CHAP. VII. Of Sobrietie, Vrbanitie, Fidelitie, and care of others good name.
SObrietie in iudgement is, when a man either suspendeth his opinion of his neighbours sayings or doings, or else speaketh as charitably as hee can, by saying as little as may bee, if the thing bee euil: or by interpreting all in better part, if the speech or action be doubtfull. Therefore doe thus; despise not thy neighbour, but thinke thy selfe as bad a sinner, and that the like defects may befall thee. If thou canst not excuse his doing, excuse his intent, which may be good: or if the deede be euill, thinke it was done of ignorance: if thou canst no way excuse him, think some great temptation befel him, & that thou shouldst be worse, if the like temptation befel thee: and giue God thanks that the like as yet hath not befallen thee. Despise not a man beeing a sinner, for though hee be euil to day, he may turne to morrowe.
Here is condemned all headie and rash iudgement,* whereby men make things either worse then they are, or else they take and turne all things to the worse part. Thus the deuil dealt with Iob, saying,*Doeth Iob feare God for Page 726 nought, &c. but stretch out thine hand now and touch all that hee hath, to see if hee will not blaspheme thee to thy face. Such was the dealing of Doeg with Dauid,*I saw the sonne of Ishai (saith he) when hee came to Abimelech the sonne of Ahitub, who asked counsell of the Lord for him, and gaue him victuals, and he gaue him also the sword of Goliah the Philistim. Here the backebiter concealeth the necessary circumstances, whereby Abimelech might haue bene excused, as that Dauid asked bread beeing hungrie, and that he told not Abimelech that hee was out of Sauls fauour: but he turneth al his speech to this end, to bring the priest in∣to suspition with Saul.
Thus the Pharises dealt.*Iohn came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, he hath a deuill. The sonne of man came eating and drinking, & they say, Behold a glut∣ton, and a drinker of wine, and a friend of Publicans and sinners.
Contrarie to this Sobrietie is Flatterie, whereby for hope either of fauour or gaine, men, and especially such as are of dignitie and place, are soothed vp in their sinnes, and extolled aboute measure, euen to their faces. As when He∣rod arrayed in royall apparell, and sate on the iudgement seat and made an o∣ration, the people gaue a shout, saying,*The voice of God, and not of man. But marke what Salomon saith,*Hee that praiseth his friend with a loud voice rising early in the morning: it shall be counted to him for a curse. One being asked which was the worst of all beasts, answered, Of wild beasts, the tyrant: of tame beasts the flatterer. And another said, that flatterers were worse then crowes: for they eate onely dead carrion, these feede on liuing men.
And of all kinds of Flatterie, that is the worst when a man shall speak faire to his neighbours face and praise him; but behind his backe speake his plea∣sure, and euen cut his throat. Dauid complaineth of his familiar friend•* that the words of his mouth were softer then butter, yet warre was in his heart: that his words were more gentle then oile, yet they were swordes. The Pharises behinde Christs backe tooke counsell howe they might intangle him in talke; but be∣fore his face they say,*Master, we knowe that thou art true, and teachest the way of God truely, neither carest thou for any man: for thou considerest not the person of men.
Vrbanitie, is a grace of speech, whereby men in seemely manner vse plea∣santnesse in talke for recreation, or for such delight as is ioyned with profit to themselues and others. The Preacher saith,*There is a time to laugh, and a time to weepe. When the Lord brought againe the captiuitie of Sion, wee were like them that dreame. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with ioy.
Nowe this mirth must bee ioyned with the feare of God, otherwise Salo∣mon saith well, I haue said to laughter, thou art mad: and of ioy, what is that tho• doest? And Christ saieth,*Woe to you that now laugh, for ye shall weepe. Secondly with compassion and sorrow for Gods people in affliction and miserie. They drinke wine in bowles, and annoint themselues with cheiefe ointments, but no man is sorry for the affliction of Ioseph. Thirdly, it must be sparing and moderate. Paul condemneth such as are louers of pleasures, more then of God.* Fourthly, it must be voide of the practise of sinne.* Moses is commended that he refused the plea∣sures of sinne.
*The vsuall time of mirth is at meates. And here Sampsons practise may be Page 727 followed, who at his marriage feast propounded a riddle or hard question to his friends. And Ambrose thinketh that hee did this to stoppe the mouthes of talkers, and to occupie their wits.
With all it must be remembred to be a Christian dutie, euen at the table to maintaine talke of religion,* and of duties of godlinesse, after the practise of our Sauiour Christ: though many vpon little ground thinke otherwise. Tertullian recordeth of the Christians of his time,* that they vsed in their loue-feasts to talke togither, as considering with themselues that they had God himselfe as an eare-witnesse to them. Chrysostome of this point saith well.*I would to God (saith he) that in tauerns and feasts, and at bathes, men would talke and dispute of hell: for the remembring of hell would hinder a man from falling to hell. And it was the manner of the primitiue Church at Dinner and supper to vse the rea∣ding of the Scriptures.*When yee come to the table (saith Augustine) heare that which is read according to custome, without any stirre or striuing: that your mouthes may not onely receiue the meat, but your eares may hunger after the word of God. And this ancient custome is to this day retained in the Colledges of the Vni∣uersitie of Cambridge.
And this holy reioycing at meates is specially to bee vsed with such as are godly. As Salomon saith,* that he which eateth at the couetous mans table, shal vo∣mit his morsells, and shall loose his sweete wordes. The faithfull at Ierusalem did breake bread togither, with gladnes and singlenes of heart.
Question. Whether iesting be tollerable in any sort, or not?
Answer. That iesting which standeth in quippes, taunts, and girdes, which serueth onely for the offence of some, with the delight of others is not tollera∣ble: because all speech must edifie, and minister grace to the hearers:* neither doth it agree with Christian grauitie and modestie. But two kindes of iesting are tol∣lerable: the one is moderate and sparing mirth, in the vse of things indifferent, [unspec 1] in season conuenient, without the least scandall of any man, and with profit to the hearers. The second is that which the Prophets vsed, when they iested a∣gainst [unspec 2] wicked persons yet so, as withall they sharpely reprooued their sinnes. At noone Eliah mocked them, and said, Crie aloud, for hee is a God:*either he talketh or pursueth his enemies, or is in his iourney, or it may bee he sleepeth and must be awaked.
As for laughter, it may be vsed: otherwise God would neuer haue giuen that power and faculty vnto man: but the vse of it must be both moderate and seldome,* as sorrowe for our sinnes is to be plentifull and often. This we may learne in Christs example, of whome wee reade that hee wept three times, at the destruction of Ierusalem, at the raising of Lazarus, and in his agonie: but we neuer read that he laughed. And specially remember the saying of Chry∣sostome. Si risus in Ecclesia diaboli opus est, that is, to mooue laughter in the Church, is the worke of the deuill.
Fidelitie is constancy in all our lawefull sayings and promises.
A promise is to be made with this condition (if God will) and then if a man be preuented by death,* or by any like meanes, he is not to blamed: otherwise a mans lawefull word and promise bindeth him according to the will & plea∣sure of him to whome it is made.
Page 728Nowe if afterward it be hurtfull to him that made it, hee may craue to bee free from his promise:* and libertie beeing graunted, take it. But a promise bound with an oath is to be kept, though priuate hinderances followe: yet so, as the Magistrate may order the matter, and proceede in equitie, that the dam∣mage may be the lesse.
The last grace which is to bee vsed in speech, is care of our neighbours good name,* which is farre better to him then great riches.
Here is condemned the tale bearer, which of an euill minde telleth a thing of an other, to bring him into hatred, or to reuenge himselfe, or to get some∣thing, which otherwise he could not obtaine.
This tale bearing is of diuers sortes. One is, when men whisper abroad se∣cretly the fault of another,* whereas they should rather admonish the partie, as Cham when he had seene his fathers nakednes, ran straight and tolde his bre∣thrē. The secōd, whē they adde to or chāge the thing said or done, as it serueth for their purpose. Some of the witnesses which came against Christ, charged him to say, I will destroy this temple which is made with handes, and in three daies build another without handes. Where first they change his meaning; for Christ spake of the temple of his bodie. Secondly, they adde to the words, For Christ said not,*I will destroy this temple: but, destroy ye this temple. Therefore the holy Ghost noteth them with the name of false witnesse bearers. The third, when men surmisse, and tell that which was neuer done. When Ieremy was going out of Ierusalem to the land of Beniamin, and was in the gate of Beniamin, I∣rijah tooke him and said, Thou fliest to Chaldeans. Then said Ieremie, that is false, I flie not to the Chaldeans, but hee would not heare him.* The fourth is the coloured tale-bearing, when one speaketh euill of another, with fine pre∣faces & preamples, faining that he is very sorrie that his neighbour hath done such or such a thing: that he speaketh it not of malice, but of a good mind: that he is constrained to speake: that he speaketh not all he could speake: that the partie to whome the tale is tolde must keepe it secret. Luther writeth of this fault very well.*This vice (saith he) whereby wee tell abroad the things which wee heare of others, and take them in worse part is very rife, and of great force to sowe discords: the rather, because it often shewes it selfe vnder the pretence and name of counsell and good aduise. And it is a notable vizard for a talebearer to transforme himselfe into an angel of light, and vnder zeale for Gods glorie to backbite and accuse his neighbour of heresie, errour, and wicked life.
Therefore the Prophets meaning is, that we should conceale the euils that bee in our neighbour, and not speake them to others, though hee be an enemie and de∣serue it at our handes, and onely speake of those good things in him which seeme to preserue concord: for this we would that men should doe vnto vs. Yea, and let vs take heede that we iudge not or condemne any mans saying or doing rashly.* Augustine saith, that this was the care which his mother had towards her enemies. To doe this is a notable point of iust dealing, but indeede there is no man vtterly without this fault in this life: such is our wretched state in this world. For though some are of this minde, that they desire not to haue other mens wants tolde them, and will not take all in worse part, yet if they bee tolde and taken in worse part of others, they can willingly heare them,*neither will they checke the teller, but suffer bad surmises Page 729 to take place with them. But Gedaliah the sonne of Ahicham excelled in the con∣trarie vertue, who •hose rather to hazard his life, then to suspect euill by Ismael.
This tale-bearing is the common table talke in England: and it is wonder∣full to see, how those who are otherwise godly, are ouertaken with it: but men must learn to stand more in awe of Gods cōmandement, and also to consider that the same thing a man speaketh of another, commeth home againe by his owne doore. Such as vse tale-bearing and backbiting, are by Gods iust iudge∣ment paid home in the same kind: and hereupon Christ saith, Iudge not that ye be not iudged, for with what iudgement ye iudge, ye shall be iudged. Wherefore when men shall enter any euill communication of others, we are to interrupt it by other talke, as not regarding it.
Here remember, that when gouernours and magistrates shall vse hard words, not in the way of defamation, but for the reproouing of a vice, it is not to slaunder:* as, O foolish Galatians: O generation of vipers. And Christ tearmeth Herod, Foxe.