« AnteriorContinuar »
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, contracta res est, et adducta in angustum; ut omnis charitas, 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 inclose 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 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 differ.
ence; 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 finite 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 bridechamber 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
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 arm's 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 at 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 show our readiness to do more good to all, by actually doing more good to all them to whom we can.
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.
For the good man is a profitable, useful person, and that is the band of an effective friendship. For I do not think that friendships are metaphysical nothings, created for contemplation, or that men or women should stare upon each other's faces, and make dialogues of news and prettinesses, and look babies in one another's eyes. Friendship is the allay of our sorrows, the ease of our passions, the discharge of our oppressions, the sanctuary to our calamities, the counsellor of our doubts, the charity of our minds, the emission of our thoughts, the exercise and improvement of what we meditate. And although I love my friend because he is worthy, yet he is not worthy if he can do me no good: I do not speak of accidental hinderances and misfortunes by which the bravest man may become unable to help his child; but of the natural and artificial capacities of the man. He only is fit to be chosen for a friend, who can do those offices for which friendship is excellent. For (mistake not) no man can be loved for himself; our perfections in this world cannot reach so high; it is well if we would love God at that rate; and I very much fear that if God did us no good we might admire his beauties, but we should have but a small proportion of love towards him; all his other greatnesses are objects of fear and wonder, it is his goodness that makes him lovely. And so it is in friendships. He only is fit to be chosen for a friend who can give counsel, or defend my cause, or guide me right, or relieve my need, or can and will, when I need it, do me good : only this I add, into the heaps of doing good, I will reckon, loving me, for it is a pleasure to be beloved; but when his love signifies nothing but kissing my cheek, or talking kindly, and can go no further, it is a prostitution of the bravery of friendship to spend it upon impertinent people who are it may be) loads to their families, but can never ease any but
my friend is a worthy person when he can become to me, instead of God, a guide or a support, an eye or a hand, a staff or a rule.
I choose this man to be my friend, because he is able to give me counsel, to restrain my wanderings, to comfort me in my sorrows; he is pleasant to me in private, and useful in public; he will make my joys double, and divide my grief between himself and me? For what else should I choose ? For being a fool and useless ? for a pretty face and a smooth chin ? I confess it is possible to be a friend to one that is ignorant, and pitiable, handsome and good for nothing, that eats well, and drinks deep,
ut he cannot be a friend to me; and I love him with a fondness or a pity, but it cannot be a noble friendship.
Plutarch calls such friendships “the idols and images of friendship." True and brave friendships are between worthy persons; and there is in mankind no degree of worthiness, but is also a degree of usefulness, and by every thing by which a man is excellent I may
be profited: and because those are the bravest friends which can best serve the ends of friendships, either we must suppose that friendships are not the greatest comforts in the world, or else we must say, he chooses his friend best, that chooses such a one by whom he can receive the greatest comforts and assistances.
This being the measure of all friendships; they all partake of excellency, according as they are fitted to this measure: a friend may be counselled well enough, though his friend be not the wisest man in the world; and he may be pleased in his society, though he be not the best natured man in the world; but still it must be, that something excellent is, or is apprehended, or else it can be no worthy friendship; because the choice is imprudent and foolish. Choose for your
friend him that is wise and good, and secret and just, ingenuous and honest: and in those things which have a latitude, use your own liberty; but in such things which consist in an indivisible point make no abatements; that is, you must not choose him to be your
friend that is not honest and secret, just and true to a tittle; but if he be wise at all, and useful in any degree, and as good as you can have him, you need not be ashamed to own your own friendships; though sometimes you may be ashamed of some imperfections of your friend.
But if you get enquire, further, whether fancy may be an ingredient in
your choice? I answer, that fancy may minister to this as to all other actions in which there is a liberty and variety. And we shall find that there may be peculiarities and little partialities, a friendship improperly so called, entering upon accounts of an innocent passion and a pleased fancy; even our blessed Saviour himself loved St. John