The Folly of Trying to Please Men – Pt.4

The Folly of Trying to Please Men – Pt.4
  1. If you excel in any one virtue or duty, even that shall not excuse you from the contrary defamation, so unreasonable are malicious men. Nothing in the world can secure you from censorious, slanderous tongues. The perfect holiness of Jesus Christ could not secure him from being called a gluttonous person and a wine-bibber, and a friend of publicans and sinners. His wonderful contempt of worldly dignities and honours, and his subjection to Caesar, could not secure him from being slandered and crucified as Caesar’s enemy. The great piety of the ancient christians excused them not from the vulgar calumny, that they met together for filthiness in the dark, nor from the cry of the rabble, Tollite impios, “Away with the ungodly,” because they were against the worshipping of idols. I have known those that have given all that ever they had to the poor except their food and necessaries, and yet (though it was to a considerable value) have been reproached as unmerciful, by those that have not had what they expected. Many a one hath been defamed with scandalous rumours of uncleanness, that have lived in untainted chastity all their lives. The most eminent saints have been defamed as guilty of the most horrid crimes, which never entered into their thoughts. The principal thing that ever I bent my studies and care about, hath been the reconciling, unity, and peace of christians, and against unpeaceableness, uncharitableness, turbulency, and division; and yet some have been found, whose interest and malice have commanded them to charge me with that very sin, which I have spent my days, my zeal, and study against. How oft have contrary factions charged me with perfectly contrary accusations! I can scarce remember the thing that I can do in all the world, that some will not be offended at; nor the duty so great and clear, that some will not call my sin; nor the self-denial so great, (to the hazard of my life,) which hath not been called self-seeking, or something clean contrary to what it was indeed. Instead therefore of serving and pleasing this malicious, unrighteous world, I contemn their blind and unjust censures, and appeal to the most righteous God.
  2. If you have a design for a name of honour when you are dead, consider what power a prevailing faction may have to corrupt the history of your life, and represent you to posterity perfectly contrary to what you are; and how impossible it is for posterity to know whose history is the product of malicious, shameless lies, and whose is the narrative of impartial truth. What contrary histories are there of particular persons and actions written by men of the same religion: as of Pope Gregory VII and the emperors that contended with him; and about Pope John, and many the like eases, where you may read scores of historians on one side and on the other.
  3. Remember that the holiest saints or apostles could never please the world, nor escape their censures, slanders, and cruelties, no, nor Jesus Christ himself. And can you think by honest means to please them better than Christ and all his saints have done? You have not the wisdom that Christ had to please men, and to avoid offence. You have not the perfect innocency and unblamableness that Christ had, you cannot heal their sicknesses and infirmities, and do that good to them to please and win them, as Jesus Christ did; you cannot convince them, and constrain them to reverence you by manifold miracles, as Jesus Christ did. Can you imitate such an excellent pattern as is set you by the holy, patient charitable, unwearied apostle Paul? Acts xx.; 1 Cor. iv. ix.; 2 Cor. iv. v. vi. x. xi. xii. If you cannot, how can you please them that would not be pleased by such unimitable works of love and power? The more Paul “loved” some of his hearers, “the less he was beloved,” 2 Cor. xii. 15. They used him “as an enemy for telling them the truth,” Gal. iv. 16. Though he “became all things to all men,” he could “save but some,” nor “please but some,” I Cor. ix. 22. And what are you that you should better please them?
  4. Godliness, virtue, and honesty itself will not please the world, and therefore you cannot hope to please them by that which is not pleasing to them. Will men be pleased by that which they hate? and by the actions which they think accuse them and condemn them? And if you will be ungodly and vicious to please them, you sell your souls, your conscience, and your God, to please them. God and they are not pleased with the same ways. And which do you think should first be pleased? If you displease him for their favour, you will buy it dearly.
  5. They are not pleased with God himself; yea no man doth displease so many and so much as he. And can you do more than God to please them? Or can you deserve their favour more than he? They are daily displeased with his works of providence: one would have rain, when another would have none. One would have the winds to serve his voyage, and another would have them in a contrary end. One party is displeased, because another is pleased and exalted; every enemy would have his cause succeed and the victory to be his, every contender would have all go on his side. God must be ruled by them, and fit himself to the interest of the most unjust, and to the will of the most vicious, and do as they would have him, and be a servant to their lusts, or they will not be pleased with him. And his holy nature, and his holy word, and holy ways, displease them more than his ordinary providence. They are displeased that his word is so precise and strict, and that he commandeth them so holy and so strict a life, and that he threateneth all the ungodly with damnation: he must alter his laws, and make them more loose, and fit them to their fleshly interest and lusts, and speak as they would have him, without any difficulties, before they will be pleased with them (unless he alter their minds and hearts). And how do you think they will be pleased with him at last, when he fulfills his threatenings? when he killeth them, and turneth their bodies to dust, and their guilty souls to torment and despair?
  6. How can you please men that cannot please themselves? Their own desire and choice will please them but a little while. Like children, they are soon weary of that which they cried for: they must needs have it, and when they have it, it is naught, and cast away; they are neither pleased with it, nor without it. They are like sick persons that long for every meat or drink they think of, and when they have it they cannot get it down; for the sickness is still within them that causeth their displeasure. How many do trouble and torment themselves by their passions and folly from day to day! And can you please such self-displeasers?
  7. How can you please all others, when you cannot please yourselves? If you are persons fearing God and feel the burden of your sins, and have life enough to be sensible of your diseases, I dare say there are none in the world so displeasing to you, as you are to yourselves. You carry that about you, and feel that within you, which displeaseth you more than all the enemies you have in the world. Your passions and corruptions, your want of love to God, and your strangeness to him and the life to come, the daily faultiness of your duties and your lives, are your daily burden, and displease you most. And if you be not able, and wise, and good enough to please yourselves, can you be able, and wise, and good enough to please the world? As your sins are nearest to yourselves, so are your graces; and as you know more evil by yourselves than others know, so you know more good by yourselves. That little fire will not warm all the room, which will not warm the hearth it lieth on.

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