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Cic. Lib. I. De
losophers, who took upon them to vindicate the promiscuous use of all Words, and confined Turpitude and Indecency to Things and Actions only. He represents them, in this regard, as contrary to Nature; Neglecters and Attronters of the civilized part of Mankind; Scoffers at Diftinctions, which are of infinite use to preserve Modesty and Decency in the World ; and not to be overturned by a Sophism so weak, as that of nothing being unfit for one to relate, that is not unfit to do. He urges, that the unfitness of some Actions depends upon the Manner, not the Fact; and Those, which privacy acquits from Blame, the publication of may
be exceeding blameable. A Notion not poffible to have cbtained so universally, if it had not been founded in Nature, and the obvious reason of Things. Which, in respect to our Pre-eminence above Brutes, and because our Excellence consists in the Operations of the Rational Mind, hath led us to consult the Dignity of our Species, by industriously concealing those Pleasures and Appetites, common to Us with Them; and therefore Matter of Shame, to Creatures who have, tho' none to such who have not, Faculties, and Enjoynients, nobler than Those of Sense. This were good Reasoning, if the Matter needed it. But indeed the Bluses, provoked upon such Occasions, infer a natural Averfon ; prevent our arguing upon the Point, and feem to confess, that some Violence must be committed
upon our Original Constitution, before a Man can either allow such Licentiousness in his Own Discourse, or endure it in Another's.
And, Can there be a greater Reproach upon us, than, that we should not discern, by the brightest Revelation, what a Heathen did, by the mere light of Reason? That he should judge so nicely the Decorum proper for the Character of a Man, and We fo little regard what becomes that of a Christian? Sure
ly ly our Precepts of the strictest Chastity, which oblige even to purity of Thought: Our Example of a Master and Saviour, who, though he disdained not to take our Flesh, yet took it not after the ordinary manner : Our Discoveries of a future and immortal State, where even the most innocent Appetites of this kind shall cease; ought to convince the Subjects to such Laws, the Servants of such a Lord, and the Heirs of such an Eternity, that the strictest Rules of Modesty flould be their Measure. And, that Their Words and Actions should all carry such an Air of Innocence and Gravity ; as may not only keep them from giving Offence, but procure to Them, and their Profession, Respect and Veneration from all, with whom they converse.
The Force of what hath been said upon this Subject, I suppose will without great difficulty be allowed me, by all Persons of Morality and tolerable Understanding, so far as those two Words Filthiness and Foolish talking are concerned ; which may seem to denote such coarse Ribaldry, and barefac’d Lewdness, as few are capable of hearing patiently. But for the Third of
Jesting, there may be fome Doubt. The ευτραπελία. .
rather, because This is so requisite, to
season our Conversation with Mirth. For Facetiousness is placed by the Philosopher in the rank of Virtues ; as a commendable Medium, between Moroseness and Rusticity in One Extreme, and Insipid or Ill-manner'd Scurrility and Abusiveness in the Other. For clearing this Objection Two things should be observ'd. The One, relating to the more restrained, the Other to the more extensive and general, Sense of the Word.
1. Now, First, The Word, I take it, in the Passage we are upon, carries a particular and restrained Sense, such, as the Company we find it in, sufficiently determines. And thus it makes no difference from the
former, as to the Substance of the Things spoken, but purely as to the Manner of speaking them. And then, I think it very evident, that This is at least as much to be declined, as either of the Other. At least, I say: For our Discourse is Criminal, not according to the Sound, Words strike upon the Ear, but according to the Images they awaken in our Minds. When therefore the Matter and Design is Obscene; the more artful the Disguise is, the more mischief it does. It insinuates Lasciviousness with more Confidence and Security, fixes upon the Memory by the Uncommonness of its Wit, engages the Fancy by being dress’d up cleaner in Ambiguities, and puts us off our Guard, by ceasing to give manifest Offence. The Harm then is greater, and the Corruption more successful, when the Poison is gilded over. And much better it were, that those things could not be spoken without displeasing us, which hurt not, when they do not please; and are in truth not fit ever to be spoken at all.
2. But, Secondly, Take this Word Jesting in its general Importance, and thus it may be, and often is, so order'd, as to be by no means unlawful, or any way unbecoming a Christian. For Religion does not change us from being Men. We have still the same natural Weaknesses, are still as unable to bear continual Labour, either of Mind or Body: And therefore we have still the same need to unbend the one, and recreate the other. And, What Method so effectual, what Pleasure so truly Manly, can we take on these Occasions, as the harmless Mirth of an ingenious Conversation, and the Salt of a facetious Wit, to refresh and quicken us ? To suppose Men oblig'd always to be upon
the Serious and Disinal; were to charge Christianity with the hardship, of bereaving them of one of the most valuable Comforts of Life. To admit Laughter ones felf, or to provoke it in our Brethren, is not
below the Character of the Gravest. And Men ry innocently be as facetious as they please, provided the Subject they chuse be fit, the Design harmless, the Time seasonable, the Measure moderate ; that they remember Jefting may be good Diversion, but cannot be good Business; and that nothing is truly Wit, or ought to please, which would entertain us, to the prejudice of God or our Neighbour, of Religion or Justice, of Modesty or Good-manners.
I have now done with This part of my Discourse, after entreating my Reader, seriously to consider the Matter of it; to beware, that in these Respects he offend not with his Tongue; and earnestly to implore the assistance of Divine Grace, for avoiding the horrible Guilt of cherishing in himself, or raising in others, such Ideas and Desires, as require our utmost care to subdue and lay them to sleep: and for adorning the Doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ, by such communication, as may minister Profit to the Hearers. To which End, Let it please thee, O Lord, to set a Watch before all our mouths, and keep the door of our lips.
II. The Other Head, I proposed to treat of, is That Duty, enjoyned by the Apostle at the unth Verse, Have 16 fellow;tip with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. By having no fellowship with such Works I presume a great deal more to be meant, than not living in the Habit, or under the Power of them, nay, or even than not complying with the Temptations to, and not committing them in our own persons. Something, which may declare our disike an abhorrence of them, and probably all, that the following particulars contain.
1. The keeping aloof off from, and, as much as the Condition of our Affairs will permit, shunning the Conversation and intimate Acquaintance of, scandalously wicked Men. This indeed, considering how quick the Infection spreads, is advisable for the se
curity of our own Virtue. And in that
2. Therefore Another Instance of having no fellowShip with works of Darkness, is, When the Persons of III Men cannot, or ought not to be declined, yet that we then be sure to order Matters so, that it may plainly appear, their Wickedness hath no part of our Favour and Approbation; and that They themselves, if this were removed, would be yet more dear and valuable in our Esteem. Complacency in other People's Faults is always a Crime. And in Some Cases it may happen to draw a greater Guilt upon the Delighter in, than upon the Committer of, them. As, to instance in the Subject we have just been considering ; Sins of Uncleanness are the Effect of natural Propen3