« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
charity was little, like the sun drawn in at a chink, or his beams drawn into the centre of a burning-glass; but Christian charity is friendship expanded like the face of the sun when it mounts above the eastern hills: and I was strangely pleased when I saw something of this in Cicero; for I have been so pushed at by herds and flocks of people that follow any body that whistles to them, or drives them to pasture, that I am grown afraid of any truth that seems chargeable with singularity: but therefore, I say, glad I was when I saw Lælius in Cicero discourse thus: "Amicitia ex infinitate generis humani, quam conciliavit ipsa natura, ita contracta res est, et adducta in angustum, ut omnis caritas, aut inter duos, aut inter paucos jungeretur."-Nature hath made friendships and societies, relations and endearments; and by something or other we relate to all the world; there is enough in every man that is willing to make him become our friend; but when men contract friendships, they enclose the commons; and what nature intended should be every man's, we make proper to two or three. Friendship is like rivers and the strand of seas, and the air, common to all the world; but tyrants, and evil customs, wars, and want of love, have made them proper and peculiar. But when Christianity came to renew our nature, and to restore our laws, and to increase her privileges, and to make her aptness to become religion, then it was declared that our friendships were to be as universal as our conversation; that is, actual to all with whom we converse, and potentially extended unto those with whom we did not. For he who was to treat his enemies with forgiveness and prayers, and love and beneficence, was indeed to have no enemies, and to have all friends.
So that to your question, how far a dear and perfect friendship is authorized by the principles of Christianity? the answer is ready and easy. It is warranted to extend to all mankind; and the more we love, the better we are; and the greater our friendships are, the dearer we are to God. Let them be as dear, and let them be as perfect; and let them be as many, as you can; there is no danger in it; only where the restraint begins, there begins our imperfection. It
9 Wetzel. V. 15. pag. 154.
is not ill that you entertain brave friendships and worthy societies: it were well if you could love and if you could benefit all mankind; for I conceive that is the sum of all friendship.
I confess this is not to be expected of us in this world; but as all our graces here are but imperfect, that is, at the best they are but tendencies to glory; so our friendships are imperfect too, and but beginnings of a celestial friendship, by which we shall love every one as much as they can be loved. But then so we must here in our proportion; and indeed that is it that can make the difference; we must be friends to all, that is, apt to do good, loving them really, and doing to them all the benefits which we can, and which they are capable of. The friendship is equal to all the world, and of itself hath no difference; but is differenced only by accidents, and by the capacity or incapacity of them that receive it. Nature and religion are the bands of friendships; excellency and usefulness are its great endearments: society and neighbourhood, that is, the possibilities and the circumstances of converse, are the determinations and actualities of it. Now when men either are unnatural, or irreligious, they will not be friends; when they are neither excellent nor useful, they are not worthy to be friends; when they are strangers or unknown, they cannot be friends actually and practically; but yet, as any man hath any thing of the good, contrary to those evils, so he can have and must have his share of friendship. For thus the sun is the eye of the world; and he is indifferent to the negro, or the cold Russian; to them that dwell under the line, and them that stand near the tropics; the scalded Indian, or the poor boy that shakes at the foot of the Riphean hills. But the fluxures of the heaven and the earth, the conveniency of abode, and the approaches to the north or south respectively, change the emanations of his beams; not that they do not pass always from him, but that they are not equally received below, but by periods and changes, by little inlets and reflections, they receive what they can. And some have only a dark day and a long night from him, snows and white cattle, a miserable life, and a perpetual harvest of catarrhs and consumptions; apoplexies and dead palsies. But some have splendid fires, and aromatic
spices, rich wines, and well-digested fruits, great wit and great courage; because they dwell in his eye, and look in his face, and are the courtiers of the sun, and wait upon him in his chambers of the east. Just so is it in friendships: some are worthy, and some are necessary; some dwell hard by, and are fitted for converse; nature joins some to us, and religion combines us with others; society and accidents, parity of fortune, and equal dispositions, do actuate our friendships: which of themselves and in their prime disposition are prepared for all mankind according as any one can receive them. We see this best exemplified by two instances and expressions of friendships and charity: viz. alms and prayers; every one that needs relief, is equally the object of our charity; but though to all mankind in equal needs we ought to be alike in charity; yet we signify this severally, and by limits, and distinct measures: the poor man that is near me, he whom I meet, he whom I love, he whom I fancy, he who did me benefit, he who relates to my family,―he rather than another; because my expressions being infinite and narrow, and cannot extend to all in equal significations, must be appropriate to those, whose circumstances best fit me: and yet even to all I give my alms; to all the world that needs them: I pray for all mankind; I am grieved at every sad story I hear; I am troubled when I hear of a pretty bride murdered in her bride-chamber by an ambitious and enraged rival; I shed a tear when I am told that a brave king was misunderstood, then slandered, then imprisoned, and then put to death, by evil men: and I can never read the story of the Parisian massacre, or the Sicilian vespers, but my blood curdles, and I am disordered by two or three affections. A good man is a friend to all the world; and he is not truly charitable that does not wish well, and do good, to all mankind in what he can. But though we must pray for all men, yet we say special litanies for brave kings, and holy prelates, and the wise guides of souls, for our brethren and relations, our wives and children.
The effect of this consideration is, that the universal friendship of which I speak, must be limited, because we are so in those things where we stand next to immensity and infinity, as in good wishes and prayers, and a readiness to benefit all mankind, in these our friendships must not be
limited but in other things which pass under our hand and eye, our voices and our material exchanges; our hands can reach no further but to our arms' end, and our voices can but sound till the next air be quiet, and therefore they can have intercourse but within the sphere of their own activity; our needs and our conversations are served by a few, and they cannot reach to all; where they can, they must; but where it is impossible, it cannot be necessary. It must therefore follow, that our friendships to mankind may admit variety as does our conversation; and as by nature we are made sociable to all, so we are friendly; but as all cannot actually be of our society, so neither can all be admitted to a special, actual friendship. Of some intercourses all men are capable, but not of all; men can pray for one another, and abstain from doing injuries to all the world, and be desirous to do all mankind good, and love all men; now this friendship we must pay to all, because we can; but if we can do no more to all, we must shew our readiness to do more good to all by actually doing more good to all them to whom we
To some we can, and therefore there are nearer friendships to some than to others, according as there are natural or civil nearnesses, relations, and societies; and as I cannot express my friendships to all in equal measures and significations, that is, as I cannot do benefits to all alike: so neither am I tied to love all alike: for although there is much reason to love every man, yet there are more reasons to love some than others; and if I must love because there is reason I should, then I must love more, where there is more reason; and where there is a special affection and a great readiness to do good and to delight in certain persons towards each other, these are that special charity and endearment which philosophy calls friendship; but our religion calls love or charity. Now if the inquiry be concerning this special friendship, 1. How it can be appropriate, that is, who to be chosen to it; 2. How far it may extend, that is, with what expression signified; 3. How conducted? The answers will depend upon such considerations which will be neither useless nor unpleasant.
1. There may be a special friendship contracted for any special excellency whatsoever; because friendships are no
thing but love and society mixed together, that is, a conversing with them whom we love; now for whatsoever we can love any one, for that we can be his friend; and since every excellency is a degree of amability, every such worthiness is a just and proper motive of friendship or loving conversation. But yet in these things there is an order and proportion. Therefore,
2. A good man is the best friend, and therefore soonest to be chosen, longer to be retained; and indeed never to be parted with, unless he cease to be that for which he was chosen.
Τῶν δ ̓ ἄλλων ἀρετήν ποιεῦ φίλον ὅστις ἄριστος,
Where virtue dwells, there friendships make,
But although virtue alone is the worthiest cause of amability, and can weigh down any one consideration; and therefore to a man that is virtuous, every man ought to be a friend; yet I do not mean the severe and philosophical excellences of some morose persons, who are indeed wise unto themselves, and exemplar to others. By virtue here I do not mean justice and temperance, charity and devotion; for these I am to love the man; but friendship is something more than that: friendship is the nearest love and the nearest society, of which the persons are capable: now justice is a good intercourse for merchants, as all men are that buy and sell; and temperance makes a man good company, and helps to make a wise man: but a perfect friendship requires something else, these must be in him that is chosen to be my friend, but for these I do not make him my privado, that is, my special and peculiar friend: but if he be a good man, then he is properly fitted to be my correlative in the noblest combination.
And for this we have the best warrant in the world: "for a just man scarcely will a man die;" the Syriac interpreter reads it, vπè àdíkov, " for an unjust man scarcely will a man die," that is, a wicked man is at no hand fit to receive the expression of the greatest friendship; but all the Greek copies that ever I saw, or read of, read it as we do; "for a righteous man" or "a just man;" that is, justice and righteousness are not the nearest endearment of friendship; but for "a good man some will even dare to die," that is, for a man