페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

1. TRUE POLITENESS is modest, unpretending, and generous. It appears as little as may be; and, when it does a courtesy, would willingly conceal it. It chuses silently to forego its own claims, not officiously to withdraw them. It engages a man to prefer his neighbour to himself, because he really esteems him ; because he is tender of his reputation; because he thinks it more manly, more Christian, to descend a little himself, than to degrade another — It respects, in a word, the credit and estimation of his neighbour.

The mimic of this amiable virtue, FALSE POLITENESS, is, on the other hand, ambitious, servile, timorous. It affects popularity ; is sollicitous to please, and to be taken notice of, The man of this character does not offer, but obtrude, his civilities: because he would merit by this assiduity ; because, in despair of winning regard by any worthier qualities, he would be sure to make the most of this; and, lastly, because of all things he would dread, by the omission of any punctilious observance, to give offence.-- In a word, this sort of politeness respects, for its immediate object, the favour and consideration of our neighbour.

2. Again : the man, who governs himself by the spirit of the Apostle's precept, expresses his preference of another in such a way as is worthy of himself: in all innocent compliances, in all honest civilities, in all decent and manly condescensions.

On the contrary, the man of the world, who rests in the letter of this command, is regardless of the means, by which he conducts himself. He respects neither his own dignity, nor that of human nature. Truth, reason, virtue, all are equally betrayed by this supple impostor. He assents to the errors, though the most pernicious; he applauds the follies, though the most ridiculous; he sooths the vices, though the most flagrant, of other men.

He never contradicts, though in the softest form of insinuation ; he never disapproves, though by a respectful silence; he never condemns, though it be only by a good example. In short, he is sollicitous for nothing, but by some studied devices to hide from others, and, if possible, to palliate to himseif, the grossness of his illiberal adulation.

3. Lastly, we may be sure, that the ultimate ENDS, for which these different objects are pursued, and by so different means, must so lie wide of each other.

Accordingly, the truly polite man would, by all proper testimonies of respect, promote the credit and estimation of his neighbour, because he sees, that, by this generous consideration of each other, the peace of the world is in a good degree preserved ; because he knows that these mutual attentions prevent animosities, soften the fierceness of men's manners, and dispose them to all the offices of benevolence and charity ; because, in a word, the interests of society are best served by this conduct; and, because he understands it to be his duty, to love his neighbour.

The falsely polite, on the contrary, are anxious, by all means whatever, to procure the favour and consideration of those they converse with, because they regard ultimately nothing more than their private interest; because they perceive, that their own selfish designs are best carried on by such practices : in a word, because they love themselves.

Thus we see, the genuine virtue consults the honour of others by worthy means, and for the noblest purpose; the counterfeit, sollicits their favour by dishonest compliances, and for the basest end.

By such evident marks are these two characters distinguished from each other! and so impossible it is, without a wilful perversion of our faculties, to mistake in the application of the Apostle's precept!

It follows, you see, from what has been said, " that integrity of heart, as Solomon long “ since observed, is the best guide in morals f.” We may impose upon others by 'a shew of civility; but the deception goes no farther. We cannot help knowing, in our own case, if we be ingenuous, when this virtue retains its nature, and when it degenerates into the vice that usurps its name.

To conclude, an honest man runs no risk in being polite. Let us only respect ourselves ; and we shall rarely do amiss, when, as the Apostle advises, in honour we prefer one another.

f The integrity of the upright shall guide them. Prov. xi. 3.

S E R M O N X.

PREACHED MAY 6, 1770.

JOHN xiii. S.

Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not,

thou hast no part with me.

To comprehend the full meaning of these words (which, as we shall see, are of no small importance) we must carefully attend to the circumstances of the history, which gave occasion to them.

The chapter begins thus----Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come, that he should depart out

« 이전계속 »