The Folly of Trying to Please Men – Pt.3

The Folly of Trying to Please Men – Pt.3
  1. You have men of great mutability to please; that one hour may be ready to worship you as gods, and the next to stone you, or account you as devils, as they did by Paul, and Christ himself. What a weathercock is the mind of man! especially of the vulgar and the temporizers! When you have spent all your days in building your reputation on this sand, one blast of wind or storm at last doth tumble it down, and all your cost and labor are lost. Serve men as submissively and carefully as you can; and after all, some accident or failing of their unrighteous expectations may make all that ever you did forgotten, and turn you out of the world with Wolsey’s groans, “If I had served God as faithfully as man, I had been better rewarded, and not forsaken in my distress.” How many have fallen by the hands or frowns of those whose favor they had dearly purchased, perhaps at the price of their salvation! If ever you put such confidence in a friend, as not to consider that it is possible he may one day prove your enemy, you know not man; and may perhaps be better taught to know him, to your cost.
  2. Every man living shall unavoidably be engaged by God himself, in some duties which are very liable to misconstruction, and will have an outside and appearance of evil, to the offence of those that know not all the inside and circumstances. And hence it comes to pass, that a great part of history is little worthy of regard; because the actions of public persons are discerned but by the halves by most that write of them. They write most by hearsay; or know but the outside and seemings of things, and not the spirit, and life, and reality of the case. Men have not the choosing of their own duties, but God maketh them by his law and providence: and it pleaseth him oft to try his servants in this kind: many of the circumstances of their actions shall remain unknown to men, that would justify them if they knew them, and account them as notorious, scandalous persons, because they know them not. How like to evil was the Israelites’ taking the goods of the Egyptians! and how likely to lay them open to their censure! So was Abraham’s attempt to sacrifice his son: and so was David’s eating the shew-bread, and dancing almost naked before the ark; Christ’s eating and drinking with publicans and sinners, Paul’s circumcising Timothy and purifying in the temple; with abundance such like, which fall out in the life of every christian. No wonder if Joseph thought once of putting Mary away, till he knew the evidence of her miraculous conception; and how liable was she to censure, by those that knew it not! Oh, therefore, how vain is the judgment of man! And how contrary is it frequently to the truth! And with what caution must history be read! And oh how desirable is the great day of God, when all human censure shall be justly censured!
  3. The perverseness of many is so great, that they require contradictions and impossibilities of you, to tell you that they are resolved never to be pleased by you. If John use fasting, they say, “he hath a devil,” if Christ come “eating and drinking,” they say, “Behold a gluttonous person, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners,” Matt. xi. 18, 19. If your judgment and practice be conformable to superiors, especially if they have admitted of a change, you shall be judged mere knaves and temporizers: if they are not, you shall be judged disobedient, refractory, and seditious. If you speak fair and pleasingly, they will call you flatterers and dissemblers: if you speak more freely, though in a necessary case, they will say you rail. If I accept of preferment, they will say, I am ambitious, proud, and worldly: if I refuse it, (how modestly so ever,) they will say, I am discontented, and have seditious designs. If I preach not when I am forbidden, I shalt be accused as forsaking the calling I undertook, and obeying man against God: if I do preach, I shall be accounted disobedient and seditious. If a friend or kinsman desire me to help him to some place or preferment which he is not fit for, or which would tend to another’s wrong, if I should grant his desire, I shall be taken for dishonest, that by partiality wrong another; if I deny it him, I shall be called unnatural or unfriendly, and worse than an infidel. If I give to the poor as long as I have it, I shall be censured for ceasing when I have no more: they that know not whether you have it to give or not, will be displeased if you do not; and if many years you should maintain them freely, it is all as nothing as soon as you cease, either because your stock is spent, or because some other is made the necessary object of your charity. If you be wronged in your estate, if you go to law, they will say, you are contentious; if you let go your estate to avoid contention, they will say, you are silly fools or idiots. If you do any good works of charity to the knowledge of men, they will say, you are hypocrites, and do it for applause; if you do it secretly, that no one know of it, they will say, you are covetous, and have no good works, and though you make a greater profession of religion, you do no good; and others shall be censured so also for your sakes. If you be pleasant and merry, they will censure you as light and vain: if you be more grave and sad, they will say, you are melancholy or discontent. In a word, whatever you do, be sure by some it will be condemned; and do or not do, speak or be silent, you shall certainly displease, and never escape the censures of the world.
  4. There is among men so great a contrariety of judgments, and dispositions, and interests, that they will never agree among themselves; and if you please one, the rest will be thereby displeased. He that you please is an enemy to another; and therefore you displease his enemy by pleasing him. Sometimes, state differences divide kingdoms into parties, and one party will be displeased with you if you be of the other, and both if you are neuters, or dislike them both; and each party think their cause will justify any accusations they can charge you with, or odious titles they can give you, if not any sufferings they can bring upon you. Church differences and sects have been found in all ages, and you cannot be of the opinion of every party; when the world aboundeth with such variety of conceits, you cannot be of all at once. And if you be of one party, you must displease the rest; if you are of one side in controverted opinions, the other side accounteth you erroneous: and how far will the supposed interest of their cause and party carry them! One half of the Christian world, at this day, condemneth the other half as schismatical at least, the other half doing the like for them. And can you be papists, and protestants, and Greeks, and everything? If not, you must displease as many as you please. Yea, more; if mutable men shall change never so oft, they will expect that you change as fast as they, and whatever their contrary interests require, you must follow them in; one year you must swear, and another you must unswear all again: whatever cause or action they engage in, be it never so devilish, you must approve of it and countenance it, and all that they do you must say is well done. In a word, you must teach your tongue to say or swear anything, and you must sell your innocency, and hire out your consciences wholly to their service, or you cannot please them. Micaiah must say with the rest of the prophets, “Go, and prosper,” or else he will be hated, as not prophesying good of Ahab but evil, I Kings xxii. 8. And how can you serve all interests at once? It seems the providence of God hath, as of purpose, wheeled about the affairs of the world, to try and shame man-pleasers and temporizers in the sight of the sun. It is evident then, that if you will please all you must at once both speak and be silent, and verify contradictions, and be in many places at once, and be of all men’s minds, and for all men’s way. For my part, I mean to see the world a little better agreed among themselves, before I will make it my ambition to please them. If you can reconcile all their opinions, and interests, and complexions, and dispositions, and make them all of one mind and will, then hope to please them.

Be continued tomorrow

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