man's own experience teaches him this. And we all know, that if a man continue